Starting with Windows 7, Windows includes a cool applet called the Math Input Panel. This applet lets you enter mathematical text using a pen or a mouse. It recognizes what you enter and displays the result using a special private version of RichEdit 6. It also lets you copy the results to Word, Mathematica, or any other application that reads Presentation MathML.

Many people may find that writing equations by hand with this applet is the easiest and fastest way to enter them into a computer. Since I’ve made similar claims for linear format entry in Word 2007, we decided to have a race. I chose nine equations from theoretical physics and we started entering. The person entering via hand writing beat me by a nose, but had two errors, whereas I had none. But really we both won, since we demonstrated that we could enter equations into Word 2007 remarkably fast.

I’ll continue to use the linear format for writing my technical papers, since I know it so well (I’ve been using it in one form or another for 25 years). In fact, see the following blog post for a video demonstration. But I heartily recommend checking out the Math Input Panel in Windows 7 and 8.