Writing Equations in Google Docs

equationsGoogle Docs just keeps adding and adding lots of useful features. Over a year ago Google imported the equation editor from Knol (does anyone actually use that?) into Google Docs, which is helpful if you need to write documents with equations.

Here’s a step-by-step introduction to adding equations in Google Docs. Clicking on each of the figures below will take you to a larger version.

Inserting equations is very straightforward. Open up a new document or one already in progress. Choose the Insert menu, and then select “Equation…”. As you do these steps, you’ll see a menu like this:


You’ll see the equation editor pop up, giving you a blank slate in which to add your equations.


At this point you can choose between clicking the symbols you want to add to your equation or using LaTeX notation. For the former choice, you can select from five different pop-out menus full of equality signs, symbols, superscripts or subscripts, and many other possibilities for the equations you might need. For writing equations in LaTex, you type in directly the code which will produce the equation you want.  Below I’ve written in the LaTeX code for everyone’s favorite, the quadratic equation. Helpfully, Google Doc gives you a preview of what the equation will look like.

quadratic equation

Finally, click the “Insert Equation” button. You’ll be taken back to your Google document, where your equation is ready to go. You can type before and after it as need be, which I’ve done in the figure below.

example document

The equation editor in Google Docs will by no means give you publishable-quality typesetting for equations, but it’s remarkably good for typing up equations for various needs you might have, such as creating some handouts for students, or for collaborating with others using a shared Google Doc.

Sometimes we need word processing programs to do more than just type words. What extra features do you need out of word processors, and how have you implemented these? Let us know in the comments.

[Creative Commons licensed photo by Flickr user quinnanya.]

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