bellochio asked a question that perplexed a few here, namely Why does MS Word's algorithm for vertical positioning of super- and subscripts not conform to TeX's ?.

The question was closed for being about Microsoft technology, but I think that the kernel of the question is interesting, even if it's one that we are fairly likely not able to provide a good answer to, namely why do Tex and Word lay out superscripts and subscripts differently?

At the very least, the question referenced an NTG MAPS article, so is coming from our culture.

I think we should try to make the question clearer and then reopen it, to see how we do. The site is not in any danger of being drowned by comparative typesetting questions, so I tend to think it is healthy for us to see how we manage with it.

2 Answers 2


As can be seen, I was one who voted for closing. I did so because there was no evidence of a link to TeX whatsoever. The only text-processing program mentioned was MSWord. (I view linking to an article as generally insufficient. Something in TUGBoat would be sufficient, but all else not. What is "NTG MAPS" and how should I know that it has anything whatsoever to do with TeX?) Moreover, the question was very unclear. The question:

why do Tex and Word lay out superscripts and subscripts differently?

is more focussed, but still a little "subjective and argumentative" because it is not clear what sort of answer would be accepted.

That said, your plan is a good one. If you can make it a question suitable for this site then I would vote to reopen it. As I said in response to Re-open question with non-TeX-solution to non-TeX-problem?, closing is not forever.

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    NTG is the Tex users group for the Netherlands, and MAPS is their journal. It's true, the question didn't name any layout engine other than Word in the question, but in comments it became clear what was wanted. Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 12:59
  • Useful clarification (and I should have known that .. how?). I dispute your last assertion! "I'm just trying to understand how the algorithm for positioning subscripts and superscripts work for a single character according to the Open Type Math Tables from MS. From what I've read so far, this algorithm should be pretty close to the one used by Tex" is the best that I can see, but I fail to see why that should be of interest to TeX users. Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 13:27
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    @Charles (forgot to notify you on my reply, sorry). To clarify: "What are TeX's rules for super/subscripts?" is on topic. "What are the differences between MS and TeX's rules?" is on topic. "Why does MS do this differently to TeX?" is off topic. Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 13:28
  • "What are the differences between MS and TeX's rules?" is on topic. "Why does MS do this differently to TeX?" is off topic. - Hmm, yes, this sounds reasonable. Let me try another tack: the MAPS article is about the formula layout algorithm. bellochio observes that MS Word diverges from the behaviour of Tex here, even though it is supposed to have been rewritten to conform. I interpret the question as asking how far away Word's behaviour is from the algorithm. So though it is not a question about any Tex engine and is about Word, it is still a question about Tex's algorithms. Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 13:59
  • @Charles: In my opinion, the key part in this question is that ms word does not abide by the algorithm that is presented in microsoft's internal documentation about the Math OT table. That means it is simply a bug resulting from a misunderstanding between two Microsoft departments. So this question actually is '"Why is MS Word not following MS's rules"', and this quite definitely offtopic. Commented Jun 15, 2011 at 8:02

I would suggest we re-open it, with a slight rewording of the Title and the question. Mathematical typesetting algorithms are very interesting to many of us and are tangential to TeX. Some of our French users are very knowledgeable in this area. My personal interest is that I follow some of these algorithms as they being transformed via Javascript for the web.

I have asked many questions and provided many answers. I had one question closed for being a duplicate (it was), but I nearly abandoned the site at the way it was closed. I felt at the time as if a whole pack of wolves jumped on me!

I would rather keep a new user and have one tangential question than the other way round. After all, no-one knows maybe there would have been an answer closer to TeX.

I am now going to vote to open it!

  • Better argued than I had managed! And good point about the effect of biting newcomers. I think this broader view of our scope is good for our side and for the Tex family of software. I have edited the main question with the aim of making it easier to see the motivation, although it could be improved still further in that regard; I have also voted to reopen. Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 19:15
  • I have also voted for reopen (based on the current the question title) but I fear the title still has very little to do with the actual question (which is still mostly about an ms word bug). Commented Jun 15, 2011 at 8:08

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