Monday, March 5, 2012

CART Problem Solving: Superscript and Subscript

CART Problem Solving Series

Sitting Apart
Handling Slides
Classroom Videos
Superscript and Subscript
Schlepping Gear
Late Hours
Expensive Machines
Communicating Sans Steno
Cash Flow
Test Nerves
Speech Recognition, Part I
Speech Recognition, Part II
Speech Recognition, Part III
Speech Recognition, Part IV

By a funny coincidence, the next thing on my list of CART problems was:

CART PROBLEM: A math class uses symbols not included in the software's default font.

And just this morning I got a question on my Formspring page asking about the very same subject! It's a sign. I answered it there this morning, but I thought I'd copy over my response here and flesh it out a little bit for completeness's sake.

So the questioner asked:

I am a CART provider at a major university. I'm finding the math functionality on all the major CAT softwares inadequate. I'm curious, what software do you use? Do you have suggestions on how to superscript and/or subscript?

And I responded:

I agree. Commercial steno software is terrible at math. Eventually I hope that Plover will help solve this (, but until it's ready for primetime, I use the Chemistry Serif font and define all the digits between zero and nine independently. ("SA*UB 1" as subscript 1, "SAO*UP 1" as superscript 1, etc.) It's a bit of a pain, but it more or less gets the job done. I have one specific math profile set to Chemistry serif so I don't have to use it for all my classes.

Then later in the day another questioner followed up with:

Can you be a bit more specific? So if you are doing X squared, you are using a "control" stroke to make the 2 a subscript. Does it confuse you not to write what you hear? X squared or X to the 4th. I guess that's what I am struggling with. How to "hear it" and write it. Does that make sense? Or am I making this too hard.

I figured an illustration might help. Here's a composite of what the entries look like in the dictionary, with a section of what they look like in the actual user profile (the student preferred silver text on blue background) pasted below:

You can see that the characters look very strange in Eclipse's dictionary manager, because the font used in the dictionary manager doesn't map properly to the characters used in the Chemistry Serif font. But in the actual user profile, the font comes out very well, and doesn't look half bad. Oh, I mentioned in the answer that I had used SA*OUP to stand in for "superscript", but here you can see that I actually used P-R (for "to the power of") instead. I think I switched from one to the other at some point and didn't remember the change when I answered the question this morning. I haven't actually used this profile for about a year, since I last had to CART a "Math for Economists" class. But it's good to know that I have it in reserve for when I need it again.

I know this still might be a bit confusing, so if you have any more questions, please don't hesitate to ask! This is all very much a kludge; since Eclipse is designed as court reporting software rather than CART software, it really isn't equipped to deal with situations like this. But I think it's a pretty workable solution, and it's served me pretty well so far.

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