2 Firefox

Mozilla was the first browser vendor to seriously deploy MathML support – Firefox 1.0 rendered MathML. Nonetheless, it is recommended that you use the current version of Firefox for the most trouble free math browsing experience. There were enough math rendering bugs in Firefox prior to version 3.5 that you should definitely upgrade your browser if you are still using an ancient incarnation of the software.

In reality, the quality of math rendering is highly dependent upon the fonts available to the browser. If you want decent math displays in recent Firefox releases, use any of these options:

  • Use a modern version of Windows (Vista, Windows 7, or Windows 8). Microsoft’s Cambria font family is native to these operating systems. The Cambria fonts include Cambria Math which is a stylistically compatible mathematical extension. Windows Firefox users can view MathML quite nicely when the Cambria fonts are available.

    Windows XP users can obtain the Cambria fonts by installing Microsoft Office 2007+, Microsoft’s PowerPoint Viewer, or Microsoft’s Office Compatibility Pack.

  • Use a modern version of OS X. Apple has packaged the STIX fonts with all OS X releases since OS X 10.7 (Lion). For older versions of OS X, Apple’s native Apple Symbols font provides support for many Greek and mathematical characters. Mac OS X 10.5+ Firefox users can view MathML reasonably well without supplemental font support.

  • Use a modern Linux distribution. Most Linux distributions ship with Firefox as the default browser and provide good coverage of math and Greek symbols in various preinstalled unicode font families for serif and sans serif faces. Linux Firefox users can view MathML reasonably well without supplemental font support.

  • Install the STIX  fonts. STIX is a consortium of scientific publishers that decided to create a digital font to accurately display all characters required for electronic publication of their periodicals and monographs. The STIX fonts are a serif font face intended to work well with “Times like” typefaces.

In general, it a good idea to download and install the STIX fonts for viewing MathML whenever feasible (OS X 7+ users can ignore this advice). They provide symbol coverage that is unavailable in most other fonts. As you can see from Table 1 and Table 2, Firefox (3.6 - 16.x) will use the STIX fonts for displaying math when they are available.

Table 1: Firefox 13 - 16.x Default Math Font Preferences
Priority Font Name
1 MathJax Main
2 STIXNonUnicode
3 STIXSizeOneSym
4 STIXSize1
5 STIXGeneral
6 Asana Math
7 Standard Symbols L
Symbol (OS X)
Monotype Symbol (Windows XP)
8 DejaVu Sans
9 Cambria Math

Table 1 illustrates that the most recent versions of Firefox give precedence to the MathJax fonts and use the STIX fonts as a fallback selection. Currently, this change only effects Firefox users with the MathJax fonts installed locally, which is surely a minuscule group. However, it is a harbinger of a new philosophy of Firefox math font support. Future releases of Firefox will natively support use of MathJax web fonts provided by the MathJax CDN (content delivery network). This will, in many cases, alleviate the necessity for local math font installation.

Table 2: Firefox 3.6 - 12.x Math Font Preferences
Priority Firefox 3.6 Firefox 4-6 Firefox 7-12
1 STIXGeneral STIXNonUnicode STIXNonUnicode
2 DejaVu Serif STIXSizeOneSym STIXSizeOneSym
3 DejaVu Sans STIXSize1 STIXSize1
4 Cambria STIXGeneral STIXGeneral
5 Cambria Math Standard Symbols L Asana Math
Symbol (OS X)
Symbol (Windows XP)
6 Times DejaVu Sans Standard Symbols L
Symbol (OS X)
Symbol (Windows XP)
7 Lucida Sans Unicode Cambria Math DejaVu Sans
8 OpenSymbol Cambria Math
9 Standard Symbols L
10 serif

For more information concerning math fonts, see Section 7 of this document. Also, the articles Fonts for Mozilla's MathML engine  and Fonts for Mozilla 1.8's MathML engine  at the Mozilla developer center are good sources of additional font-related information for Firefox. Note that the latter article only pertains to really old Firefox installations.