Frédéric Wang Yet another non-exponentially growing weblog

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MathZilla collection ported to WebExtensions

MathZilla is a collection of MathML-related add-ons for Mozilla applications. It provides nice features such as forcing native MathML rendering (e.g. on Wikipedia), using Web fonts to render MathML or providing a context menu item to copy math formulas into the clipboard.

Initially written as a single XUL overlay extension (with even binary code for the LaTeX-to-MathML converter) it grows up as a collection of restartless add-ons using bootstrapped or SDK-based extensions, following the evolution of Mozilla’s recommendations. Also, SDK-based extensions were first generated using a Python program called cfx before Mozilla recommended to switch to a JS-based replacement called jpm.

Mozilla announced some time ago that they will transition to the WebExtensions format. On the one hand this sounds bad because developers have to re-write their legacy add-ons again and actually be sure that the transition is even possible or does break anything. On the other hand it is good for long-term interoperability since e.g. Chromium browsers or Microsoft Edge support that format. My colleague Michael Catanzaro also mentioned in a recent blog post that WebExtensions are considered for Epiphany too. It is not clear what Mozilla’s plan is for Thunderbird or SeaMonkey but hopefully they will use that format too (in the past I was suggested to make the MathZilla add-ons compatible with SeaMonkey).

Recently, Mozilla announced their plans for Firefox 57 which is basically to allow only add-ons written as WebExtensions. This means I had to re-write the Mathzilla add-ons again or they will stop working at the end of the year. In general, I believe the features have been preserved although there might be some small behavior changes or minor bugs due to the WebExtensions format. Please check the GitHub bug trackers and release notes for known issues and report any other problems you find. Finally, I reorganized a bit the git repositories and add-on names. Here is the updated list (some add-ons are still being reviewed by Mozilla):

  • MathML Fonts (~2300 users) - Provide MathML fonts as Web fonts, which is useful when they can not be installed (e.g. Firefox for Android).
  • Native MathML (~1400 users) - Force MathJax/KaTeX/MediaWiki to use native MathML rendering.
  • MathML Copy (~500 users) - Add context menu items to copy a MathML formula or other annotations attached to it (e.g. LaTeX) into the clipboard.
  • TeXZilla (~500 users) - Add-on giving access to TeXZilla, a Unicode TeX-to-MathML converter.
  • MathML Font Settings (~300 users) - Add context menu items to configure MathML font settings. Note that in recent Mozilla versions the advanced font preferences menu allows to configure “Fonts for Mathematics”.
  • Presentation MathML Polyfill (~200 users) - Add support for some advanced presentation MathML features (currently using David Carlisle’s “mml3ff” XSLT stylesheet).
  • Content MathML Polyfill (~200 users) - Add support for some content MathML features (currently using David Carlisle’s “ctop” XSLT stylesheet).
  • MathML Zoom (~100 users) - Allow zooming of mathematical formulas.
  • MathML View Source (experimental) - This is a re-writing of Mozilla’s ‘view MathML source’ feature with better syntax highlighting and serialization. The idea originated from this thread.
  • Image To MathML (experimental) - Try and convert images of mathematical formulas into MathML. It has not been ported to WebExtensions yet and I do not plan to do it in the short term.

As a conclusion, I’d like to thank all the MathZilla users for their kind comments, bug reporting and financial support. The next step will probably be to ensure addons work in more browsers but that will be for another time ;-)