And one more thing

Since I gave Apple a near tongue bath yesterday, I probably should add my main gripe about using iOS for work: no superscript or subscript. Christ on a cracker, Cupertino. Would it take that much processing power to add another font option? Third party writing apps also leave it out so I have to assume that raising or lowering the font baseline is just too taxing a job for a system that can run XCOM: Enemy Unknown in its original format. I would love to use a tablet as a computer replacement. Really, nothing would please me more than to leave a ‘mothership’ desktop at home for the big jobs and carry a tablet-ish thing most of the time. But like most technical people I just cannot work on a device that requires painful kludgy work-arounds for my most common work-related tasks. Aside from portability that is the main reason why I will not spend more on a larger and more capable iPad. I cannot treat something like a serious(ish) computing device if its native word processing apps do not have a button for superscript. If Android implements that well it really could convince me to switch.

34 replies
  1. 1
  2. 2
    Tim F. says:

    @cleek: That is the big boy version of Pages. Try it in iOS and let me know how it works.

  3. 3
    Punchy says:

    A lack of subscript makes it damn impossible to write molecular or empirical formulas. No superscript inhibits scientific notation. So attempting to show molar conversion calcs would be the Mother of All Things Shitty on an Apple.

    Shorter: Apple sucks.

  4. 4
    JoyfulA says:

    Does CTRL + Shift + “+” not work?

    I’ve never worked on an Apple because sometimes an incompatibility pops up with a publisher’s programs, even with Word for Apple, and I’d rather not take any such risks.

  5. 5
    NotMax says:

    Dunno if this will help, but give it a once over.

  6. 6
    pseudonymous in nc says:


    A lack of subscript makes it damn impossible to write molecular or empirical formulas. No superscript inhibits scientific notation.

    If you’re writing scientific notation in a WYSIWYG editor and not LaTeX markup then please turn in your scientist badge at reception.

  7. 7
    dmsilev says:

    @pseudonymous in nc: Some of my collaborators insist on Word; I don’t have much choice. And of all the issues with Word, sub/super-scripting isn’t one of them.

    And to be fair, Word’s change-tracking feature is nice to have for collaborative work. I realize there are various ways of getting similar functionality with LaTeX files, but ease-of-use (and ease-of-explanation-to-colleagues) is an issue.

  8. 8
    MattF says:

    @dmsilev: Word is just gruesomely bad with equations. Some years ago, I wrote a long report with lots of equations, in Word for institutional reasons, and one fine day all my equations turned into uneditable figures. The editor assigned to my report allowed as how that sometimes happens, and no one really knows why. FYW.

  9. 9
    Glocksman says:

    A quick search brought up this $3.99 app for Android that claims to support subscript and superscript.

    As for apple leaving it out, that’s just another decision from Cupertino that I really don’t understand.
    One of the reasons I got rid of my 3GS was the total lack of text resize-reflow, even in the iOS versions of Android apps that had it.

  10. 10
    Cervantes says:

    Try this. Is it a “painful kludgy work-around”? You tell me.

    Sample output (from above link, no idea what parts will show up here):

    ℕ ⊆ ℤ ⊆ ℚ ⊆ ℝ ⊆ ℂ ⊆ ℍ
    sin(x)²+cos(x)² = 1
    n! ≝ ∏i
    (x+y)ⁿ ≝ ∑i!(n-i)!/n! xⁱyⁿ⁻ⁱ
    χορδῶν συμφωνία

    I’ve used it on iPhones and iPads. It works fine for me.

  11. 11
    Willard says:

    Just checked a few Android Microsoft compatible office suites:
    Polaris Offivce 5 (Samsung) – Yes
    OfficeSuite – No
    QuickOffice – Yes

    Polaris Office 5 is a Samsung exclusive and really a nice full featured editor. QuickOffice was just purchased by Google and available for free.

    Maybe some onscreen keyboards also offer this support.
    Swype – no
    Hackers – no

  12. 12
    dmsilev says:

    @MattF: I know; I’ve had that happen as well. I didn’t say I _liked_ using Word, just that I didn’t have much choice and that there was at least one silver lining to the cloud.

    For whatever it’s worth, the new equation editor that came in with Word 2010 (I think) seems more robust than the old MathType-derived one.

  13. 13
    Kristine says:

    @Cervantes: Oh, thanks for the link.

    In addition, check both iTunes and the App Store for apps–I have to remind myself of that every so often. IIRC, the App Store only carries apps that have been well-evaluated by Apple. iTunes, you’re more on your own.

  14. 14
    zadig says:

    Takes some experimenting but you can do some of what you want. Say this to Siri:

    superscript one
    superscript two
    superscript three

    4 and higher will not work. Subscript does not seem to work.

    Other phrases that get you symbols are:

    degrees (after a number, so “350 degrees” gets you “350˚”)
    registered sign (®)
    trademark sign (™)
    euro sign
    dollar sign (etc.)

    I do not know how to force a number to appear numerically vs. alphabetically. If I say “one” I get “one”, not “1”. If I say “zero one” I get “01” and not “zero one”. Weird.

    Stupidly, if I say “three superscript 1” I get “three 1” where the one is superscripted.

    Crappiest of all for Apple, there doesn’t seem to be a complete reference on their web site for this. If you ask Siri “What punctuation symbols can I dictate?” she comes up with web searches that don’t quite answer the question.

  15. 15
    Tim F. says:

    @Cervantes: I’d say kludgy yes, but less painful since last version I tried however many updates ago. I am not asking for EndNote here. There just needs to be a damned superscript button in Pages.

  16. 16
    Tim F. says:

    @zadig: That is not a solution, it is a cruel tease which shows how easy it would be to actually implement sub/superscript if they wanted to.

  17. 17
    zadig says:

    No argument from me, Tim. Just sharing what little I know. Siri and I have fought on many occasions, sometimes it comes to fists (mine) and tears (also mine). And lots and lots of name calling to which she gets surprisingly offended.

  18. 18
    xian says:

    at the risk of pimping my own shop, our product, CloudOn, runs on iOS and Android devices and definitely offers subscript and superscript.

  19. 19
    Cervantes says:

    @Tim F.:

    I’d say kludgy yes, but less painful since last version I tried however many updates ago.

    Less kludgy than before is good. Nothing is perfect.

    I am not asking for EndNote here. There just needs to be a damned superscript button in Pages.

    For iOS, you mean. Sure, that might be nice, but good design is a matter of making the right compromises. Your needs may not be typical. Neither are mine, and I’m happy with iOS (and OS X) regardless. Life goes on.

    EndNote? I used it in the late ’80s when it was a (decent) Niles Software product. Since then it has become grotesque and useless to me (although, to be completely fair, my needs have evolved as well since those days).

  20. 20
    Robert Sneddon says:

    The MS Surface Pro tablet runs regular desktop Windows, no problems with super- and subscripts in any regular desktop applications. It has a great pen for taking notes with too (a Wacom pressure-sensitive stylus).

  21. 21
    Cervantes says:

    @xian: Yes, I think yours is a decent product, too, for those who have to work with Microsoft formats. (Or am I thinking of something else?)

    And isn’t your product free? How do you manage that?

  22. 22
    Big R says:

    But honestly, the real question is whether Max is an iOS or Android user.

  23. 23
    Cervantes says:


    Say this to Siri:

    superscript one
    superscript two
    superscript three

    4 and higher will not work. Subscript does not seem to work.

    That is remarkable. I like the experiment. Thanks.

  24. 24
    David Conlay says:

    Have you seen the Dell Venue 8 Pro or other similar eight inch Windows 8 tablets? I use the Dell for work and play and it lasts pretty much all of my work day and then some on a fully charged battery.


  25. 25
    tribble says:

    $350 gets you an Asus transformer running Windows 8.1 with included keyboard dock.

    It’s not quite as nice in some ways as the Android version of the transformer I had before, but having an actual computer that can run the same programs I’m used to on my desktop and laptop is rapidly making me forget the lack of a second camera.

    I don’t think I’ll be running matlab on it or anything, but Mendeley works great.

    I don’t know why Apple can’t do the equivalent (even at a higher price point).

  26. 26
    Roger Moore says:


    4 and higher will not work. Subscript does not seem to work.

    I assume this is because there are glyphs for those superscripts but not for larger numbers or for subscript. IOW, it’s not real superscript in the sense that it’s produced by changing the size and base-line of the text, which would let you write any arbitrary text as superscript.

  27. 27

    @tribble: Absolutely agree. And a new faster Asus Transformer is just around the corner.

  28. 28
    Tim F. says:

    @Robert Sneddon: As I said, the Surface competes with a laptop price point, not with other tablets. I already have a slim-style laptop (the new Air is surprisingly powerful with the new Haswell chips, and lasts forever on a charge).

  29. 29
    Robert Sneddon says:

    @Tim F.: What’s the touch system and pen digitiser like on the Air?

  30. 30
    kzoostout says:

    Google’s Android keyboard does superscript by long pressing the number (at least on my Nexus 4). As mentioned above, their Quickoffice app (free) does super and subscript.

    I work in an academic library, and the librarians are getting all of their computers switched over to Surface Pros. It will be interesting to see how that goes over.

  31. 31

    The Cymbol app seems to do the trick…

  32. 32
    zadig says:

    @Roger Moore: I agree that’s the most likely explanation. Which might mean that there’s a siri command for any of those fancy characters we used to be able to display with an app

    More experiments show that I can say:

    em dash (—)
    en dash (–)
    double dagger sign (‡) (but “dagger sign” fails)
    caret (^)
    inverted question mark (¿)
    per mil sign (like percent % but with two bottom circles ‰)
    plus or minus sign (±) (but can’t do not-equal sign ≠)
    section sign (§)
    paragraph sign (¶)

    However, “bullet” or “bullet sign” doesn’t work (to get •). Guess if the fancy characters don’t have names we all know, it won’t work. I do get “smiley” and “frowny” to see text emoticons :-) and :-( instead of images for whatever that’s worth.

    Huh. You’d think someone would have collected this information into one place for reference, like the company that develops the fucking voice recognition software, but I guess not. So I get to do it, and I work for booze (hint hint)

  33. 33
    vhh says:

    The Softmaker Office Suite for Android supports all sorts of fonts (including Symbol) and more can be added. And it supports subscripts and superscripts. I bought a 2012 Nexus 7 nearly new for about $130 and added a 2 year Squaretrade warranty for about $20. Oh yeah, and I can replace the battery myself, and it reads and writes on USB disks. That’s more features for < half the price of a Ipad Mini, and about $100 less than a Ipod Touch. I've loved Macs for decades, but iOS stuff just costs too much.

  34. 34
    xian says:

    @Cervantes: yes, office compatibility is our selling point. we are freemium, so upgrading unlocks some features.

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