Making a Custom Build of MathJax

MathJax provides a number of combined components that load everything you need to run MathJax with a given input and output format. Still, you might find that none of the ones we provide fully suit your needs, and that you would like to include additional components in the build, or perhaps want to include customized configuration options.

You can use the MathJax component build tools to make your own custom component that has exactly the pieces and configuration that you want. You can also use them to make a custom extension, for example a TeX input extension, that takes advantage of the components already loaded, but implements additional functionality. These possibilities are described in Building a Custom Component below.

It is also possible to make a completely custom build of MathJax that doesn’t use the MathJax components at all, but includes direct calls to the MathJax source files. This is described in A Custom MathJax Build below.

If you wish to include MathJax as part of a larger project, you can use either of the techniques to do that, and make a webpacked file that includes your own project code as well as MathJax.

Your first step is to download a copy of MathJax via npm or git, as described in the section on Acquiring the MathJax Code.


Building a Custom Component

MathJax comes with a number of predefined components, and you can use their definitions as a starting point for your own custom component. There are also custom component examples (with documentation) in the MathJax web demos repository, which is similar to the ones described here.

There are two kinds of components you could build:

  • A combined component that brings together several other components (the tex-chtml component is a combined component)
  • A extension component that contains what is needed for one feature and can be loaded along with other components to add that feature to MathJax.

We describe how you can create each of these below. In both cases, you should create a directory to hold your component’s support files. You will need the main control file for the component (that includes the code that defines the component), and a webpack control file that will tell MathJax’s build tools how to handle your component. These will be discussed in the sections below.

If you have not already done so, you should build the components already defined in MathJax, so that you can call on them in your own component. To do this, issue the commands

cd mathjax
npm run make-components

(Note that the mathjax directory will be in your node_modules directory if you used npm to install MathJax.)

A Custom Combined Component

After downloading a copy of MathJax as described in the section on Acquiring the MathJax Code, make the directory for your component and cd to that directory. We will assume the directory is called custom-mathjax for this discussion.

For this example, we will create a custom build that has the TeX input jax and the SVG output jax, and we will load the newcommand, ams, and configMacros extensions, but will not include require or autoload, so the user will not be able load any additional TeX extensions. This component also includes the contextual menu.

The Control File

Create a javascript file to house the component and call it custom-mathjax.js. The file should contain the following code (we assume here that you used npm to install MathJax. If not, you may need to adjust the locations in the require() commands).

//
//  Initialize the MathJax startup code
//
require('mathjax-full/components/src/startup/lib/startup.js');

//
//  Get the loader module and indicate the modules that
//  will be loaded by hand below
//
const {Loader} = require('mathjax-full/js/components/loader.js');
Loader.preLoad(
  'loader', 'startup',
  'core',
  'input/tex-base',
  '[tex]/ams',
  '[tex]/newcommand',
  '[tex]/configMacros',
  'output/svg', 'output/svg/fonts/tex.js',
  'ui/menu'
);

//
// Load the components that we want to combine into one component
//   (the ones listed in the preLoad() call above)
//
require('mathjax-full/components/src/core/core.js');

require('mathjax-full/components/src/input/tex-base/tex-base.js');
require('mathjax-full/components/src/input/tex/extensions/ams/ams.js');
require('mathjax-full/components/src/input/tex/extensions/newcommand/newcommand.js');
require('mathjax-full/components/src/input/tex/extensions/config_macros/configMacros.js');

require('mathjax-full/components/src/output/svg/svg.js');
require('mathjax-full/components/src/output/svg/fonts/tex/tex.js');

require('mathjax-full/components/src/ui/menu/menu.js');

//
// Update the configuration to include any updated values
//
const {insert} = require('mathjax-full/js/util/Options.js');
insert(MathJax.config, {
  tex: {
    packages: {'[+]': ['ams', 'newcommand', 'configMacros']}
  }
});

//
// Loading this component will cause all the normal startup
//   operations to be performed
//
require('mathjax-full/components/src/startup/startup.js');

This loads the various components that we want to include in the combined component, including the standard startup code so that the usual startup process is included.

The Webpack Configuration

Next, create the file webpack.config.js that includes the following:

const PACKAGE = require('mathjax-full/components/webpack.common.js');

module.exports = PACKAGE(
  'custom-mathjax',                     // the name of the package to build
  '../node_modules/mathjax-full/js',    // location of the mathjax library
  [],                                   // packages to link to
  __dirname,                            // our directory
  '.'                                   // where to put the packaged component
);

This file gives the name that will be used for this component (custom-mathjax in this case), a pointer to where the MathJax javascript code is to be found (adjust this to suit your setup), an array of components that we assume are already loaded when this one is loaded (none in this case), the directory name we are working in (always __dirname), and the directory where we want the final packaged component to go (the default is the mathjax-full/es5 directory, but we set it to the directory containing the source files, and the component will end with .min.js).

Most of the real work is done by the mathjax-full/components/webpack.common.js file, which is included in the first line here.

Building the Component

Once these two files are ready, you should be able to use the command

../node_modules/mathjax-full/components/bin/makeAll

to process your custom build. You should end up with a file custom-mathjax.min.js in the directory with the other files. If you put this on your web server, you can load it into your web pages in place of loading MathJax from a CDN. This fill will include all that you need to run MathJax on your pages. Just add

<script src="custom-mathjax.min.js" id="MathJax-script" async></script>

to your page and you should be in business (adjust the URL to point to wherever you have placed the custom-mathjax.min.js file).

Configuring the Component

Note that you can still include a MathJax = {...} definition in your web page before loading this custom MathJax build if you want to customize the configuration for a specific page. You could also include configuration within the component itself, as we did for the TeX packages array. This will override any page-provided configuration, however, so if you want to provide non-standard defaults that can still be overridden in the page, use

//
// Update the configuration to include any updated values
//
const {insert} = require('mathjax-full/js/util/Options.js');
insert(MathJax.config, {tex: {packages: {'[+]': ['ams', 'newcommand', 'configMacros']}}});
MathJax.config = insert({
  // your default options here
}, MathJax.config);

which will update the TeX packages, and then merge the user’s configuration options into your defaults and set MathJax.config to the combined options.

Fonts for CommonHTML

If you include the CommonHTML output jax in your custom build, the actual web fonts are not included in the webpacked file, so you will probably need to include fontURL in the chtml block of your configuration and have it provide a URL where the fonts can be found. They are in the mathjax-full/es5/output/chtml/fonts/woff-v2 directory, and you can put them on your server, or simply point fontURL to one of the CDN directories for the fonts.

A Custom Extension

Making a custom extension is very similar to making a custom combined component. The main difference is that the extension may rely on other components, so you need to tell the build system about that so that it doesn’t include the code from those other components. You also don’t load the extension file directly (like you do the combined component above), but instead include it in the load array of the loader configuration block, and MathJax loads it itself, as discussed below.

For this example, we make a custom TeX extension that defines new TeX commands implemented by javascript functions.

The commands implemented by here provide the ability to generate MathML token elements from within TeX by hand. This allows more control over the content and attributes of the elements produced. The macros are \mi, \mo, \mn, \ms, and \mtext, and they each take an argument that is the text to be used as the content of the corresponding MathML element. The text is not further processed by TeX, but the extension does convert sequences of the form \uNNNN (where the N are hexadecimal digits) into the corresponding unicode character; e.g., \mi{\u2460} would produce U+2460, a circled digit 1, as the content of an mi element.

The Extension File

After downloading a copy of MathJax as described in the section on Acquiring the MathJax Code, create a directory for the extension named custom-extension and cd to it. Then create the file mml.js containing the following text:

import {Configuration}  from '../node_modules/mathjax-full/js/input/tex/Configuration.js';
import {CommandMap} from '../node_modules/mathjax-full/js/input/tex/SymbolMap.js';
import TexError from '../node_modules/mathjax-full/js/input/tex/TexError.js';

/**
 * This function prevents multi-letter mi elements from being
 *   interpreted as TEXCLASS.OP
 */
function classORD(node) {
   this.getPrevClass(node);
   return this;
}

/**
 *  Convert \uXXXX to corresponding unicode characters within a string
 */
function convertEscapes(text) {
   return text.replace(/\\u([0-9A-F]{4})/gi, (match, hex) => String.fromCharCode(parseInt(hex,16)));
}

/**
 * Allowed attributes on any token element other than the ones with default values
 */
const ALLOWED = {
   style: true,
   href: true,
   id: true,
   class: true
};

/**
 * Parse a string as a set of attribute="value" pairs.
 */
function parseAttributes(text, type) {
   const attr = {};
   if (text) {
      let match;
      while ((match = text.match(/^\s*((?:data-)?[a-z][-a-z]*)\s*=\s*(?:"([^"]*)"|(.*?))(?:\s+|,\s*|$)/i))) {
         const name = match[1], value = match[2] || match[3]
         if (type.defaults.hasOwnProperty(name) || ALLOWED.hasOwnProperty(name) || name.substr(0,5) === 'data-') {
            attr[name] = convertEscapes(value);
         } else {
            throw new TexError('BadAttribute', 'Unknown attribute "%1"', name);
         }
         text = text.substr(match[0].length);
      }
      if (text.length) {
         throw new TexError('BadAttributeList', 'Can\'t parse as attributes: %1', text);
      }
   }
   return attr;
}

/**
 *  The methods needed for the MathML token commands
 */
const MmlMethods = {

   /**
    * @param {TeXParser} parser   The TeX parser object
    * @param {string} name        The control sequence that is calling this function
    * @param {string} type        The MathML element type to be created
    */
   mmlToken(parser, name, type) {
      const typeClass = parser.configuration.nodeFactory.mmlFactory.getNodeClass(type);
      const def = parseAttributes(parser.GetBrackets(name), typeClass);
      const text = convertEscapes(parser.GetArgument(name));
      const mml = parser.create('node', type, [parser.create('text', text)], def);
      if (type === 'mi') mml.setTeXclass = classORD;
      parser.Push(mml);
   }

};

/**
 *  The macro mapping of control sequence to function calls
 */
const MmlMap = new CommandMap('mmlMap', {
   mi: ['mmlToken', 'mi'],
   mo: ['mmlToken', 'mo'],
   mn: ['mmlToken', 'mn'],
   ms: ['mmlToken', 'ms'],
   mtext: ['mmlToken', 'mtext']
}, MmlMethods);

/**
 * The configuration used to enable the MathML macros
 */
const MmlConfiguration = Configuration.create(
   'mml', {handler: {macro: ['mmlMap']}}
);

The comments explain what this code is doing. The main piece needed to make it a TeX extension is the Configuration created in the last few lines. It creates a TeX package named mml that handles macros through a CommandMap named mmlMap that is defined just above it. That command map defines five macros described at at the beginning of this section, each of which is tied to a method named mmlToken in the MmlMethods object that is defined earlier, passing it the name of the MathML token element to create. The mmlToken method is the one that is called by the TeX parser when the \mi and other macros are called. It gets the argument to the macro, and any optional attributes, and creates the MathML element with the attributes, using the argument as the text of the element.

The Webpack Configuration

Next, create the file webpack.config.js that includes the following:

const PACKAGE = require('mathjax-full/components/webpack.common.js');

module.exports = PACKAGE(
  'mml',                                // the name of the package to build
  '../node_modules/mathjax-full/js',    // location of the mathjax library
  [                                     // packages to link to
     'components/src/core/lib',
     'components/src/input/tex-base/lib'
  ],
  __dirname,                            // our directory
  '.'                                   // where to put the packaged component
);

This file gives the name that will be used for this component (mml in this case), a pointer to where the MathJax javascript code is to be found (adjust this to suit your setup), an array of components that we assume are already loaded when this one is loaded (the core and tex-base components in this case), the directory name we are working in (always __dirname), and the directory where we want the final packaged component to go (the default is the mathjax-full/es5 directory, but we set it to the directory containing the source files, and the component will end with .min.js).

Most of the real work is done by the mathjax-full/components/webpack.common.js file, which is included in the first line here.

Building the Extension

Once these two files are ready, you should be able to use the command

../node_modules/mathjax-full/components/bin/makeAll

to process your custom build. You should end up with a file mml.min.js in the directory with the other files. If you put this on your web server, you can load it as a component by putting it in the load array of the loader block of your configuration, as descrinbed below.

Loading the Extension

To load your custom extension, you will need to tell MathJax where it is located, and include it in the file to be loaded on startup. MathJax allows you to define paths to locations where your extensions are stored, and then you can refer to the extensions in that location by using a prefix that represents that location. MathJax has a pre-defined prefix, mathjax that is the default prefix when none is specified explicitly, and it refers to the location where the main MathJax file was loaded (e.g., the file tex-svg.js, or startup.js).

You can define your own prefix to point to the location of your extensions by using the paths object in the loader block of your configuration. In our case (see code below), we add a custom prefix, and have it point to the URL of our extension (in this case, the same directory as the HTML file that loads it, represented by the URL .). We use the custom prefix to specify [custom]/mml.min.js in the load array so that our extension will be loaded.

Finally, we ad the mml extension to the packages array in the tex block of our configuration via the special notation {‘[+]’: […]} that tells MathJax to append the given array to the existing packages array that is already in the configuration by default. So this uses all the packages that were already specified, plus our new mml package that is defined in our extension.

The configuration and loading of MathJax now looks something like this:

<script>
MathJax = {
   loader: {
      load: ['[custom]/mml.min.js'],
      paths: {custom: '.'}
   },
   tex: {
      packages: {'[+]': ['mml']}
   }
};
</script>
<script type="text/javascript" id="MathJax-script" async
  src="https://cdn.jsdelivr.net/npm/mathjax@3/es5/tex-chtml.js">
</script>

You should change the custom: '.' line to point to the actual URL for your server.

This example loads the tex-chtml.js combined component, so the TeX input is already loaded when our extension is loaded. If you are using startup.js instead, and including input/tex in the load array, you will need to tell MathJax that your extension depends on the input/tex extension so that it waits to load your extension until after the TeX input jax is loaded. To do that, add a dependencies block to your configuration like the following:

<script>
MathJax = {
   loader: {
      load: ['input/tex', 'output/chtml', '[custom]/mml.min.js'],
      paths: {custom: '.'},
      dependencies: {'[custom]/mml.min.js': ['input/tex']}
   },
   tex: {
      packages: {'[+]': ['mml']}
   }
};
</script>
<script type="text/javascript" id="MathJax-script" async
  src="https://cdn.jsdelivr.net/npm/mathjax@3/es5/startup.js">
</script>

This example can be seen live in the MathJax 3 demos repository.


A Custom MathJax Build

It is possible to make a completely custom build of MathJax that is not based on other MathJax components at all. The following example shows how to make a custom build that provides a function for obtaining the speech string for a given TeX math string. This example is similar to one in the MathJax3 demos repository.

After downloading a copy of MathJax as described in the section on Acquiring the MathJax Code, create a directory called mathjax-speech and cd into it.

The Custom Build File

Create the custom MathJax file named mathjax-speech.js containing the following:

//
//  Load the desired components
//
const mathjax     = require('mathjax-full/js/mathjax.js').mathjax;      // MathJax core
const TeX         = require('mathjax-full/js/input/tex.js').TeX;        // TeX input
const MathML      = require('mathjax-full/js/input/mathml.js').MathML;  // MathML input
const browser     = require('mathjax-full/js/adaptors/browserAdaptor.js').browserAdaptor; // browser DOM
const Enrich      = require('mathjax-full/js/a11y/semantic-enrich.js').EnrichHandler;     // semantic enrichment
const Register    = require('mathjax-full/js/handlers/html.js').RegisterHTMLHandler;      // the HTML handler
const AllPackages = require('mathjax-full/js/input/tex/AllPackages').AllPackages;         // all TeX packages
const STATE       = require('mathjax-full/js/core/MathItem.js').STATE;

const sreReady    = require('mathjax-full/js/a11y/sre.js').sreReady;    // SRE promise;

//
//  Register the HTML handler with the browser adaptor and add the semantic enrichment
//
Enrich(Register(browser()), new MathML());

//
//  Create the TeX input jax
//
const inputJax = new TeX({
   packages: AllPackages,
   macros: {require: ['', 1]}      // Make \require a no-op since all packages are loaded
});

//
//  Initialize mathjax with a blank DOM.
//
const html = MathJax.document('', {
   enrichSpeech: 'shallow',           // add speech to the enriched MathML
   InputJax: tex
});

//
//  The user's configuration object
//
const CONFIG = window.MathJax || {};

//
//  The global MathJax object
//
window.MathJax = {
   version: mathjax.version,
   html: html,
   tex: inputJax,
   sreReady: sreReady,

   tex2speech(tex, display = true) {
      const math = new html.options.MathItem(tex, inputJax, display);
      math.convert(html, STATE.CONVERT);
      return math.root.attributes.get('data-semantic-speech') || 'no speech text generated';
   }
}

//
// Perform ready function, if there is one
//
if (CONFIG.ready) {
   sreReady.then(CONFIG.ready);
}

Unlike the component-based example above, this custom build calls on the MathJax source files directly. The import commands at the beginning of the file load the needed objects, and the rest of the code instructs MathJax to create a MathDocument object for handling the conversions that we will be doing (using a TeX input jax), and then defines a global MathJax object that has the tex2speech() function that our custom build offers.

The Webpack Configuration

Next, create the file webpack.config.js that includes the following:

const PACKAGE = require('mathjax-full/components/webpack.common.js');

module.exports = PACKAGE(
  'mathjax-speech',                     // the name of the package to build
  '../node_modules/mathjax-full/js',    // location of the mathjax library
  [],                                   // packages to link to
  __dirname,                            // our directory
  '.'                                   // where to put the packaged component
);

This file gives the name that will be used for this component (mathjax-speech in this case), a pointer to where the MathJax javascript code is to be found (adjust this to suit your setup), an array of components that we assume are already loaded when this one is loaded (none, since this is a self-contained build), the directory name we are working in (always __dirname), and the directory where we want the final packaged component to go (the default is the mathjax-full/es5 directory, but we set it to the directory containing the source files, and the component will end with .min.js).

Most of the real work is done by the mathjax-full/components/webpack.common.js file, which is included in the first line here.

Building the Custom File

Once these two files are ready, you should be able to use the command

../node_modules/mathjax-full/components/bin/makeAll

to process your custom build. You should end up with a file mathjax-speech.min.js in the directory with the other files. it will contain just the parts of MathJax that are needed to implement the MathJax.tex2speech() command defined in the file above. Note that this is not enough to do normal typesetting (for example, no output jax has been included), so this is a minimal file for producing the speech strings from TeX input.

Using the File in a Web Page

If you put the mathjax-speech.min.js file on your web server, you can load it into your web pages in place of loading MathJax from a CDN. This fill will include all that you need to use the MathJax.tex2speech() command in your pages. Just add

<script src="mathjax-speech.min.js" id="MathJax-script" async></script>

to your page (adjust the URL to point to wherever you have placed the custom-mathjax.min.js file). Then you can use javascript calls like

const speech = MathJax.tex2speech('\\sqrt{x^2+1}', true);

to obtain a text string that contains the speech text for the square root given in the TeX string.

Note, however, that the Speech-Rule Engine (SRE) that underlies the speech generation loads asynchronously, so you have to be sure that SRE is ready before you make such a call. The mathjax-speech.js file provides two ways of handling the synchronization with SRE. The first is to use the global MathJax variable to include a ready() function that is called when SRE is ready. For example,

window.speechReady = false;
window.MathJax = {
   ready: () => {
      window.speechReady = true;
   }
};

would set the global variable speechReady to true when SRE is ready to run (so you can check that value to see if speech can be generated yet). A more sophisticated ready() function could allow you to queue translations to be performed, and when SRE is ready, it performs them. Alternatively, if you have a user interface that allows users to transform TeX expressions, for example, then you could initially disable to buttons that trigger speech generation, and use the ready() function to enable them. That way, the user can’t ask for speech translation until it can be produced.

The second method of synchronizing with SRE is through the fact that the code sets MathJax.sreReady to a promise that is resolves when SRE is ready, which you can use to make sure SRE is ready when you want to do speech generation. For example

function showSpeech(tex, display = false) {
   MathJax.sreReady = MathJax.sreReady.then(() => {
     const speech = MathJax.tex2speech(tex, display);
     const output = document.getElementById('speech');
     output.innerHTML = '';
     output.appendChild(document.createTextNode(speech));
   });
}

provides a function that lets you specify a TeX string to translate, and then (asynchronously) generates the speech for it and displays it as the contents of the DOM element with id="speech" in the page.