What’s New in MathJax v3.0
MathJax version 3 is a complete rewrite from the ground up, with the goal of modernizing MathJax’s internal infrastructure, bringing it more flexibility for use with contemporary web technologies, making it easier to use with NodeJS for pre-processing and server-side support, and making it faster to render your mathematics.
There were a number of design goals to the version 3 rewrite. A primary one was to improve the rendering speed of MathJax, and we feel we have accomplished that. Because the two versions operate so differently, it is difficult to make precise comparisons, but in tests that render a complete page with several hundred expressions, we see a reduction in rendering time of between 60 and 80 percent, depending on the browser and type of computer.
Another goal was to make MathJax 3 more flexible for web developers using MathJax as part of a larger framework, while still keeping it easy to use in simple settings. To that end, we have broken down the actions that MathJax takes into smaller units than in version 2, and made it possible to call on them individually, or replace them with alternative versions of your own. For example, the typesetting process has been broken into a number of pieces, including finding the math in the page, compiling it into the internal format (MathML), getting metric data for the location of the math, converting the math into the output format, inserting it into the page, adding menu event handlers, and so on. You have control over which of these to perform, and can modify or remove the existing actions, or add new ones of your own. See the renderActions documentation for details.
A key feature that we wanted to include in version 3 is the ability to run MathJax synchronously, and in particular, to provide a function that can translate an input string (say a TeX expression) into an output DOM tree (say an SVG image). This was not really possible in version 2, since its operation was inherently asynchronous at a fundamental level. With MathJax version 3, this is straight-forward, as we provide a synchronous typesetting path, both within the page, and for individual expressions, provided you load all the components you need ahead of time. See Typesetting and Converting Mathematics for details.
No Queues, Signals, Callbacks
One of the more difficult aspects of working with MathJax version 2
was having to synchronize your actions with those of MathJax. This
involved using queues, callbacks, and signals to mediate the
asynchronous actions of MathJax. Since these were not standard
developers trying to use MathJax. With version 3, MathJax has the
option of working synchronously (as described above), but it still
allows for asynchronous operation (e.g., to allow TeX’s
command to load extensions dynamically) if you wish. This no longer
relies on queues, callbacks, and signals, however. Instead, these
actions are managed through the ES6 promise,
into your own applications more straight-forward.
Package Manager Support
Because MathJax version 2 used its own loading mechanism for accessing
its components, and because there was no method for combining all the
pieces needed by MathJax into one file, MathJax did not work well with
webpack. Version 3 resolves
that problem, so it should interoperate better with modern web
workflows. You can make your own custom single-file builds of MathJax
(see Making a Custom Build of MathJax) or can include it as one component of a
larger asset file.
MathJax 3 still provides a loading mechanism similar to the one from
version 2, however, so you can still customize the extensions that is
loads, so that you only load the ones you need (though this does
require that you use MathJax in its asynchronous mode). The various
pieces of MathJax have been packaged into “components” that can be
mixed and matched as needed, and which you configure through a global
MathJax variable (see Examples in a Browser). This
is how MathJax is being distributed through the various CDNs that host
it. When loaded this way, MathJax will automatically set up all the
objects and functions that you need to use the components you have
loaded, giving you easy access to typesetting and conversion functions
for the input and output formats you have selected. See the section
on The MathJax Components for more information. You can also create
your own custom components to complement or replace the ones provided
on the CDN (see A Custom Extension for more).
If you use any of the combined component
files, MathJax will perform a number of actions during its startup
process. In particular, it will create the input and output jax, math
document, DOM adaptor, and other objects that are needed in order to
perform typesetting in your document. You can access these through
MathJax.startup object, if you need to. MathJax will also
set up functions that perform typesetting for you, and conversion
between the various input and output formats that you have loaded.
This should make it easy to perform the most important actions
available in MathJax. See Typesetting and Converting Mathematics for more details.
While MathJax 2 was designed for use in a web browser, an important
use case that this left unaddressed is pre-processing mathematics on a
server. For version 2, we provided mathjax-node to fill this gap, but it
is not as flexible or easy to use as many would have liked. MathJax 3
resolves this problem by being designed to work with node
applications in essentially the same way as in a browser. That is,
you can load MathJax components, configure them through the
MathJax global variable, and call the same functions for
typesetting and conversion as you do within a browser. This makes
parallel development for both the browser and server much easier.
Moreover, node applications can access MathJax modules directly (without the packaging used for MathJax components). This gives you the most direct access to MathJax’s features, and the most flexibility in modifying MathJax’s actions. See Examples of MathJax in Node for examples of how this is done.
ES6 and Typescript
New Features for Existing Components
In addition to the new structure for MathJax described above, some new features have been added to existing pieces of MathJax.
TeX Input Extensions
There are two new TeX input extensions: braket and physics. Also, some functionality that was built into the TeX input jax in version 2 has been moved into extensions in version 3. This includes the macros configuration option, the tag formatting configuration options, and the require macro. The new autoload extension replaces the older autoload-all extension, is more configurable, and is included in the TeX input components by default. There a several extensions that are not yet ported to version 3, including the autobold, mediawiki-texvc, and the third-party extensions.
The SVG output for equations with labels has been improved so that the positions of the labels now react to changes in the container width (just like they do in the HTML output formats).
Improved Expression Explorer
The interactive expression explorer has been improved in a number of ways. It now includes better heuristics for creating the speech text for the expressions you explore, provides more keyboard control of the features in play during your exploration, adds support for braille output, adds support for zooming on subexpressions, and more. See the Accessibility Features page for more details.