Yes, you read correctly. I do, in fact, love the Microsoft Equation Editor. It's such a convenient, simple, low-overhead, easy to use little tool.

Now, if I wasn't already considered a loser by the ubiquitous linux freaks around here, I am now. For you see, to them, the only real mathematical expression editor/typesetter is some variant of LaTeX (for an intro, see: http://www.latex-project.org). They see MS EE as a wannabe, dumbed down program released by the evil Microsoft to appease some small group of people who need that functionality with their copy of Word.

In a sense, they're absolutely right. While it may not be the most rigorous or powerful utility, often the equation editor is nonetheless the perfect tool for the job. The first time I used it, I was doing a little extra credit assignment for my math 242 class. And my handwriting can be compared favorably to perhaps a monkey's, writing with a pencil held between its toes. So it seemed all-too-natural to pop in my MS Office CD (which I obtained for a generously low price thanks to Microsoft's academic license), and install the feature. Within two minutes I had installed the program, learned how it worked, and entered all the little integrals I needed.

A few weeks later I stumbled on some thread on one of UIUC's many newsgroups criticizing the Microsoft Equation Editor. They dismissed it outright as a joke, instead pointing out that some all-powerful distribution of LaTeX was the way to go. So just out of curiousity I looked into the matter. First I had to find out what distribution I needed, and I didn't really invest too much time into reading about the different varieties. I downloaded one that sounded pretty good (it was an approximately 75 megabyte file), and proceeded to the lengthy install procedure. After command line messages flashed across my screen for about thirty minutes or so, I saw a little message indicating success. Finally! I was about to become one of the all-powerful, elite LaTeX document typesetters I'd heard so much about!

But it was not to be. I couldn't figure out how to use the program to set even a simple expression such as "x+1". I waded through online documentation (of which there are thousands of pages, dealing with configuration issues, installing, importing custom libraries, etc.) for nigh on an hour, but learned nothing useful. Ultimately I ended up getting rid of the hundreds of little files the install program had scattered on my hard drive, conceding defeat for now.

Now all those linux freaks I mentioned earlier are all laughing uncontrollably at me right now, because to them, this is commonplace. Whether it's browsing the web text-only or downloading, installing, and learning to use a massively powerful program such as LaTex, they insist on doing things in the most complicated way, even if it's not necessary. It wasn't that I was incapable of learning to use the program, and not even really that I didn't have the time to wade through the documentation. No, it just seemed like overkill, and in this case, it was. For crying out loud, I wasn't presenting a research paper to the Annual Conference of the American Mathematical Society. I was doing a simple two-point problem for an undergrad math class. I don't *NEED* LaTeX for that.

In conclusion, thank you Microsoft for creating the handy little Equation Editor. It's OK with me that you don't incorporate every obscure little feature that might be useful to someone, sometime, somewhere. The fact is, for a wide variety of applications, the EE is a great little tool, that's extremely easy to set up and use, and not overly complicated. Thank you for recognizing that sometimes, people need something intuitive that works quickly and without hassle.

I will, undoubtedly, take another shot at LaTeX someday, and be successful in learning to use it, and discovering its merits. But I won't be such a boisterous idiot as to dismiss simpler, less-powerful programs as useless jokes, for I will remember that they have good uses too.