Integrating math formulas using MathJAX

Support for MathML in CSS Paged Media varies widely. Antennahouse has perhaps the best MathML implementation, but lacks support for rendering formulas in LaTeX notation. Vivliostyle offers built-in MathJAX support, while the MathML renderers of PrinceXML and PDFreactor have only poor output quality.

MathJAX is a Javascript rendering solution for rendering formulas within a browser in both MathML and LaTeX notation - and in very good quality. So, how to integrate MathJAX into a PDF conversion workflow? Unfortunately, only PDFreactor and PrinceXML offer support for Javascript - and only for a selected number of Javascript add-ons.

As such, the blueprint for generating PDF documents with arbitrary CSS Paged Media renderers is as follows:

  • You will need to iterate over all formulas of your source document and extract each formula into a dedicated input HTML file. Below is an example document (taken from the MathJAX tests directory, since we are assuming that MathJAX will be installed locally).
<!DOCTYPE html>
<title>MathJax Test Page</title>
<!-- Copyright (c) 2009-2015 The MathJax Consortium -->
<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=UTF-8" />
<meta http-equiv="X-UA-Compatible" content="IE=edge" />
<meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1">

<script type="text/x-mathjax-config">
//  Do NOT use this page as a template for your own pages. It includes
//  code that is needed for testing the installation of MathJax on your site,
//  and this should not be used in normal web pages.  Use sample.html as
//  the example for calling MathJax on your own site.
    extensions: ["tex2jax.js"],
    jax: ["input/TeX","output/HTML-CSS"],
    "HTML-CSS": {
    styles: {".MathJax_Preview": {visibility: "hidden"}}
MathJax.Hub.Register.StartupHook("HTML-CSS Jax Ready",function () {
    var FONT = MathJax.OutputJax["HTML-CSS"].Font;
    FONT.loadError = function (font) {
    MathJax.Message.Set("Can't load web font TeX/"+font.directory,null,2000);
    document.getElementById("noWebFont").style.display = "";
    FONT.firefoxFontError = function (font) {
    MathJax.Message.Set("Firefox can't load web fonts from a remote host",null,3000);
    document.getElementById("ffWebFont").style.display = "";

(function (HUB) {

    Firefox: 3.0,
    Opera: 9.52,
    MSIE: 6.0,
    Chrome: 0.3,
    Safari: 2.0,
    Konqueror: 4.0,
    Unknown: 10000.0 // always disable unknown browsers

if (!HUB.Browser.versionAtLeast(MINVERSION[HUB.Browser]||0.0)) {
    jax: [],                   // don't load any Jax
    extensions: [],            // don't load any extensions
    "v1.0-compatible": false   // skip warning message due to no jax
    setTimeout('document.getElementById("badBrowser").style.display = ""',0);


MathJax.Hub.Register.StartupHook("End",function () {
var HTMLCSS = MathJax.OutputJax["HTML-CSS"];
if (HTMLCSS && HTMLCSS.imgFonts) {document.getElementById("imageFonts").style.display = ""}

<script type="text/javascript" src="../MathJax.js"></script>

.warning {
color: #800020;
background-color: #FFF8F8;
border: 2px solid red;
margin: 1em 5em;
padding: 1em;


wkhtmltopdf in.html --javascript-delay 25000 out.pdf
  • The generated out.pdf PDF file will now contain the rendered formula. The problem is now that we need to crop the PDF to its bounding boxes. This can be accomplished using pdfcrop.pl. pdfcrop is a small Perl script that can manipulate the borders of a PDF document. In our case, we need to remove all borders using
pdfcrop.pl --margins 0 out.pdf out2.pdf
  • The cropped PDF file out2.pdf can now be used with most CSS Paged Media renderers as a standard image (you can convert the PDF file to PNG/JPG/GIF using tools like ImageMagick if your renderer does not support PDF as an image format).
<img src="out2.pdf" />


<img src="out2.png" />

Alternative solution

There is another option for generating SVG from MathML or LaTeX using the text2svg script that comes from the NodeJS mathjax-node module. This approach is described here. Note that the resulting SVG files appear a little strange. They render properly inside a browser, but cannot be displayed using standard image tools (at least on MacOSX).


This rendering approach does not take PDF accessibility into account.