Defining New Symbols

Let’s say you want to define a new Smallfrac function for use with the Compute Engine.


To use this function from a LaTeX string, using ce.parse(), you must augment the LaTeX dictionary of the Compute Engine with a new dictionary entry. You can do this by providing a custom LaTeX dictionary to the constructor of ComputeEngine.

const ce = new ComputeEngine({
  latexDictionary: [
      trigger: ['\\smallfrac'],
      parse: (parser) => {
        return [
          parser.matchRequiredLatexArgument() ?? ['Error', "'missing'"],
          parser.matchRequiredLatexArgument() ?? ['Error', "'missing'"],
// -> ["Smallfrac", 1, 2]

The triger property indicates that when the \\smallfrac command is encountered, the parse handler should be called.

The parse handler constructs a MathJSON expression from the LaTeX string, by reading the two expected arguments using matchRequiredLatexArgument().


The above is sufficient to parse LaTeX, but if you want to evaluate the function, you will also need to define how to do so.

You can define new functions for the Compute Engine to evaluate using ce.defineFunction().

Note that the first argument to defineFunction(), Smallfrac, is the name of the MathJSON function, i.e. the one that we returned from the parse handler above. It is not the name of the LaTeX command (\smallfrac).

ce.defineFunction('Smallfrac', {
  signature: {
    domain: 'NumericFunction',
    evaluate: (ce, args) =>[0].N() / args[1].N()),
// -> 0.5

Using a New Function with a Mathfield

You may also want to use your new function with a mathfield.

First you need to define a LaTeX macro so that the mathfield knows how to render this command. Let’s define the \smallfrac macro.

const mfe = document.querySelector('math-field');

mfe.macros = {
  smallfrac: {
    args: 2,
    def: '{}^{#1}\\!\\!/\\!{}_{#2}'

The content of the def property is a LaTeX fragment that will be used to render the \\smallfrac command.

The #1 token in def is a reference to the first argument and #2 to the second one.

You may also want to define an inline shortcut to make it easier to input the command.

With the code below, we define a shortcut “smallfrac”.

When typed, the shortcut is replaced with the associated LaTeX.

The #@ token represents the argument to the left of the shortcut, and the #? token represents a placeholder to be filled by the user.

mfe.inlineShortcuts = {

You can now parse the input from a mathfield using:


Alternatively, you can associate the customized compute engine with the mathfields in the document:

MathfieldElement.computeEngine = ce;