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I joined few days ago and have recently asked many questions. In most of these questions, I use images to make everyone understand it better. I prefer to use both MathJax and images. But most of the time, people ask me not to use images. Typing MathJax takes so much time for me.

I really don't understand problem: why should an asker use MathJax instead of images?

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2 Answers 2

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This is largely an accessibility issue.

  1. Images are not searchable. Whatever you think of the quality of the built-in search engine, or external tools such as approach0, and their ability to find good matches for search terms, they do exponentially worse when the only information is given in image form. Relying on images to convey vital information makes it much, much harder for other users to find that information.

  2. Images are not describable. There are users with visual impairments who access this site using screen readers. Screen readers typically cannot do very much at all with images (and rely on whatever information is contained in the image alt field to convey information to a user. Posting vital content in images without an appropriate alt field renders those images completely inaccessible, and taking the time to correctly describe the image in an alt field is equivalent to writing up the mathematics in MathJax in the first place.

  3. Images don't scale well. Images on this site are raster images (that is, an image here consists of an array of pixels, with each pixel assigned a color). Raster images don't scale well—for example, if one has a visual impairment and views the site using large fonts, images are either left unscaled, or become a pixelated mess when scaled up.

  4. Images are large. This may seem like a minor thing in 2021, but there are still a significant number of users who access this site using relatively slow internet connections, or metered connections. Using images to convey vital information creates a bottleneck for those users.

  5. Images are not device independent. Much of the internet, including StackExchange, incorporates "responsive design". Responsive webpages are meant to be clear and readable on a variety of displays, from cell phone screens to large gaming displays. Such pages can adjust font sizes, line breaks, margins, and other properties of a page in order to be accessible on nearly any display. Images cannot be adjusted in this way, and an image that looks good on a desktop device might be completely unreadable on a phone.

In short, images should not be used to display text or other vital mathematical information which can be displayed using MathJax, as this makes the site harder for a number of people to access. It is sometimes necessary to include images (e.g. a figure in a geometry problem, or a commutative diagram), but it is best to use text and MathJax whenever possible.

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  • $\begingroup$ I added a cross-reference to this answer over in that answer. $\endgroup$
    – Lee Mosher
    Mar 22, 2023 at 14:56
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    $\begingroup$ In addition, someone that is willing to answer can not copy the Math Jax code. For me that's an important point. $\endgroup$
    – Filippo
    Mar 23, 2023 at 20:02
  • $\begingroup$ Ironically, although I (still) definitely agree with the standard, and with your answer, there is a reason for allowing images that should not be ignored. Very frequently, inexperienced question posters will, in some way, garble the question that they are trying to ask. Either they will mis-state the question, or omit pertinent information. Then, the MathSE reviewer endures the shooting gallery blues, trying to hit a moving target. Unfortunately, I don't have any constructive suggestion here. However, using images to present a question does often avoid this stumbling block. $\endgroup$ Apr 5, 2023 at 8:47
  • $\begingroup$ @user2661923 images should not be used to convey information not otherwise present in the post. A new user can post their question, and include an image. Doing both is not a problem. $\endgroup$ Jun 28, 2023 at 17:07
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Typing MathJax takes so much time for me.

An additional selling point for MathJax over images, is that the above concern is probably short-term only, for you. The abstract ideas involved in presenting MathJax are much simpler than the abstract ideas in a generic Math course.

Over time, inevitably, you will type MathJax just as fast as you type normal English. This is because your brain will naturally start to think in MathJax, so that it becomes second nature to you. This is similar to how a person learns to type. After a while, it is as if their fingers just feel where each separate letter on the keyboard is located, so typing comes naturally.

So, one other reason that MathJax is required, is because soon it will be effortless for you.

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