I joined few days ago and have recently asked many questions. In most of these questions, I use image to make everyone understand it better. I prefer to use both MathJax as well as Image. But most of the time, people ask me not to use image. I have used image in the most recent question for better explanation and i have got 1 downvote. I really don't understand what is the problem if a questioner use image instead of using MathJax everytime. Typing MathJax takes so much time for me, Please try to understand that using image makes it easy for me. What is the problem with image in community? I really don't understand this.

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    $\begingroup$ Images are not searchable, nor describable by screen-readers for visually-impaired people. To turn your question around: why are you so unwilling to make even a small effort to help other people when you're asking for help yourself? $\endgroup$
    – postmortes
    Sep 21, 2021 at 8:24
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    $\begingroup$ Please have a look here, here and here and if your doubt still remains do tell in comments $\endgroup$
    – user876009
    Sep 21, 2021 at 10:21
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    $\begingroup$ The one and only place images can help is in complicated geometry problems, graph-theory, etc.. Never use images of text, to escape typesetting the questions yourself. $\endgroup$
    – amWhy
    Sep 21, 2021 at 13:11
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    $\begingroup$ "Please try to understand that using images makes it easy for me." We understand: we just don't think that this site should be geared towards your comfort, and you shouldn't think that either. $\endgroup$ Sep 21, 2021 at 14:52
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    $\begingroup$ @amWhy I think I'd make another exception for commutative diagrams. See, e.g., en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snake_lemma $\endgroup$ Sep 21, 2021 at 23:25
  • $\begingroup$ Just a comment to add that there are also 4 Answers on Can I post a 'homework' question without any MathJax/Latex. $\endgroup$ Oct 30, 2021 at 8:48

1 Answer 1


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—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.

In short, vital mathematical information should not be restricted to images, as this makes the site harder for a number of people to access. It is sometimes necessary to include an image (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 don't think I noticed it with this particular user, but I think it's also difficult to understand the flow of arguments in an image, particularly because I see a step, then I see the next one on the next line, and the work resulting in that is found somewhere in a rough column either on the right or left, and then there's the problem of cancellations and handwriting issues (ask me about it!). Mathjax will IMO capture the flow of a mathematical argument better. More than half the images I see (answer or question) suffer from these issues. In short : MathJax aides organization of math argument $\endgroup$ Sep 21, 2021 at 16:59
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    $\begingroup$ @TeresaLisbon Indeed, but that is another issue entirely---even if someone meticulously typesets their work in TeX then takes a screenshot, thereby almost exactly what would be rendered with MathJax, they should instead actually type out the MathJax for all of the reasons articulated above. $\endgroup$
    – Xander Henderson Mod
    Sep 21, 2021 at 17:54
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, I agree with you. $\endgroup$ Sep 21, 2021 at 17:56
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    $\begingroup$ This answer should be a FAQ answer in response to questions like the one here! And to provide a link on the main site to inform users on main who insist on using images in their questions. $\endgroup$
    – amWhy
    Sep 21, 2021 at 20:46
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    $\begingroup$ I think you are missing one more point, images can decay if they are uploaded with a link. We want Math SE to be useful for years to come, but if the pages which host some images go down in the future, then some answers/questions will become unreadable. $\endgroup$
    – user400188
    Sep 22, 2021 at 6:39
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    $\begingroup$ @user400188 As I recall the hosting site (imgur) used by StackExchange does provide some guarantees regarding image hosting, but you'll probably need to go to Meta in order to search for the right information. $\endgroup$
    – postmortes
    Sep 22, 2021 at 11:07
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    $\begingroup$ @user400188 This would be a problem with images linked from some place other than imgur. However, SE has a deal with imgur to provide image hosting. If that were to break, somehow, it is likely that there are much bigger problems in the world than a few images not being readable. Your point is more relevant to linking to off-site resources, in general. $\endgroup$
    – Xander Henderson Mod
    Sep 22, 2021 at 13:45

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