back to article Upset Equation Editor was killed off? Now you can tell Microsoft to go forth and multiply: App back from the dead

Microsoft Equation Editor was sentenced to death on January 9, 2018 at the age of 17, when a software update from Redmond removed five files necessary for the application to function. Only a few months ago, the Windows giant thought its Equation Editor could be saved: its software engineers, lacking access to the ancient app's …

  1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

    People who keep old cars and bikes going

    Has anyone ever been prosecuted for making pattern spares for vehicles out of production?

    It strikes me that keeping abandonware going should be legal provided its status is made clear.

  2. Graybyrd
    Windows

    Re: People who keep old cars and bikes going

    Has anyone ever been prosecuted for making pattern spares for vehicles out of production?

    Here in the US, prosecution would most likely result from failure to obtain the obscure but required federal and state agency permits, and for neglecting to submit an EIS* performed by an accredited firm. For software patches, the EIS may not be required.

    Abandonware: logical follow-on to Caveat Emptor. "Oh, you thought we'd support that forever? And no, we won't release the code. We own it (lost it, sold it, destroyed it, misfiled it somewhere...)

    *Environmental Impact Statement: months to perform @ multi-K $

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: People who keep old cars and bikes going

    "Has anyone ever been prosecuted for making pattern spares for vehicles out of production?"

    Not really a good analogy. This is more like making a tool that enables you to modify a vehicle to fix an inherent fault. Which is unlikely to be illegal. Pattern parts would depend if they were still under copyright and / or patents.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: People who keep old cars and bikes going

    Microsoft have NOT removed equation editor. All they have removed is the ability to edit equations originally built in the 3.0 version of the product (so from Office 2003 and older). Rather a large difference.

    Apparently the author of the article hasn't actually read the Microsoft page he links to:

    "You can insert and edit new equations using the editor built into Office version 2007 or later. For more information about inserting and editing equations, see Write, insert, or change an equation. However, you will not be able to edit existing equations that were inserted using Equation Editor 3.0 in that manner."

  5. PhilBuk

    Re: People who keep old cars and bikes going

    The current equation editor will not edit equations created in Equation Editor 3. It is also not as capable as 3.0. Many teachers and academics have now lost the ability to edit their own equations in their documents and presentations. Fortunately, I still have an XP machine with Word 2003 and the editor intact - sometimes there are benefits to not getting updates.

    See here for some of the problems:

    https://word.uservoice.com/forums/304942-word-for-mac/suggestions/10316460-microsoft-office-2016-does-not-support-equation-ed

    Phil.

  6. jake Silver badge

    Re: People who keep old cars and bikes going

    When asked, I make a few repops for various makes & models ranging from chainsaws & 2-wheel tractors, to cars, trucks & airplanes. Including badges & logos, along with drive-train and suspension parts and the like. The restoration crowd pays nicely for quality parts. Nobody's bitched about it. Yet.

  7. david 12 Bronze badge

    Re: People who keep old cars and bikes going

    >Has anyone ever been prosecuted for making pattern spares<

    Not in the USA, since the /reason/ it is legal in the USA is /specifically/ because of the strength of the after-market automotive spares industry.

    Other countries (Aus, Malaysia), not so legal. It would depend on if the company (say "microsoft") was trying to protect the market share of a more recent product ("ms office 2016")

  8. david 12 Bronze badge

    Re: People who keep old cars and bikes going

    >Microsoft have NOT removed equation editor<

    Microsoft HAVE removed Equation Editor. They have not removed the ability to edit equations (except equations created using Equation Editor), because Office now has the ability to edit equations natively.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: People who keep old cars and bikes going

    "Microsoft HAVE removed Equation Editor"

    I just checked. The updates just disable the ability to edit very old versions. You can still create / edit new equations.

    "because Office now has the ability to edit editions natively"

    So it still has an equation editor built in. Which the article didn't in anyway make clear.

  10. find users who cut cat tail

    Re: People who keep old cars and bikes going

    > Many teachers and academics have now lost the ability to edit their own equations in their documents and presentations.

    Serves them right for not using TeX.

  11. david 12 Bronze badge

    Re: People who keep old cars and bikes going

    It still has an equation editor built in. The only thing they have removed is Equation Editor.

    Office still includes Word and Excel. It no longer includes Binder, Microsoft Mail, or Equation Editor.

    If MS removed Excel from Office, you would still be able to make spreadsheets using Word tables and VBA. Would it work exactly the same? No, removing Excel would be much worse than removing Equation Editor.

  12. Roland6 Silver badge

    > its software engineers, lacking access to the ancient app's source code

    Suspect given the issues around backtracking on Win8 and TIFKAM, suspect much code was deliberately deleted around this time in a fit of corporate "burn your bridges behind you" madness.

  13. phuzz Silver badge
    Gimp

    Microsoft licensed the equation editor from another company (Wiris), so it's more likely to be a licensing issue.

  14. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    Another piece of abandonware.

    Yeah.

  15. Paul Crawford Silver badge

    Re: Another piece of abandonware.

    An example of how users get screwed by MS again. One BIG reason for sticking to a product is the ability to keep updating or re-using existing work, and for the science lot MS has just thrown that away.

    Yes, WORD has its own equation editor function now but it is a bit crap compared to the one just dropped and those with many existing documents and papers are now looking at having to re-enter it with all of the typos / bugginess that brings.

    WTF were they thinking? Can't they have a format converter that actually works if they are going to do this?

  16. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
    FAIL

    Re: Another piece of abandonware.

    Another example of something unique, and quite handy, that people actually use, being purchased and then screwed up by Microsoft.

    My wife is a retired Math teacher. Equation editors are quite hard to find (good ones, at least), and she liked this one. Without going to LATEX, this is probably the only one worth using, as her school is a Microsoft shop.

    (WORD has its own equation editor, which is *different * from this one? The mind boggles)

    // near contest between the WTF? and FAIL icons

  17. Robert Forsyth

    LibreOffice Writer or Math

    Or Google Docs...

  18. Mage Silver badge

    Re: LibreOffice Writer or Math

    But absolutely not privacy free, Cloudy slow Google Docs.

  19. BobChip
    Happy

    Re: LibreOffice Writer or Math

    The Libre Office Math utility works fine for me, and I don't have any problem reworking or modifying old documents, including some stuff done on MS Office, long before I switched to Libre Office.

  20. Muscleguy Silver badge

    Re: LibreOffice Writer or Math

    And might go offline for a time due to cloudy issues or connection problems. Also Google reserves the right to 'read' all documents created on their cloud.

    If I was in business I would not put any business sensitive data into a Google Doc. If Google can read them then industrial spies can too. If you think the likes of NK, Iran, Russia, China etc are not sniffing those in search of industrial/tech secrets you are naive.

  21. werdsmith Silver badge

    Re: LibreOffice Writer or Math

    Google docs can be held and edited offline, so no worries about short outages.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Microsoft bit by proprietary software? haw haw

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Microsoft bit by proprietary software? haw haw"

    I assume you mean bitten.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You missed the pun.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "You missed the pun."

    I think it was just ignorance / poor education along the lines of someone using broke as an adjective when they mean broken. In the three English dictionaries I have to hand - Oxford, Longman, and Collins - the conjugation of bite is bite-bit-bitten. That is, bit is only used for past tense, and not as past participle. And it sounds awful.

  26. ArrZarr Silver badge
    Coat

    Way to take a byte out of him.

  27. James Loughner
    Mushroom

    Lose the reat

    Now if the would only lose the rest of Windows

  28. Mage Silver badge

    Baffled

    a) How can they be so stupid as to lose source?

    b) Only seems to affect older versions?

    c) MS word gone downhill since 2003 (so has Windows). Excel and Word used to be best and most widely used windows. From 1st versions it was very good.

    e) LibreOffice opens, edits and saves both old and new Office docs and has an equation editor. Works on more platforms and much cheaper.

    The story and analogies are a little confusing.

    ALSO, I don't open Office documents from untrusted sources. Stopped using MS Office in early 2016 and stopped using Windows (except for some games) since Dec 2016. I have two newish machines (desktop & 10" Linx tablet/netbook) with win10, just to boot and laugh at the update cycle. Idiotic GUI and update system even compared to win 7 with Aero off, though even win7 is too flat. I have Win7 ultimate on a Compaq and it's sad compared to a properly installed XP ... or Linux Mint with Mate desktop, that has REAL themes. MS idea of a theme seems to be a couple of desktop colours and a different desktop slide show!

    Really MS have lost the plot, but I was confused by the article too.

  29. JLV Silver badge
    Trollface

    >lacking access to the ancient app's source code

    <snigger>

    Open Source fans usually rattle off a long litany of reasons why having access to the source code is desirable.

    The vendor losing said source code is not usually one of them.

    Well done, MS. Maybe it was Visual SourceSafe wot did it?

    </snigger>

  30. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

    Re: >lacking access to the ancient app's source code

    Given that Equation Editor was a 3rd party tool, sublicensed by Microsoft, I suspect they never had a copy of to the source files in the first place. Assuming they had access to source code in the first place, it is not the same as having a copy of it which you can keep "just in case the original author loses it".

  31. jake Silver badge

    I hadn't noticed.

    I've been using LaTeX for about three decades now ... sometimes with a little help from LyX for about the last half of that.

  32. Mark 65 Silver badge

    Re: I hadn't noticed.

    That statement sounds like the confessions of a sexual deviant.

  33. jake Silver badge

    Re: I hadn't noticed.

    Deviant? Depends on what you define as "normal", I guess. As long as it's mutually consensual and doesn't frighten the animals & children, who am I to judge?

  34. My Alter Ego
    Trollface

    Re: I hadn't noticed.

    Most people would get in trouble for using latex in an office environment!

  35. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

    Re: I hadn't noticed.

    "Most people would get in trouble for using latex in an office environment!"

    IIRC it's used for removing soft pencil marks when working on drawings. Also, for old fashioned gum (not as strong as that PVA based stuff but easier to remove and cleaner).

  36. jake Silver badge

    Re: I hadn't noticed.

    I've used latex in offices on 6 continents and nobody's ever even commented. I must be doing it wrong.

  37. John Savard Silver badge

    A Possible Excuse

    Since it was derived from software by the firm Data Sciences, it could be that Microsoft wasn't legally entitled to retain a copy of the source code. That would be an understandable explanation; just losing it would be incomprehensible for such a large corporation.

  38. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

    Re: A Possible Excuse

    ...Microsoft wasn't legally entitled to retain a copy of the source code.

    Thats why grown-up companies write source code escrow into these kinds of contracts.

  39. JLV Silver badge

    Re: A Possible Excuse

    Good point from both of you. But, whatever the reason for that lack of access to the source code, this has worrying implications for users:

    - MS doesn't have the code, so what you did with the app may not always be accessible, as almost happened here.

    - lacking source code may (or may not, depending on how good we are scanning binaries) have implications on the discovery of vulnerabilities. And Office is well known as a vector of malware.

    - at best, you can assume "feature freeze" on this functionality.

    - one would assume, but wrongly so apparently, that whatever proprietary, closed-source, code MS is selling you, they themselves at least have the source.

    BTW, it's not Data Science, it's Design Science. see https://superuser.com/questions/198358/differences-between-mathtype-and-equation-editor-format-in-microsoft-word

    A source code escrow mostly is written to cover the case where the party owning the original code goes out of business. If they are not, the escrow would not necessarily trigger. Design Science is still running.

    MS has, in a past life at least, though others may argue that it still happens, shafted partners. For that reason, there are large disincentives to giving MS source code access. And, in that context, the fact that Word now packs its own little editor would hardly be reassuring to the code's originator.

    So, basically, while I am willing to live with "binary blobs" as an end user, I am less than thrilled that a vendor of MS's stature would pass on code that they themselves don't have good visibility on. It's not the end of the world, but this little mess is a direct, practical and not just ideological, argument in favor of Open Source.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wake me up

    when they bring back NT Tape Backup for Windows 7.

  41. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Re: Wake me up

    If they can find a way to have the ntbackup frontend on the new windows server backup thingy, then it'll be a sure winner.

    Setting it up (windows server backup) takes a tad longer than setting up a backup job in ntbackup. And you don't have a drill-down approach if you just want to restore one file. (unless I'm mistaken).

    But for now I am forced to use WSB to back up VM's and data, as ntbackup just can't do that.

  42. cyberdemon

    Kill it

    I don't like the idea that there's a 17 year old binary within Word that even MS don't have the source code to.

    It's time they replaced it with a proper LaTeX editor anyway!

  43. JimmyPage Silver badge
    Facepalm

    "Lost source"

    Didn't they use sourcesafe ?

    Anyway, I will bet that the source isn't "lost". It's all there. In fact, probably a bit too much.

    The real problem is they have no idea what combination of patches and modules actually compiles to the binaries they've been shipping. So they can't "tweak" the program without a thorough testing cycle of the base source beforehand.

  44. TrumpSlurp the Troll Silver badge
    Trollface

    Downvoters out in force today, I see.

    The voice of reason being drowned out again.

    The software precisely described as Equation Editor 3.0 has been removed.

    No it hasn't, there is something with a vaguely similar name doing a vaguely similar job but not as well (and as far as I can tell based on completely different code). So EE3.0 hasn't been removed at all!

    This does have advantages as an argument, of course. M$ could remove Microsoft Office, then claim they haven't because there is still an Office suite (LibreOffice) with a vaguely similar name doing a vaguely similar job and based on completely different code.

    Oh, and I think that M$ are one of the very few software suppliers which really try to maintain backwards compatability with earlier versions even though this helps people run old software for a decade or more without any further payment.

    Damn, I think I just ended up taking Microsoft’s side on this one. Apart from them being dumb enough to lose the old source code. There must be a developer out there somewhere with a copy on a floppy.

    Anyway, you can buy the paid version from a 3rd party. Hmmm.......conspiracy antennae just twitched a bit.

    So let the upvotes commence. Go on, you know you want to!

  45. EastFinchleyite

    Excuses Excuses

    If ACROS Security could do the job without access to "lost" source code, why couldn't Microsoft?

    I doubt that Microsoft lacks the expertise; it is probably just that they couldn't be bothered.

  46. Test Man

    Re: Excuses Excuses

    Read the article - it specifically states early on Microsoft essentially "couldn't be bothered" even though they have the capability to patch it (and actually did it a few months prior).

  47. Jeffrey Nonken Silver badge

    Airplane engine... In flight... With a spanner. Yeah, no, I don't think so.

    I once discovered a bug in Logitech's serial mouse driver (DOS) that forgot to account for a separate mode bit when checking the display setting. I found where it made the comparison. Then I found an inefficient bit of code nearby, tightened it up, which made a hole big enough to add my patch and a jump around it. All in machine language, not a source line in sight.

    Then I sent the patch and an explanation to Logitech. They didn't respond, but the next release of the driver was fixed.

    The point being that any reasonably competent machine language programmer can do this stuff. It only LOOKS like doing brain surgery on yourself if you only ever work in high level languages.

  48. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

    "The point being that any reasonably competent machine language programmer can do this stuff."

    Yes indeed.

    At one company I worked for we had some embedded code that was taking a little too long to run. We had the source, great, but not the VAX software to compile it on (£75000 IIRC). Fortunately we had the compiler output and and assembler. Each subroutine looked something like this:

    mov R3, R9

    mov R4, R10

    .....lot of code not using R3, R4, R9 or R10 at all

    mov R10,R4

    mov R9, R3

    return (not using R3 or R4)

    We guessed the compiler had been ported from one cpu architecture to another and this minor redundancy had not been noticed. But it hardly mattered.

    Write a macro to remove all that redundant code and suddenly everything ran a lot faster.

  49. cambsukguy

    Been there, done that

    We had a device where there was 16K of ROM code space and the Keil 8051 C code compiled to about 400 bytes too much.

    What shall we remove?

    I compiled the code to intermediate assembler and started looking. I found several issues of wasted space such as a move from one register to another immediately followed by the same instruction. The odd padding NOP that wasn't needed. There were JMP to RETs that could have been just a RET and so on.

    I ended up writing a parser, in C of course, with about 10 passes of the assembler, doing one compression at a time, nothing fancy. Obviously, there had to be computations changed for anything after a JMP/RET replacement until said RET was reached etc. ISTR having to keep a table for each module for fixups at the end, labels I am sure.

    We saved enough code to have a couple of hundred bytes spare for actual bugs found during testing, although that code was never replaced, the first and only version lasted for the life of the product - which wasn't that long really,

    Anyone that bought the Philips Pager that Alan Shearer advertised all that time ago will have used that code.

  50. Schultz Silver badge
    Go

    How to patch MS Office equation editor

    I am one of those guys exasperated by the thought of retyping hundreds of equations for the next lecture. So I patched the EE based on the 0patch guide and I'll post my comments on the process here.

    It took me some minutes to find the required EQNEDT32.EXE version 2017.8.14.0 on one of my computers. Desperate users can also find the files online. The rest of the patching process was painless.

    It may be possible to substitute EE patching with installation of the freeware MathType -- something not mentioned in the ElReg article. A comment on the 0patch blog states: "... we recommend Equation Editor users download and install the MathType 30-day trial. After the trial period, it becomes MathType Lite, which is free forever, has essentially the same features as Equation Editor, and will receive the same security updates as a MathType registered version." I didn't try it, but maybe someone else could comment on the functionality of MathType lite.

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