4 Ways To Type Fractions On a Mac

You can type fractions in text and word processing documents in a number of ways. The simplest is to use a slash character between numbers. This also works in cases where you want your Mac to perform calculations, like in Spotlight. But you can also format the fractions nicely using baseline shifts, special fraction characters, and the math equation editors in Pages and Word.
Video Transcript / Captions
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These are special characters that are part of like the universal character set that all computers have. So you can actually use the ¼ character, I can just click on that and this is a single character, and that should show up okay on just about any computer.

Now what if you want to use a fraction that's not one of those few that have special characters. Well, you have some options. The main option, and what most people use, is just use the slash key on your keyboard. So, for instance, if I wanted to type three sevenths I would just type 3 slash 7. This is so universally used that it's okay pretty much in any circumstance to use it. Maybe with the exception of the nicest typeset things like posters or something like that. But typically you can see this everywhere. You can see this in textbooks. You can see this in examples online and everything.

Now this is a very important method of doing it because it's a method that the computer understands when you're doing math calculations. So for instance I'll do Command Space to bring up Spotlight here. If I type 3/7 you can see it actually calculates the result. So in any math equation I want to definitely use this technique. So it's nice sometimes when the way that you put something to be in a nice word processing document and the way you type something into Spotlight or Calculator or some other type of app it's the same. The same characters that you type. So you can just use a slash for fractions.

Now you can make things look a little bit better. For instance I can select that first character there and I can go and change it to Baseline to make it superscript and then maybe make this second character here, the second number, the Baseline subscript. That creates a nicer looking fraction. As a matter of fact you even have the option to use a different slash. So you may have noticed when I do Control Command Space and search for fractions that there's another slash there. You can see that slash is a little bit more of a diagonal line than the other one. So you can use that.

There are other things that you could do. You can decide to shrink the size of these numbers a little bit. You can use the Baseline to, you know, raise and lower a little bit. Or even make the denominator default. There's lots of things that you can do. You can play around with it until you get something that looks like what you want to see. So you have that option as well.

In Pages you have another option because in Pages you can do mathematical formulas using Insert, Equation. Now you think you would be able to type something like 3/7 and get a nice looking fraction. But in fact you don't. You just get 3/7. It looks like maybe it doesn't do anything special with fractions. But there's a special function there. If you do a back slash, not a regular slash but a back slash, and Frac, that's a special function, then you do curly brackets and the first number, the numerator, and then curly brackets with the second number, the denominator, you get a nice fraction. You can put any number you want in there. So thirteen seventy sevenths, for instance. Or seven hundred and seventy sevenths. You just do Insert and then you get your fraction.

This is kind of like an little image here. So I can Copy that and I can say switch over to TextEdit here and Paste that in. It's going to want to make sure it's a format that can handle that. You can paste it into Mail. So you can do these cool fractions using the Insert, Equation function in Pages and then go ahead and Copy and Paste that elsewhere if you need it somewhere else.

Oh, and a couple quick notes here. If you're using Microsoft Word you can also do Insert, Equation but you don't have to do any special functions there. You can just actually type 3/7 and hit Return and it will convert it to a cool little fraction there. In addition, whether you're using TextEdit, Pages, Word, whatever, if you want to type the divide symbol, like you actually want to do an equation and show divide, just hold Option and then the regular slash and then you get the division symbol.

Comments: 6 Responses to “4 Ways To Type Fractions On a Mac”

    Richard Fuhr
    3 weeks ago

    For those who would like to create a document that has a lot of math symbols, there is also the venerable TeX system, which has a rich set of math typesetting features. It has a steep learning curve, but there are lots of books and examples available. There are also several freely available TeX typesetting programs available. Typically, the result of a TeX session is a PDF document.

    3 weeks ago

    Richard: That’s actually TeX (LaTex) I’m showing in Pages.

    Shirley A.
    3 weeks ago

    In Pages > Preferences > Auto-Correction you may select “Automatically format fractions”

    3 weeks ago

    Shirley: That setting will turn on/off the automatic change from fractions like 1/2 to the single character ½. So it is a shortcut to do that one method. But it won’t work for a fraction if there is no single-character equivalent, like 5/9 or 12/13.

    Barbara B.
    2 weeks ago

    I followed your direction concerning “4 Ways to Type Fractions on a Mac.” However, I never could get the size of any fraction to change as you demonstrated. I am using High Sierra.

    2 weeks ago

    Barbara: Which of my suggestions were you trying, exactly? Which app were you typing in? What didn’t work, exactly?

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