Skip navigation

Use subscripts in text- rd, th, st

12976 Views 10 Replies Latest reply: Jan 13, 2013 7:57 AM by Tom Gewecke RSS
HenryS Level 2 Level 2 (295 points)
Currently Being Moderated
May 10, 2012 4:59 AM

What is the best way to use subscripts in documents or in text? Pages, and other apps in Lion or previous OS's do not have a convenient way to display 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th.... The keyboard substitution option in Preferences doesn't seem to work reliably in this regard either, as far as I've tried it. 


Using HTML (as in email modes) there is a way:

1st  2nd 3rd 4th



Mac Pro, Mac OS X (10.7.3), (1,1) 9GB RAM, 500GB+250GB HD int.
  • thomas_r. Level 7 Level 7 (26,920 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    May 10, 2012 5:46 AM (in response to HenryS)

    Those are actually superscripts, not subscripts.  (Subscripts are lower, like "O2".)


    Superscripts and subscripts can only be done in rich text of some kind, and how you do it can vary from app to app.  In some contexts, it will not be possible - for example, in a plain text e-mail message.


    In Apple's apps, you generally use Format -> Font -> Baseline -> Superscript/Subscript.  In TextEdit, this simply moves the baseline up or down, and you would then probably want to change the font size as well.  In Pages, there's a simple keystroke for each, and it is smart enough to adjust the font size for you.  (Note that the keystroke for superscript is command-control-+, but that actually means you have to push command-control-shift-= on a US English keyboard.)

  • Tom Gewecke Level 9 Level 9 (70,815 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    May 11, 2012 6:07 AM (in response to HenryS)

    One thing to remember about such subsititutions with Unicode superscripts is that they are not searchable, while superscripts created via baseline adjustments in an app like Pages are.

  • medeis Level 1 Level 1 (15 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    Jun 13, 2012 12:49 PM (in response to HenryS)

    You can add a style to your favorite styles, which are accessible in any app that uses Apple's rich text editor.

    1. Open an app that has the "Baseline" menu item (e.g. TextEdit).
    2. Format some text as superscript or subscript.
    3. Go to Format→Font→Styles... (or, if there's a style dropdown, such as in TextEdit, Styles→Other...). This opens the Styles sheet.
    4. Click "Add to Favorites". This opens a sheet with options for saving the style.
    5. Enter a name for the style. You'll likely want to leave "Include the font [...]" and "Include the ruler [...]" unchecked.
    6. Click "Add".

    Now, you can apply the superscript and subscript styles in other applications, including Mail, by using the "Styles..." menu item (in Mail, it's under Format→Style→Styles...). Only one style can be applied at a time.

  • VoilaMagic Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    Jan 8, 2013 8:59 AM (in response to HenryS)

    HenryS wrote:


    I got the character substitutions set up the way I like them. The only remaining problems are little character anomalies in certain fonts (Helvetica is shown) that show up funny with substitute characters. They seem better with baseline shifted. Also I found the substitute characters' shifted capitals look better than the lower case ones when displayed in several different fonts, No worries, I can live with that and take advantage of the substitutions.


    Here are some fonts I tried with the new mapping. These provide some illustration of my favorites. Below that is the mapping scheme I devised. You just type away in certain applications- TextEdit, Mail or any RTF word processor (guess). Full blown word processors will require their own font management techniques ā lā Pages.



    Helvetica Font  ½ ¾ … 1ˢ 2ᴺᴰ 3ᴿᴰ 4ᵀᴴ 5ᵀᴴ 6ᵀᴴ 7ᵀᴴ 8ᵀᴴ 9ᵀᴴ 10ᵀᴴ 100,000ᵀᴴ 

    Lucide Grande Font  ½ ¾ … 1ˢᵀ 2ᴺᴰ 3ᴿᴰ 4ᵀᴴ 5ᵀᴴ 6ᵀᴴ 7ᵀᴴ 8ᵀᴴ 9ᵀᴴ 10ᵀᴴ

    Myriad Web Pro Font  ½, ¾, … 1ˢᵀ, 2ᴺᴰ, 3ᴿᴰ, 4ᵀᴴ, 5ᵀᴴ, 6ᵀᴴ, 7ᵀᴴ, 8ᵀᴴ, 9ᵀᴴ, 10ᵀᴴ 

    Screen Shot 2012-05-10 at 14.37.31 .png

    This is brilliant and helped me tremendously. Thank you so much HenryS.

  • Tom Gewecke Level 9 Level 9 (70,815 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    Jan 8, 2013 10:32 AM (in response to VoilaMagic)

    Something to remember when using such unicode super/subscripts, in addition to the searchability issue mentioned earlier, is that iOS devices do not have the alphabetical superscript characters in any of their fonts, so they will show up as blank squares (unless you are using pdf or graphic format).

  • Tom Gewecke Level 9 Level 9 (70,815 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    Jan 13, 2013 7:57 AM (in response to HenryS)

    The normal way to do super/subcripts in text (as opposed to equations, where you should use a specialized equation editor), is to create them via the word processor formatting tools (not via Unicode characters).  Such formatting tools leave the underlying code unchanged, but display the characters as super/subscripts.  If your reader may not have the same word processor you are using, then you convert to PDF, where fonts are embedded.


    In theory Unicode super/subscripts are searchable, but it is so difficult to enter them in search box that it is not likely anyone would try.   It is possible that advanced search engines would find Unicode super/subscripts when you just enter the plain number from the keyboard, but you would have to test that on a case by case basis.


More Like This

  • Retrieving data ...

Bookmarked By (0)


  • This solved my question - 10 points
  • This helped me - 5 points
This site contains user submitted content, comments and opinions and is for informational purposes only. Apple disclaims any and all liability for the acts, omissions and conduct of any third parties in connection with or related to your use of the site. All postings and use of the content on this site are subject to the Apple Support Communities Terms of Use.