Shortcut: see the community wiki answer below.

Original question

I need both a reference and examples relevant to crypto for the TeX dialect we can use on crypto.stackexchange.com. I know there is tex.stackexchange.com but they do not even have the TeX extension enabled in their own site, nor have a tag for TeX-as-in-stackexchange, and I do not want to ask dumb questions.

Beside trial-and-error, plus reverse-engineering of other posts using "Show Math As TeX Commands", my lifebuoy is this TeX reference card (which is only very often online). But none of this tells me:

  • how to make $SHA-1(m)$ good-looking;
  • an easy reminder that integers are $\mathbb N$;
  • if the product of integers a and b should be $a \cdot b$ or something else (somewhat I dislike $ab$).

Meta is not appropriate, since TeX is not enabled, as apparent above.

Update: Paŭlo Ebermann linked to that sandbox with relevant examples. That links to mathurl which seems a nice sandbox with a few reminders, but lacks elaborate canned examples; at least now I can write $\mathtt{SHA­1}(m)$, but still that pesky - resist. Also, an issue is that entering foo in mathurl shows what $$foo$$ gives on crypto.stackexchange.com, not what $foo$ gives.

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    $\begingroup$ It looks like it is enabled on Math Stack Exchange meta, and they have a sandbox question there. If wanted, I could ask if we can enable this on crypto meta, too, for crypto-specific stuff. $\endgroup$ – Paŭlo Ebermann May 26 '12 at 10:50
  • $\begingroup$ The most complete MathJax Guide is on QuantumComputing.SE - In addition to the numerous examples offered at the bottom of the answer are a few excellent offsite links. $\endgroup$ – Rob Mar 14 at 2:49

MathJax is used to format mathematical expressions and symbols on cryptography site. You can use expressions within single dollar signs for inline math: $0101_2$ which gives and $0101_2$. Use double dollar signs for a centered block instead: $$\mathtt{CAFE}_{16}$$ gives


In the remainder of the text the dollar signs are not included to allow easy copying.

Braces / curly brackets {} are used to group expressions / symbols together within $\TeX$. You need to use the backslash \ escape character to use one within an expression: \{\} gives you $\{\}$. Parentheses () and (square) brackets can be used as-is, for instance in a range $[0, 10)$ is just [0, 10).

The double backslash: \\ can be used to include a line break into a longer expression that is between double dollar signs.

The following sections will show common contents of math blocks. There are however other ways of finding out how to use $\TeX$:


We generally use $K$ for secret keys, $P$ for public keys and $S$ for private keys (private keys are also kept secret, but they are not shared).

The letter $N$ is generally used for the modulus while $n$ is used for the block size. $k$ is the key size.

Greek symbols are referenced by name, prefixed with a slash, for instance \alpha for $\alpha$ or \pi for $\phi$. Start with a capital to have the larger variant if available: \Phi for $\Phi$.

Multi-letter identifiers are written with \mathit; otherwise the letters are spaced as if for multiplication. Compare:

  • E_k(message) $E_k(message)$
  • E_k(\mathit{message}) $E_k(\mathit{message})$

Identifiers in roman face are written with \mathrm. For example: k_{\mathrm{auth}}, k_{\mathrm{enc}} gives $k_{\mathrm{auth}}, k_{\mathrm{enc}}$.

Undefined functions

Most cryptographic functions are undefined in the $\TeX$ packages; it is however important to make sure they are not confused with identifiers.

Use \operatorname for well-known named functions like SHA-256, which should be set in roman face: \operatorname{SHA-256}(x) gives $\operatorname{SHA-256}(x)$, \operatorname{GF}(2^{128}) gives $\operatorname{GF}(2^{128})$. This ensures the spacing is correct for a named function with or without parentheses: $\operatorname{Log}(x)$, $\operatorname{Log} x$; compare $\text{Log} x$ using \text. If you use a well-known named function Foo many times, you can define \Foo with DeclareMathOperator{\Foo}{Foo}.

Big-O notation is alternatively written in italic, roman, or calligraphic face, according to the author's taste, or lack thereof: O(n) gives $O(n)$, \operatorname O(n) gives the unnecessarily uptight $\operatorname O(n)$, \mathcal O(n) gives the floofy fancy $\mathcal O(n)$. The related notation $\tilde O(f(n))$ means $O(f(n) \log^k n)$ for some $k$.

For a function definition like $F\colon \Bbb R \to \Bbb Z_n, \quad x \mapsto {\lfloor x\rfloor}^2\bmod n$
one can use F\colon \Bbb R \to \Bbb Z_n, \quad x \mapsto {\lfloor x\rfloor}^2\bmod n.

Predefined functions

There are some predefined functions that are useful for cryptography.

  • \Pr(X) for probability of X happening $\Pr(X)$
  • \log_2(x) gives you logarithm base two: $\log_2(x)$
  • others are \gcd, \exp, \ln and so on; for those missing (no \lcm), see above.

Sub- and superscript

  • just A gives you $A$
  • P_A gives you $P_A$
  • P^2 gives you $P^2$
  • combined: P_A^2 gives $P_A^2$ while {P_A}^2 gives ${P_A}^2$ and P_{A^2} gives $P_{A^2}$
  • P' gives you $P'$, and P_A'' gives you $P_A''$
  • P', \tilde P, \hat P can be used for variations on a variable: $P'$, $\tilde P$, $\hat P$
  • \widetilde{P + Q}, \widehat{P + Q} for tildes and hats on entire expressions: $\widetilde{P + Q}$, $\widehat{P + Q}$
  • \overline{S \cup T} for complements or conjugates: $\overline{S \cup T}$, $\overline{z + w}$


Bit operations can be shown like this:

  • bitwise XOR: x \oplus y gives you $x \oplus y$
  • bitwise AND: x \wedge y gives you $x \wedge y$
    alternatively, x \mathbin\& y gives you $x \mathbin\& y$ (note the backslash escape)
  • bitwise OR: x \vee y gives $x \vee y$
    alternatively, x \mathbin| y gives you $x \mathbin| y$
  • negation: \neg x gives you $\neg x$
  • left shift: use x \ll n for $x \ll n$
  • right shift: use x \gg n for $x \gg n$
  • left rotate: use x \lll n for $x \lll n$
  • right rotate: use x \ggg n for $x \ggg n$

Simple math

  • addition: x + y gives you $x + y$
  • subtraction: x - y gives you $x - y$
  • multiplication: x \cdot y gives you $x \cdot y$
  • division: x / y gives you $x / y$
  • divisibility: x \mid y gives you $x \mid y$, x \nmid y gives you $x \nmid y$
  • modulo:
    • the binary operator on two integer operands:
      • x \bmod n gives you $x \bmod n$
    • the relation that two integers are congruent modulo a third:
      • x \equiv y \pmod n gives you $x \equiv y \pmod n$
      • x \equiv y \mod n gives you $x \equiv y \mod n$
  • power: x ^ y gives you $x ^ y$
  • square root: \sqrt{x} gives you $\sqrt{x}$
  • $n^{\mathit{th}}$ root: \sqrt[n]{x} gives you $\sqrt[n]{x}$

For an equation holding modulo $n$, use x \equiv y \pmod n for $x \equiv y \pmod n$.

You may also want to use division with a divider line using \frac, for instance c \cdot \frac {x + y} z: $$c \cdot \frac {x + y} z$$

Floor and ceiling: \lfloor x \rceil gives $\lfloor x \rceil$. These can be expanded: \bigg\lceil \frac{x}{y} \bigg\rfloor gives $$\bigg\lceil \frac{x}{y} \bigg\rfloor,$$ and the sizing is automatic with \left\lfloor f(x)^d \right\rceil gives $\left\lfloor f(x)^d \right\rceil$.

To multiply vectors or sets it may be wise to chose A \times B over the \cdot notation giving you $A \times B$.


  • x = y is equality $x = y$
  • x \approx y is approximately equal $x \approx y$
  • x \neq y is non-equality $x \neq y$
  • x < y is less-than $x < y$ (no need to escape or use &lt; within dollar signs)
  • x \le y is less-than-or-equal $x \le y$
  • x \ge y is greater-than-or-equal $x \ge y$
  • x \equiv y is equivalence $x \equiv y$
  • X \implies Y is used to show implication: $X \implies Y$ , sometimes X \to Y for $X \to Y$ is used instead
  • X \iff Y is used to show equivalence: $X \iff Y$

It is possible to prefix anything with \not to negate the next symbol, e.g. \not\le is $\not\le$

Sets, groups

  • \{ 0, 1 \} gives the two-elements set $\{ 0, 1 \}$
  • \emptyset gives the empty set $\emptyset$
  • A \cup B and A \cap B give $A \cup B$ (union) and $A \cap B$ (intersection)
  • a \in A gives $a \in A$, while b \not\in A gives $b \not\in A$
  • A \subset B or A \subseteq B give $A \subset B$ or $A \subseteq B$
  • Standard sets, usually written in blackboard bold with \mathbb or \Bbb:
    • $\Bbb N$ \Bbb N is some set of natural numbers with ambiguity over whether zero is included or not, so avoid this notation
    • $\Bbb N^0, \Bbb N_0$ \Bbb N^0, \Bbb N_0 is the set of natural numbers starting at zero
    • $\Bbb N^1, \Bbb N_1, \Bbb N^+$ \Bbb N^1, \Bbb N_1, \Bbb N^+ is the set of natural numbers starting at one
    • $\Bbb Z$ \Bbb Z is the ring of integers (from German Zahl)
    • $\Bbb Z^-, \Bbb Z^+, \Bbb Z \setminus \{0\}$ \Bbb Z^-, \Bbb Z^+, \Bbb Z \setminus \{0\} are the sets of negative, positive, and nonzero integers
    • $\Bbb Q$ Bbb Q is the field of rational numbers; similarly, $\Bbb Q^-, \Bbb Q^+, \Bbb Q \setminus \{0\}$ \Bbb Q^-, \Bbb Q^+, \Bbb Q \setminus \{0\} for negative, positive, and nonzero
    • $\Bbb R$ \Bbb R is the field of real numbers; similarly, $\Bbb R^-, \Bbb R^+, \Bbb R \setminus \{0\}$ \Bbb R^-, \Bbb R^+, \Bbb R \setminus \{0\} for negative, positive, and nonzero
    • $\Bbb C$ \Bbb C is the field of complex numbers
    • the ring of integers modplo $p$ is alternately written $\Bbb Z/p\Bbb Z$\Bbb Z/p\Bbb z or $\Bbb Z_p$ \Bbb Z_p, but beware $\Bbb Z_p$ also means the $p$-adic integers
    • the multiplicative group of integers modulo $n$ is alternately written $(\Bbb Z/n\Bbb Z)^\times$(\Bbb Z/n\Bbb Z)^\times, $(\Bbb Z/n\Bbb Z)^*$ (\Bbb Z/n\Bbb Z)^*, $\Bbb Z_n^*$ (\Bbb Z/n\Bbb Z)^*, etc.
    • $\operatorname{GF}(p^n), \Bbb F_{p^n}$ \operatorname{GF}(p^n), \Bbb F_{p^n} is the finite field of characteristic $p$ with $p^n$ elements


  • M \mathbin \| N is concatenation of strings: $M\mathbin\|N$
  • To indicate failure the \bot (bottom) sign is often used: $\bot$
  • x_1, x_2, \ldots or x_1 + x_2 + \cdots gives you something that hasn't been finished: $x_1, x_2, \ldots$ or $x_1 + x_2 + \cdots$
  • \square is used for Q.E.D. $\square$

Displayed formulas

If $y^2 \equiv x^3 + 486662 x^2 + x \pmod{2^{255} - 19}$ is too unwieldy inline, use $$y^2 \equiv x^3 + 486662 x^2 + x \pmod{2^{255} - 19}$$ to set it in a display: $$y^2 \equiv x^3 + 486662 x^2 + x \pmod{2^{255} - 19}.$$ (Punctuation at the end goes before the closing $$ so it stays in the display.)

Use \begin{align} ... \end{align} for multiple equations aligned at relations marked with &, separated by \\. Write comments with \text.

  \Pr[E] &= \Pr[E \mid A] \Pr[A] \\
         &\quad + \Pr[E \mid B] \Pr[B] \\
         &\quad + \Pr[E \mid C] \Pr[C], \\
  1 &= \Pr[A] + \Pr[B] + \Pr[C]. &&\text{($A$, $B$, and $C$ are exhaustive)}

\begin{align} \Pr[E] &= \Pr[E \mid A] \Pr[A] \\ &\quad + \Pr[E \mid B] \Pr[B] \\ &\quad + \Pr[E \mid C] \Pr[C], \\ 1 &= \Pr[A] + \Pr[B] + \Pr[C]. &&\text{($A$, $B$, and $C$ are exhaustive)} \end{align}

Use \begin{gather} ... \end{gather} for multiple equations centered:

  M :\quad y^2 = x^3 + 486662 x^2 + x, \\
  E\colon -x^2 + y^2 = 1 - \frac{121665}{121666} x^2 y^2.

\begin{gather} M\colon y^2 = x^3 + 486662 x^2 + x, \\ E\colon -x^2 + y^2 = 1 - \frac{121665}{121666} x^2 y^2. \end{gather}

Use \begin{multline} ... \end{multline} for a multi-line equation:

  \frac{U^{-\xi} - 1}{\xi}
  = \frac{1}{\xi} (e^{-\xi \log U} - 1)
  = \frac{1}{\xi} \biggl(-\xi \log U + \frac{\xi^2 \log^2 U}{2!} \\
      - \frac{\xi^3 \log^3 U}{3!}
      + \frac{\xi^4 \log^4 U}{4!}
      - \cdots\biggr)

\begin{multline} \frac{U^{-\xi} - 1}{\xi} = \frac{1}{\xi} (e^{-\xi \log U} - 1) = \frac{1}{\xi} \biggl(-\xi \log U + \frac{\xi^2 \log^2 U}{2!} \\ - \frac{\xi^3 \log^3 U}{3!} + \frac{\xi^4 \log^4 U}{4!} - \cdots\biggr) \end{multline}

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    $\begingroup$ OK for a Keep It Simple and Short policy, I tried to apply that in my latest edit. This comment is enough to state that $x=y\bmod n$ implies $0\le x<n$ (because \bmodis the remainder operator), when $x\equiv y\pmod n$ leaves $x$ unbounded (because the pair \equiv \pmod indicates equivalence modulo); and to note the ambiguity on that point of $x=y\pmod n$ and $x\equiv y\mod n$ and $x=y\mod n$, which thus should be avoided at least when the difference matters. $\endgroup$ – fgrieu Jul 13 '18 at 16:20
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Math.SE is often the starting point for discussions around MathJax within SE sites (and part of experiments such as beta releases). There's also math.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/5020/…. However, TeX.SE considers MathJax questions off topic. $\endgroup$ – Peter Krautzberger Nov 22 '18 at 17:54

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