WordPress & Academia: How To Display Math Formulas, Music Notation And Other Quirky Content Types

WordPress & Academia: How To Display Math Formulas, Music Notation And Other Quirky Content Types

It’s no secret that WordPress is used in academia by students and professors alike. One of the biggest examples of this is Edublogs, which offers a free WordPress-powered blog to every student or educator that signs up. Aside from this, you will be hard pressed to not find WordPress installed on almost every university website out there. It’s pretty clear that WordPress has got a big market share when it comes to the education niche.

However, by default, a WordPress installation does not have the necessary plugins to display complex math formulas, musical notation, footnotes, or the ability to show PDF, Doc, Excel and other types of documents directly on-page.

We decided to redress this oversight by compiling a list of the best plugins that can add this type of functionality to your site.


Every student or professor who is involved in the fields of mathematics, physics, computer science, statistics, economics, and political science has had to write down a formula for the WWW at some point in his life. The standard for doing this is the LaTeX markup language and there are many applications out there to generate beautiful looking formulas for “offline” use. But what about WordPress?

Jetpack with the Beautiful Math add-on


You probably already know about Jetpack as it’s one of the most popular plugins for WordPress. But did you know that it also has an extension that makes typing in complex math formulas a breeze? All you have to do is activate the Beautiful Math add-on and you can type your math formulas in standard LaTeX notation.

The images for this plugin are generated and stored on WordPress servers so this removes any overhead on your own server’s resources.

WP QuickLaTeX


If you want an even greater degree of flexibility over how your LaTeX formulas are displayed plus a ton of other helpful features, WP QuickLaTeX is the plugin to do it. You also don’t have to install Jetpack to get it. This plugin also supports rendering the formulas as SVG images, which means that you get beautiful scalable formulas without having to worry about the browser zoom resolution.


Music is another field that requires custom software to display the notation system. Here’s the best plugins we found for this:

ABC Notation


Very light and nifty plugin for displaying music notation in your blog posts. It uses the abcjs library for its functionality.

Using it is as simple as including the appropriate shortcode tags and then typing the names of the notes. Pretty cool, right?

Sheet Music Library


This plugin adds a custom post type that allows you to “upload, organize, and share sheet music in a native-feeling interface”. You can upload PDFs of sheet music and this plugin will automatically create a preview. A demo of the plugin in action can be seen here. If you’re trying to create and manage any kind of sheet music library online, this is what you need.

Guitar Chords and Tabs


Another cool plugin that you can use to display good-looking guitar tabs on your site.

Keymaster Chord Notation (PAID)


Although this is a paid plugin ($16), we included it because it’s useful for displaying chords along with lyrics. Use this on a lyrics-type site to wow your users.

Documents (PDF, Word, Excel and others)

Academics deal with a ton of PDFs and other document-type files. The lazy solution is to just include a link to the file and have the visitor download it. But what if you could embed the document into your post?

Embed Any Document


Just like the name says, this plugin allows you to embed almost every kind of document right into your posts. It’s able to do so because it uses either Google Docs Viewer or Microsoft Office Online for displaying them. This means that there is no overhead on your part so no need for your server to convert anything to images. Just plug and play.

PDF.js Viewer Shortcode


If all you want to do is display PDFs on your site, this lightweight plugin should do the trick. It uses Mozilla’s PDF.js library to parse and display PDFs using HTML5 only, which means that text should be searchable (bonus cookie for SEO).

Footnotes, citations and bibliographies

Of course no scientific article would “look” complete without these crucial elements. Here are the best plugins we found to add this missing functionality in WordPress.



A very easy to use plugin for generating a footnote index for your articles. Not much to say here except that it does what it says.



If you want a more advanced solution to create citations and bibliographies, this plugin will automatically finds the resources you quote in databases like CrossRef, DataCite, arXiv, PubMed and arbitrary URLs. If you quote scientific papers regularly, we recommend this plugin.


As you can see, WordPress is infinitely versatile. All you have to do is find the right plugin and activate it. Now you’ve got no excuse not to publish your graduate thesis directly on your blog 🙂

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