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Subscripts and Superscripts

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I'm trying to write simple chemical formulas that are just strings of letters and subscripted numbers. It's turning out to be very hard.

1) The simplest method would be to use the sub/super script option provided under Character / Positioning and Transform. But, the default settings are much too extreme (too low and too small). In various places, I've found hints that there is/was a way to adjust the default settings for this, but after an hour of searching, I've given up.

2) I've used custom character styles for this in the past, and that would suffice. But now, when I apply the subscripted style to end of a chemical formula like CClxH4-x I get a double subscripting of the 4-, which looks like spurious behavior by an "autocorrect" function. I've seen lots of help that says this can be turned off, but I have not been able to find that control in v2 of Designer or Publisher.



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4 hours ago, pgt said:

But now, when I apply the subscripted style to end of a chemical formula like CClxH4-x I get a double subscripting of the 4-, which looks like spurious behavior by an "autocorrect" function.

There is a setting in Publisher's preferences that might relate to that. Look at:

'Preferences > Auto-Correct > Superscript ordinals as they are typed'.

I'm not sure if this is the correct answer. Perhaps you can provide a sample Publisher file that we can look at.


Affinity Designer 1 & 2   |   Affinity Photo 1 & 2   |   Affinity Publisher 1 & 2
Affinity Designer 2 for iPad   |   Affinity Photo 2 for iPad   |   Affinity Publisher 2 for iPad

Windows 10 21H2 (19044.2251) 64-bit - Core i7 - 16GB - Intel HD Graphics 4600 & NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M
iPad pro 9.7" + Apple Pencil

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My issue #2 seems to be complicated by changes in Preferences by Affinity and Apple. First, note that in Ventura the main App menu now lists Settings not Preferences, but once you open the Window in Affinities App, it is still titled Preferences.

Next, the Preference settings offered differ between Publisher and Designer. AutoCorrect settings do appear as a Level 1 heading in Publisher (and turning off Autocorrect there does solve my problem with double subscripting in Publisher). BTW, note that search in Preferences is case sensitive: "AutoCorrect" works and "autocorrect" does not. Wouldn't have expected that...

But, in Designer, I still can find no place to control AutoCorrect settings. Hopefully, this is a bug somehow, since it clearly belong in both Apps. Curiously, in Designer v1 Preferences, I can't find AutoCorrect tools either/now, but it doesn't not seem to be doing the auto "scripting ordinals" thing, so I must have turned if off somehow, long ago.

Anyway, for now, all of this leaves me with a dilemma: clearly the diagrams I am doing belong in Designer not Publisher, and I still have no way (in Designer) to overcome the combination of issues in my original post. I suppose I could work on the figures in Publisher now, and switch back to using Designer when these issues get sorted out, but I'm afraid that will create different issues for me later.

P.S. I did try turning off AutoCorrect in Publisher (v2) and then switching to Designer (v2), hoping the preference setting would act globally somehow, but that didn't work either.

P.P.S. Nobody has addressed my original #1. Could there really be no way to control the severity of the built in sub and superscript mechanism?


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2 minutes ago, pgt said:

Could there really be no way to control the severity of the built in sub and superscript mechanism?

Different fonts may help. Some have actual glyphs for this use, others don't.

Mac Pro (Late 2013) Mac OS 12.7.1 
Affinity Designer 2.2.1 | Affinity Photo 2.2.1 | Affinity Publisher 2.2.1 | Beta versions as they appear.

I have never mastered color management, period, so I cannot help with that.

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57 minutes ago, pgt said:

P.P.S. Nobody has addressed my original #1. Could there really be no way to control the severity of the built in sub and superscript mechanism?

If you are looking an InDesign kind of document specific setting to define how superscripts, subscripts (and small caps) should be handled, I do not think that there is such feature in Affinity apps:


...so Affinity apps use the font specific settings. Modifying the font would allow you to change the behavior (use similar percentual values to define size and position of these attributes).

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Yes, Lacerto, maybe I'm remembering those Advanced Type setting in InDesign, from long ago. Having that control in Affinity now would have saved me a lot of time.

I did some more experimenting on my original issue #2 (Affinity's "AutoCorrect" apparently interfering with my custom character style). I still not quite sure what's going on with the (lack of) settings for this in Designer. But, now I see that the result is font dependent. The numerical subscripts in the first two examples below seemed "double subscripted" to me, apparently because those fonts are automatically using subscript glyphs? (Where do I turn that off?) The last two examples look right to me, maybe because those fonts don't have subscript glyphs?

So, maybe Old Bruce's reply was most helpful in the end. If I switch to a font without subscript glyphs, I should be able to get the subscript style to work consistently the way I want. (Hopefully, I can also make it a font that's common on the computers of all my students and postdocs, who will need to edit my drawings eventually).

Screenshot 2023-01-15 at 2.36.49 PM.png

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It seems that you have mixed OpenType glyph-based subscripts and old-style non-glyph-based (forced and font-specific) subscripts in your example, and that explains the fluctuation in sizes and positions.

a) This is pure old-style, using the font-specified setting (which InDesign lets adjust as per document using a Preference setting):


This means that standard glyphs that are wanted to be super or sub scripted are just made smaller and positioned so that this styling is universally available for any glyph within a font without needing to specify different font size or character shift [or needing a specific glyph like in method b] . This is basically the easiest method to apply subscript and superscript, but typographically often less satisfactory. EDIT: In lack of InDesign-kind of control, you can combine this with character-style based formatting like shown above by @anto to get better and more consistent formatting.

b) This is OpenType based and glyph-specific subscript (notice the enabled setting in the Typography section below), and you get it only if such styling is available in the font:


E.g., in Arial (at least the version I have installed), there is no subscript glyph for 2 or 4, but a bit surprisingly there is one for lower-case x. You basically should not use this method if you need to subscript or superscript characters for which there is no specific super or subscript glyph (and there seldom is for other than numbers and such characters as a and o etc.). You could of course use method a) for characters which do not exist as sub or superscript glyphs but this often produces uneven results.

c) Achieving subscripts by using vertical and horizontal scale (below 80%) combined with vertical shift (below -2pt), and creating a character style that applies these formatting exceptions:


The equivalent method would then also be used for superscripting. This method might be a good way to work around typographic issues and apply coherent styling, and it would also make it possible to have consistent font size throughout the text and automatically replace subscript and superscript attributes with a character style. This would be better than using different font sizes to format sub and superscripts as that would show as an inconsistent size usage when having all characters of a paragraph selected.  

EDIT: Note that effect of auto-correct feature as regards ordinals and superscripting would not typically affect typing of these kinds of expressions, as they would affect things like typing 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th etc. and letting the app to automatically use superscript styling (method a) for these parts. But the setting is language-cognitive so you might be accidentally getting e.g. e-characters superscripted when typing French text in combination of numbers, e.g. when typinig 2e, 3e, 4e, etc.

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