In mathematics, the operators provided on keyboard are quite clear for addition, subtraction and divide: + - /.

The multiplication sign * might be familiar as the multiplication for programmer, but I'm not sure about ordinary user. I don't know if I should use * or x for multiplication.

The purpose is to provide user detail of how each field will be used:

enter image description here

One drawback I can think of is if using x might rely on font face and if user changes the font, x might not be appear like multiplication sign.

Also, by the standard * (asterisk) should be used to multiplication, but I'm not sure about its readability.

  • 1
    I always had the impression that "*" was used as a multiplication operator because "•", commonly used in algebra, was hard to find on older (particularly PC) keyboard layouts, but looked similar enough to be interchanged. I am not confident that * is a good multiplication operator for human consumption.
    – msanford
    Nov 15, 2011 at 21:11
  • Please don't expect users to actually calculate the rates themselves! (Room Price + Charge) x Net Rate %, ...
    – Wousser
    Nov 16, 2011 at 7:50
  • @Wousser That is just a description of how each Apply Type will be used to calculate. The program will do it. Nov 16, 2011 at 11:21
  • 4
    Why not use ×? Nov 18, 2011 at 14:51
  • @hippietrail at the time i was writing this question. i didn't know that sign existed :) Thanks Nov 20, 2011 at 5:07

4 Answers 4


It would certainly be a mistake to use the letter x as the multiplication symbol as x itself often denotes an algebraic term:

e.g. compare

x x y = c
x x y = c


x × y = c
x × y = c

The × or × or &#D7; character looks like this: × so it is a proper cross, as opposed to the letter x (ex) or * (asterisk) symbols which are a lazy approach and don't create symmetrical symbols about the major axes.

The × version is simply the friendly version of the same code.

For additional reference, for divide you can also use ÷ or ÷ to get ÷

For minus you might expect to use direct from the normal key, but there is a separate code for that too − − which aligns it vertically with the keyboard plus symbol, so you get ( −+ −+ ) instead of the keyboard minus and plus, which may not be aligned depending on the font ( -+ -+ ).

You can get the plus/minus via ± or ± ± .

There is another Wikipedia entry for the symbol itself, which currently consists of the information below:

(sorry, this is an image - so links are not real!) enter image description here

  • 2
    Would be kind of nice if those were the symbols you got when using the keys on the numpad.
    – Svish
    Nov 15, 2011 at 12:18
  • @Svish You mean pressing '/' would give you ÷ and pressing '*' would give you ×? Nov 15, 2011 at 15:06
  • 1
    There is a semantic difference for multiplication on non-scalars. For vectors A × B (cross product) is not the same as A ∗ B (dot product).
    – zzzzBov
    Nov 15, 2011 at 15:33
  • 2
    Ah, I never knew there was a Unicode for either the '×' OR '÷' symbol. (Well, TBH i've never really looked). Now I know.
    – JonW
    Nov 15, 2011 at 15:37
  • 1
    also, don't forget to use ∗ (∗) instead of an asterisk (*)
    – zzzzBov
    Nov 15, 2011 at 15:38

It's a shame that I found the solution after posting my own question. So I will just share it there. Wikipedia recommends using The HTML entity × which will be resulted in × for multiplication:




In addition to all of the other pro voices for *, the numeric keypad on my keyboard has a * for times. That's another argument, IMO, for using it.

  • 2
    Absolutely not from a UI point of view. That is only an argument as to why it is easier, not as to why it is better. Nov 17, 2011 at 17:38
  • +1 because, as my answer gets into, the asterisk is best used for consistency - from every perspective. An x is only used in gradeschool math, and cross-products.
    – Izkata
    Mar 3, 2012 at 20:11


x x y = c - Bad for obvious reasons

x × y = c - Also bad, but less so. It looks like (x^x)*y (x raised to the x, times y)

x * y = c - I would consider this the obvious choice, especially since using dot for multiplication is standard for Pre-Algebra and beyond. (Roughly age 13 or 14 and older in the US)

  • 8
    x × y = c is not bad, it is very much standard. Nov 16, 2011 at 16:58

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