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Re: What should Mma be?

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  • Subject: Re: What should Mma be?
  • From: Ross_Moore at (Ross Moore)
  • Date: Tue, 24 Nov 1992 11:40:24 +1000

        Reply to:   RE>What should Mma be?

Despite being extremely interested in, and actively working on, improving
techniques for mathematical typesetting and presentation...
...I agree with Warren Wiscombe when he says...

... Mma is a place to do mathematics, like a pencil and paper in days of
old.  I would hate to see it become feature-laden in the area of
presentation; this to me violates the whole spirit of the enterprise.

There is indeed an awful lot that can be done with Mathematica-produced
graphics, but frequently the best thing to do is to export into another
program ( e.g. TeX ) to add all the frills you cannot easily achieve in
Mathematica itself.

Having said that...
...there are many things that can already be done with a Mathematica
Front-end --- which after-all IS a separate program from the Mathematica
kernel, designed for presentation (as well as for communication with the
With a notebook front-end you can make superb documents. 

a) Plot Labels:
   Put them in a separate cell, grouped to the graphic.
   Now you can have all the fonts, styles, super/subscripts that your
Macintosh/NeXt will allow. You can even do centering, justification, and
alter baselineskips/vertical positioning and add some dingbats. 

b) fonts  (see below)

c) Import extra graphics from other programs, 
e.g. scans, bitmaps, PICT-style graphics (on the Mac)
 even Mathematica graphics exported, altered then re-imported.

If you really need special effects in the graphic itself, you can resort

*** PostScript editing ***

  This can be done in the Front-end itself, with no need to get the kernel
to re-evaluate anything.

In particular the labelled graphs produced by  Skiena's ``Combinatorica''
(for DiscreteMath/GraphTheory ) often have badly placed labels. 
No problem!! 
  Unformat the graphic:  use Cmd-t on the cell 
  Find the relevant line in the text:   use Find  
  twiddle a few numbers (coordinates within a box)
  Re-render the PostScript. 
A bit of trial-and-error is required at first, but it is easier than
exporting to another program and adjusting everything for consistency.
Change fonts.
If you don't like your defaults, you can change them in the PostScript.
( The alternative of changing the Notebook's fonts will work, but this also
affects all other graphics in the Notebook.)

Extra text, using special fonts if you like, can be added to any graphic.
Look carefully at the PostScript produced by Mathematica. 
Copy the style  --- include the   gsave  and  grestore .
It is really very easy after a bit of practice.

If you find the PostScript code daunting, just take some time to learn what
is meant by `stack-based` programming. 
Read the first few chapters of the PostScript Language Reference Manual
(Addison-Wesley) to find out how the language is structured. 
It is not necessary to know more than a few basic concepts to understand the
PostScript produced by Mathematica enough to write your own.

***  Summary ***

Mathematica is for mathematics; fix the known bugs, improve/speed-up the
algorithms, increase the library of Packages. 
(Many professional mathematicians still prefer Maple, since it has been
around longer and does reliably what they need.)

Extra presentation frills are nice, but before asking for more, surely one
should learn how to use effectively those that are already there. (There are
already lots of 'em !!)

Ross Moore
Mathematics Department
Macquarie University
Sydney, Australia

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