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MathGroup Archive 1999

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Re: Mathematica input from graphics tablets?

  • To: mathgroup at
  • Subject: [mg19169] Re: Mathematica input from graphics tablets?
  • From: Paul Abbott <paul at>
  • Date: Tue, 10 Aug 1999 02:52:36 -0400
  • Organization: University of Western Australia
  • References: <7nlqah$> <7o3dp3$128$> <7obbeg$>
  • Sender: owner-wri-mathgroup at

Murray Eisenberg wrote:

> I have spoken with a number of Mathematica users -- myself included --
> who would love _some_ sort of interactive graphical input.  For example,
> being able to click two points and have Mathematica return the graphics
> Line object joining the two as result (or as part of the entire graphics
> object created by additional clicks, etc.) and, as a side effect,
> displaying the line segment as well.

You might be interested in the forthcoming book (and associated MathLink packages)

    MathLink: Network Programming with Mathematica
    by Chikara Miyaji and Paul Abbott

which has been completed and is to be published by CUP.  I've appended the contents
The most relevant part is Chapter 13.

> One could imagine (dream of) additional capabilities, e.g., getting a
> circular arc by specifying endpoints and center; a Bezier curve from
> control points, etc.


> A GENERAL input mechanism would seem to be the way to go here.  That is,
> one way to input the points would be directly by clicking into a
> notebook cell; another, obviously requiring an additional interface,
> would allow graphics tablet input.

And a general input mechanism means an external (perhaps Java) program
communicating with
Mathematica via MathLink. And you of course want full (Mathematica and external)

> I hesitate to suggest that Mathematica should itself consist of
> everything _including_ the proverbial "kitchen sink" (sorry for the
> American English idiom here).  But this is one thing that seems to
> obvious to want to include.

Agreed -- but MathLink is the best approach to adding such functionality.

The book consists of two parts: Basics and Applications. The fundamentals of
MathLink -- templates, data transfer model, and transfer time -- are explained in
Basics. The Applications section demonstrates a wide range of MathLink application
programs including a QuickTime movie interface and a graphical user interface (GUI)


Chapter 1. Introduction
In this chapter, using a C compiler with the MathLink Library is discussed.  In
addition, basic information related to MathLink is presented.

Chapter 2. Connecting the Front End and the Kernel
Network basics are reviewed here and several ways to connect the kernel and front
end are described. Two basic concepts of MathLink -- Create and Connect -- are then
discussed. Using Mathematica functions, simple network programming is described and
a basic packet monitor is implemented.

Chapter 3. Compile AddTwo Program
Here we build the AddTwo sample project. Modifying the source code, the data format
of MathLink is then discussed. The MathLink template mechanism is also described.

Chapter 4. Transfer Time using MathLink
When you design a MathLink program, it is important to know how long it takes for
data transfer. This chapter introduces MathLink list transfer, builds a tool for
measuring transfer time, and does some experimentation about data transfer on
various computers.

Chapter 5. Debugging MathLink Programs
In general, programs require debugging. This chaper describes this process for
MathLink programs and demonstrates other debugging methods including print
statements and the use of dialogs.


Chapter 6. Turtle Graphics
Although Mathematica has excellent graphics, it does not include real-time
graphics.  In this chapter, a real-time graphics program using Macintosh's
QuickDraw toolbox is created and the Turtle Graphics application is implemented
using this program.

Chapter 7. Cellular Automata
In this chapter, a graphics program which shows cellular automata in real-time is
created as an extension of the previous chapter. Also, the extension of these
programs to make them work with multiple windows is described.

Chapter 8. MovieDigitizer
Here an interface to QuickTime movies is described. This program is based on a
sample program from the Ultimate Mac Programming book. Turning it into a MathLink
program makes Mathematica an analysis tool for movies.

Chapter 9. Object-Oriented Programming
After introducing an object-oriented programming (OOP) style for Mathematica --
heavily used in later chapters -- Class and Inheritance are discussed.

Chapter 10. Creating an Event Driven Mechanism
In this chapter, we build Serializer. This application enables MathLink template
programs to send events to the kernel asynchronously. Using Serializer we can send
events from multiple MathLink programs to one kernel. The event format and event
sending mechanism of Serializer is described in detail since Serializer is a
fundamental tool for later chapters.

Chapter 11. Creating A Window Object
Combining real-time graphics, the event sending mechanism, and OOP, a window object
is created. Using this synergy we can define the response to events through simple
Mathematica functions. As an example of this approach, a free-hand drawing
application is implemented using just a few lines of Mathematica code.

Chapter 12. Window Object Applications
Here the window object developed in the previous chapter is extended to provide an
interactive interface for the simulation of a cellular automata "Forest Fire". A
second application is MathPaint, an application which mimics painting software and
is an extension of the free-hand drawing program of chapter 11. The purpose of this
chapter is to show how easy it is to customize window objects for special purposes.

Chapter 13. Writing an Interactive Graphics System
In this chapter we introduce point, line, curve, and text objects as window
objects. Using the event-driven mechanism introduced in Chapter 10, these objects
provide real-time interactive graphics which the current front end does not
support. Two applications -- interactive geometry and interactive curve fitting --
are demonstrated. Coupling Mathematica's power with interactive graphics makes it
easy to create sophisticated graphics applications.

Chapter 14. Communication Between Mathematica Sessions
This chapter shows how to link multiple Serializer sessions. Such a link enables us
to send expressions between Mathematica sessions and assists cooperative work. For
example, a user can copy and paste cell expressions to another session over the
network, or exchange messages with other users. Hence Serializer becomes a
communication tool between Mathematica sessions and is one powerful extension of
this simple MathLink application.

Paul Abbott                                   Phone: +61-8-9380-2734
Department of Physics                           Fax: +61-8-9380-1014
The University of Western Australia
Nedlands WA  6907                     mailto:paul at

            God IS a weakly left-handed dice player

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