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RE: line wrapping and good notebook style

  • To: mathgroup at
  • Subject: [mg37427] RE: [mg37412] line wrapping and good notebook style
  • From: "David Park" <djmp at>
  • Date: Mon, 28 Oct 2002 03:40:50 -0500 (EST)
  • Sender: owner-wri-mathgroup at


Your method of doing multiple steps in a single cell is a good one.
Especially, it is a way to group related steps and use % and %% without
ambiguity as to what they stand for. I was trying to reproduce an example of
what you are talking about and couldn't come up with a good one. But I know
that in my work it often happens that after I use Return Mathematica indents
when I don't want it to. This is because Mathematica does not yet know if
the new line is a continuation of the previous statement. But when I begin
typing the new line Mathematica snaps it back to the left margin. Have you
tried that? (I also think there is some variation in Mathematica's behavior
here in various versions.)

You ask about good style for a notebook. This is, of course, a matter of
taste but I see an many dreadful notebooks so this gives me an excuse to set
forth some of my opinions.

1) The main purpose of a Mathematica notebook that you are sending to some
other person is to communicate your ideas and knowledge in as clear a manner
as possible. Anything that contributes to clarity is good, and anything that
detracts from it is bad. Remember that the reader is seldom going to spend
as much time reading the notebook as you spent making it. You have only a
limited shot at another person's mind.

2) Good notebooks are usually a fine mixture of Text cells, Input/Output
cells and graphics. The explanatory Text cells are equally as important as
the calculations. And for explanatory text use Text cells, not group
headings or Input cells. Text cells wrap, hyphenate and you can do spell
checking on them, and you can also include mathematical expressions with
Inline cells.

3) Make certain that the notebook has all necessary initializations and
definitions in it. As a check, quit the kernel and evaluate the notebook in
a fresh Mathematica session. A notebook that won't evaluate is certainly not
going to convey your ideas.

4) If in any doubt about style, use the Default notebook style. Use cell
grouping and group headings to organize your notebook. For example, you can
put all your initialization statements in an Initialization Section. A long
ungrouped, i.e., unorganized, notebook is difficult to navigate or follow.
With headings and grouping, and with the groups closed, the notebook
presents itself in outline form and already begins to convey your ideas.

5) STAY WITH THE DEFAULT AUTOMATIC GROUPING. I've seen many notebooks with
manual grouping. Without any exception whatever they were all perfectly
dreadful. They end up as one long totally unorganized mess.

6) Stay away from special formatting, colored cells and other special
effects. They may mean something to you but are nothing but clutter to the
reader. (It is too bad that WRI did not include some nice pastel Background
colors for cells in the menu. The highly saturated colors are not suitable.)

Grouping and Organization
Completely Evaluable
Text Cells - Input/Output Cells - Graphics
Get rid of all special effect clutter.

David Park
djmp at

From: Shakti Shrivastava [mailto:shaktis at]
To: mathgroup at

I have been using mathematica for sometime now. However i have
never managed to get around the problem of correctly formatting
my documents. There is inevitable always a line formatting problem.

Meaning if I type half way thru the line and without going all the way
in the same line go on to use the next line, for eg. when i am writing
out step-wise, the solution to a particular probelm,  then the next line
contents inevitably gets indented. Somehow I cant seem to get them left
align correctly. For now I painstakingly do divide cell and merge them
back to get the correct left alignment. however I am quite sure that
there has to be a better solution.

Can someone please advise. All my homeworks and papers are written in
mathematica. also are there any good articles on good formatting with
Mathematica. like adding footnotes on a page, etc.

Thank you in advance for help!

 - Shakti Shrivastava.

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