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Re: Yet another Mathematica docs whopper

  • To: mathgroup at
  • Subject: [mg47123] Re: Yet another Mathematica docs whopper
  • From: Paul Abbott <paul at>
  • Date: Fri, 26 Mar 2004 03:56:30 -0500 (EST)
  • Organization: The University of Western Australia
  • References: <c3udt9$9pd$>
  • Sender: owner-wri-mathgroup at

In article <c3udt9$9pd$1 at>,
 J Krugman <jkrugman at> wrote:

> I've posted about the poor quality of Mathematica's documentation
> before, and received several e-mails challenging my claim that this
> documentation is awash in errors and woefully incomplete.  Well,
> for those who doubt, here's the latest example I just bumped into:
>   In[1]:= ??AspectRatio
>   AspectRatio is an option for Show and related functions which specifies the
>               ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
>      ratio of height to width for a plot.
>   Attributes[AspectRatio] = {Protected}
>   In[2]:= SetOptions[Show, AspectRatio->Automatic];
>   SetOptions::optnf: AspectRatio is not a known option for Show.
>                      ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
> Faced with this sort of nonsense, what is a user to do?

Interesting example -- and a little subtle because, in fact, both 
statements are true! If you enter


you will see that it has no built-in options. However,

   Show[Plot[Sin[x], {x, 0, 2 Pi}], AspectRatio -> Automatic]

does work. (Since Show has no options, I assume that the option must be 
getting passed to the object produced by the Plot command, which in this 
case is a -Graphics- object).

To set AspectRatio->Automatic for all Plots, one can do

   SetOptions[Plot, AspectRatio -> Automatic]

   Plot[Sin[x], {x, 0, 2 Pi}]

Similarly, to set it for Graphics (and to add a frame)

   SetOptions[Graphics, AspectRatio -> Automatic, Frame -> True]

   Show[Graphics[Point /@ Table[Random[], {100}, {2}]]]

> I am furious, because I spend an unreasonable amount of time
> resolving inadequacies like this one in the Mathematica documentation.
> Considering the exorbitant sum we paid for Mathematica, I expect
> something much better documented than this.

Agreed -- but the documentation of Mathematica is already overwhelmingly 
large ...


Paul Abbott                                   Phone: +61 8 9380 2734
School of Physics, M013                         Fax: +61 8 9380 1014
The University of Western Australia      (CRICOS Provider No 00126G)         
35 Stirling Highway
Crawley WA 6009                      mailto:paul at 

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