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RE: Yet another Mathematica docs whopper

  • To: mathgroup at
  • Subject: [mg47113] RE: [mg47079] Yet another Mathematica docs whopper
  • From: "David Park" <djmp at>
  • Date: Fri, 26 Mar 2004 03:55:58 -0500 (EST)
  • Sender: owner-wri-mathgroup at


I can certainly see that this might be considered an error and is at least
confusing. On the other hand, I've done a lot of graphics with Mathematica
for the last eight years and I have never noticed or gotten hung up on this

Show does not have any BUILT-IN options and therefore you can't set them.


But Show will take options, which are then used in rendering the graphics.

Show[graphics, options] displays two\[Hyphen] and three\[Hyphen]dimensional
graphics, using the options specified.

You can certainly use AspectRatio as an option in Show. Just put it in
there. You just can't set it as a default, at least without unprotecting
Show and adding Options.

If you want a version of Show that uses specific overall plot options that
you frequently use in your own work, then you can define one as follows.

MyShow[plot_Graphics, opts___?OptionQ] :=
    DisplayFunction -> $DisplayFunction,
    AspectRatio -> Automatic,
    Frame -> True,
    FrameLabel -> {x, y},
    Background -> RGBColor[0.980407`, 0.941206`, 0.902005`],
    ImageSize -> 500]

Now you can add or override the default options.

    Plot[2 Sin[x], {x, 0, 10}, DisplayFunction -> Identity],
    PlotLabel -> "The Sin Function",
    ImageSize -> {500, 230}];

If you want something even more convenient, try out the DrawGraphics package
at my web site. You don't have to use DisplayFunction and you can easily
combine graphics from multiple plot types.

If you are just beginning to use Mathematica, I can understand your
frustration. Join the club. It is not all that easy to learn how to use.
There were many times I was ready to throw the book at the wall. But now I
think that Mathematica pretty much makes sense and very well meets my needs.
I don't think that overall the Help documentation is that poor. It is quite
extensive and it gets better with each version. It would be nice if it had a
search engine. It is just that it is difficult for the documentation to
cover every case where a user might try to do something by path A and he
really has to use path B.

David Park
djmp at

From: J Krugman [mailto:jkrugman at]
To: mathgroup at

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
     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?

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.


To  s&e^n]d  me  m~a}i]l  r%e*m?o\v[e  bit from my a|d)d:r{e:s]s.

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