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Mathematica's (and others) ancient widget toolkit ... why?

  • To: mathgroup at
  • Subject: [mg51685] Mathematica's (and others) ancient widget toolkit ... why?
  • From: Jens Benecke <jens at>
  • Date: Fri, 29 Oct 2004 03:39:08 -0400 (EDT)
  • Sender: owner-wri-mathgroup at

(also sent to suggestions at


this is a personal opinion of mine, regarding the use of Motif (or whatever
the Mathematica GUI was developed with) under Unix/Linux.
I have been using Mathematica for some months and I like its features but
the GUI looks like it hasn't evolved since 1980. (see attached screenshot
for comparison)

Since about 1998, more advanced toolkits are available that are much easier
to develop for (I know, I use them), like Qt and Gtk, and it is supposed to
be very easy to port Motif based apps to Qt (see (though I haven't used
*that* feature yet). Qt is also 1:1 source code compatible across Linux,
UNIX, Windows, and MacOSX which might be an added plus.

The gains would be considerate: Mathematica would automatically gain faster
graphics display, proper font display, font useage and font antialising,
better window manager/desktop/printing integration, Mathematica and its
tools would automatically respect the user's preferences of display colors
and font sizes and if you really want to spoil the Linux user base, provide
pre-packaged RPM packages to install, which properly integrate into the
system and can be managed by the system's RPM frontends (SuSE's YaST for
example), instead of clunky text based install scripts.

What I'd like to know is, am I the first to notice this? Why continue
selling a version of Mathematica that even though its *features* are great,
looks like it's been lying there and rusting since 1980, doesn't support
mouse wheel actions,  pops up tooltips that don't disappear even if you
change virtual desktops, doesn't support proper cut&paste and drag&drop via
XDnD, takes seconds to redraw a window on a 1.8GHz-P4, uses seemingly
non-standard fonts that make headers in the documentation invisible on a
SuSE Linux 9.1 standard installation, and so on?

Seriously, your software works great, but it is absolute hell to use. It
would be much more productive (and fun!) if it would behave and look
properly, like the rest of my desktop. Please consider this for the future
of Mathematica.

Thank you!

Jens Benecke - Europas kostenlose Mitfahrzentrale seit 1998 - Webhosting mit Extras - PHP ab ¤9 - SSH ab ¤19 - 100% saubere Postfächer, garantiert!

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