Re: Mathematica Notebook Organization
- To: mathgroup at smc.vnet.net
- Subject: [mg56889] Re: Mathematica Notebook Organization
- From: AES <siegman at stanford.edu>
- Date: Mon, 9 May 2005 01:46:11 -0400 (EDT)
- Organization: Stanford University
- References: <email@example.com>
- Sender: owner-wri-mathgroup at wolfram.com
It occurred to me after posting a recent query that began
> I have a module that makes a filled plot. I use it to make a series
> of displaced filled plots, then Show these in a single graphic.
> Everything works as expected, with two problems:
> * The Curves->Back option never works.
> * An additional line generated by an Epilog in the module only
> appears in the final test plot of the group.
> (remainder snipped)
that this is a minor but near perfect example of just one of the many
kinds of hassles that arise if one attempts to program in or use
Mathematica both as numerical evaluator and graphics generator on the
one hand, and as a primary document preparation tool on the other.
Sure, Mathematica is a great tool for generating initial versions of
graphics, even (or especially) complex multi-element or multi-curve
graphics; and with some skill and effort you can create results "good
enough for government work", e.g. good enough for a report or a web page
or class notes, or maybe a PhD dissertation -- though it often takes
considerable skill and effort and multiple retries to get results that
begin to look good.
Annotating, touching up, and polishing graphics to publication quality,
on the other hand, is a task that is by far best done, and much more
easily done even by unskilled hands, using a WYSIWYG, "click, edit,
preview the results, and Undo if necessary" tool such as, for example,
Illustrator. I should learn that I'm always better off to do the main
outlines of a graphic in Mathematica, then export the graphic as EPS, and do the
final touch-up in Illustrator or some similar tool. Mathematica is a lousy,
frustrating tool for final graphics touch-up.
Of course I could then import the polished graphic back into the Mathematica
document -- but that destroys the interactivity which is the primary
reason for doing document preparation in the first place. Once the
graphic is out of Mathematica, it makes much more sense to keep it as an EPS or
PDF file, which I can
* Import into my graphics database (iView, in my case) so I can easily
find it again any time I want it.
* Import into Tex or LaTeX documents (these _are_ genuinely good
document preparation tools).
* Use in PowerPoint or Acrobat/PDF slides or QuickTime files.
and so on.
* Numerical and symbolic calculations and graphing of the associated
results require one set of capabilities, which are best carried out
using one kind of user interface, and which demand one quite large set
of capabilities, tools and syntax in the application that does them.
* Document preparation and presentation involves a whole different set
of capabilities, which are best carried out using quite different kinds
of user interfaces, and which demand a whole additional large set of
capabilities, tools and syntax.
* Trying to combine these quite different capabilities, tools, user
interfaces, and syntax into one single giant application -- or one
single giant "language" with one immense syntax -- does not really save
or simplify anything, it only makes things worse.
All the capabilities, tools, and syntax needed for all the different
tasks must still be present in the unified system (and learned by the
user). But in a unified system, the user interface becomes so complex
-- so many menus, so many commands in the one interface -- that it
becomes unusable (and unlearnable). Ditto the syntax.
With a unified system -- even if it's to some extent "modular" --
competition can no longer upgrade individual components or modules of
the system. But if Mathematica and Illustrator can share the task of generating
a graphic, communicating with each only through the graphic itself, in
some widely used format like EPS, each tool can get better separately
and without conflict.
And for the user, learning what you need to know to do what you want to
do, is no more difficult -- indeed, it's easier -- if you learn and
implement part of the necessary toolkit in Mathematica, part in Illustrator. The
total of what you need to learn is the same; combining these into one
massive language or system makes it harder, not easier.
There are other important aspects, quite outside of graphics, where
attempts to combine content creation (analysis and calculation) and
document preparation and presentation in one single language or syntax
are equally damaging; but I've probably ranted more than enough in this
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