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MathGroup Archive 2005

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Re: Re: Mathematica Notebook Organiztion

> Calculate plots ... with Mathematica ... export
> ... to EPS, PDF or QuickTime; polish ... with Illustrator;
> edit ... with QuickTime Pro ... publish ... with PowerPoint
> or Acrobat ... prepared with TeX or LaTeX ... web pages
> prepared ... with your favorite web preparation tool.

I don't see how that's simpler than a single tool that would do all the same things. The "monolithic" tool might have consistent interface standards and logic across all those tasks, and even if it didn't, I doubt the confusion could be greater than what you describe. Either way, the user has a LOT to learn; putting it all in one application and/or manual is a problem for a software provider, not a user.

The most convincing argument you've mentioned (IMHO) is the notion of competition. If Microsoft Word did a simpler job and depended on third-party tools for footnotes, headers, and page numbers, for instance, we might get a better result. There are such tools, too, but they're expensive. Far better to have a built-in capability, poor as it sometimes is.


On Tue, 10 May 2005 03:42:53 -0400 (EDT), AES <siegman at> wrote:

> In article <d5muvu$duq$1 at>,
>  Chris Chiasson <chris.chiasson at> wrote:
>> Are you saying that most ordinary users have abandoned Mathematica?
> No, not at all.  Many, many working scientists and engineers -- along
> with students, professors, and many others in many other fields -- use
> Mathematica as our primary tool for calculations, analysis, and for
> graphing or animating the results of calculations and analysis; and I'd
> very much like to see that continue.
> But I'm saying that Mathematica's syntax and user interface are already
> sufficiently complex (or, if you like, feature-rich) just for doing
> those tasks that learning and using it can already be intimidating:  The
> Mathematica Book is already 1462 pages; the abbreviated listing of major
> Built-In Objects is 266 pages (well over 1000 such "major" objects?).
> And I'm arguing more seriously that the added complexity needed in
> trying to build world-class document preparation capabilities on top of
> these already world-class analysis, computation, and graphics
> capabilities is (a) unnecessary, (b) undesirable, and (c) may seriously
> compromise or even destroy the usability of Mathematica for its primary
> purpose by making it too complex, intimidating, and hard to learn for
> ordinary users -- in other words, a really BAD idea.
>> Mathematica already describes notebooks in the same language that it
>> takes commands. Take a look at the raw format of a Mathematica style
>> sheet or a regular Mathematica notebook.
>>   (much stuff snipped)
>> It would be very attractive to me to eliminate the need for using many
>> different languages to deliver rich web content. Mathematica can
>> already do animations, scripting, and dynamic code generation
>> (NotebookWrite). Given the above, why do you think it's such a bad
>> idea to use Mathematica for the web?
> Don't think I said that.  What I'd say is:
> *  I'd be perfectly glad to have Mathematica contain some simple (repeat,
> simple) capabilities for posting its notebooks on the web, or printing
> them, or converting them to PDF files, or whatever.
> *  I do NOT, however, think Mathematica should also try to become a world-class
> tool for preparing AND delivering polished web content, or for preparing
> publication-quality (journal-quality) typeset printed output, or for
> polishing graphics output to publication quality, or any of those tasks.
> Given the ease with which one can switch applications on modern
> computers, what's wrong with having multiple tools (or "many different
> languages") each optimized to best accomplish different aspects of these
> tasks?
> Answer:  Nothing is wrong with this, provided there's adequate agreement
> on some reasonable set of standard formats for the objects you're
> working on, and each app can import or export those formats as needed.
> Calculate plots or animations with Mathematica and export them to EPS,
> PDF or QuickTime; polish and annotate the graphics with Illustrator;
> edit the animations and add tracks with QuickTime Pro; embed all of
> these together with other material and present or publish them with
> PowerPoint or Acrobat; insert them in books or journal submissions
> prepared with TeX or LaTeX;  insert them in web pages prepared and
> edited with your favorite web preparation tool.
> Trying to build all the capabilities of Illustrator, Acrobat, QuickTime,
> PowerPoint, DreamWeaver, LaTeX, and what else (sound and music apps?)
> into Mathematica doesn't produce efficiency; it just makes Mathematica's
> interface so complex as to become unusable (and if you'd propose to have
> modular sections within Mathematica for each task, well then the modules
> can just as well be separate apps).
> It doesn't reduce the learning curve:  If you're going to do any one of
> those tasks, you have to understand the concepts and the sub-tasks and
> what's needed to implement them, whatever app you use to implement them.
> As just one example, if you're going to worry touching up the weights
> and colors and other properties of lines and curves and typefaces in a
> plot, you have to understand the concept of "strokes" and "fills" and
> how to edit them, whether you do this in Illustrator or Mathematica -- and
> Illustrator's WYSIWYG is so much easier to use that re-running a whole
> Mathematica graphic just to make some cosmetic changes.
> It doesn't allow competition to optimize the tools for individual tasks.
> And so on . . .

DrBob at

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