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MathGroup Archive 2005

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Re: Re: Mathematica Notebook Organiztion

To recap(itualte):
We seem to be referring to different ideas.

You are saying that there are several programs Mathematica would have
to replace to become a general web publishing tool in its own right. I
don't disagree with you there; Mathematica certainly lacks a mountain
of capabilities in the publishing area.

I am referring to the languages of the documents themselves. I would
like to send Mathematica source code (describing text, equations and
graphics) to a browser and have it display correctly. That would be
"level one", essentially a MathReader plugin embedded in the browser.
"Level two" would be active content. I admit that it would be
significantly harder to build third party implementations of anything
involving kernel functionality.

Why would these capabilities be useful? Online collaboration. Think
wikipedia meets Mathematica. That has already been done on the
Mathematica-users wiki, but I am not sure if having arbitrary code
execution on the server side sits well with WRI due to licensing
issues. The other way to do it would be to have the clients be able to
execute the code; that would also save bandwidth.

Perhaps, instead, I should endeavor to create a website that is
nothing but interlinked Mathematica notebooks, allowing for pages to
be easily edited (with revision tracking, user access rights, and
rollback). Think of Exchange Server for Mathematica documents.

Anyway, if no one thinks of this stuff, it will never be built. I
think WRI should build some of these capabilities because it is
probably in their own interest to enable people to use Mathematica in
a collaborative environment. After all, more collaboration will
probably lead to more licensees.


On 5/10/05, 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 . . .

Chris Chiasson
1 (810) 265-3161

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