Re: Getting a pure text widget?

*To*: mathgroup at smc.vnet.net*Subject*: [mg61376] Re: [mg61355] Getting a pure text widget?*From*: "David Park" <djmp at earthlink.net>*Date*: Mon, 17 Oct 2005 02:29:44 -0400 (EDT)*Sender*: owner-wri-mathgroup at wolfram.com

Steven, I am going to take a different position on this. I think that Mathematica has a perfectly good user interface, which is the Mathematica notebook. The Mathematica notebook follows a tradition of technical publication that goes back at least to Euclid. The interface is the blending together of expository text, equations and diagrams. This is what one sees in mathematical, scientific and technical journals today. It is what one sees in textbooks. One might call it the classic text-equation-diagram interface. But the Mathematica notebook is a revolutionary advance over the classic interface. It is so new that only a few have absorbed its capabilities and made effective use of them. With the Mathematica engine behind it, a Mathematica notebook follows but becomes much more powerful than the classic interface. A short notebook can generate calculations, graphics and animation. A reader can modify any of these elements. A notebook can include routines and tools that a reader can use to check or extend the material in the notebook. A reader can add calculations and also add comments and text. In other words a Mathematica notebook is an active text-equation-diagram document. A Mathematica notebook, if handled properly, is already far superior to classic techincal papers and instructional material. In my limited experience I have observed that most users do not bother to learn how to use the notebook interface. They don't know how to use Text cells, or enter mathematical expressions in the text cells. They don't know how to use the Section/Subsection organization of a notebook. They often opt for Manual Grouping, which practically destroys the notebook concept. Manual Grouping destroys the reader's ability to easily add material to a notebook and that's one of the revolutionary advantages! They put in a rainbow of colors that has no meaning to the typical reader and that only distracts from the presentation of the material. Instead of using Titles and Subtitles at the top of the notebook they put them anywhere and sometimes use them for comments! They don't know how to use graphics and animation. They generally slight textual exposition, which is just as important as the calculations. I believe that we are still learning how to use the notebook style. Perhaps the great Masterpieces of 'Classical Mathematica' have yet to be produced. It's a metter of good material, good writing, good style and elegance. As for widgets and palette interfaces - I'm generally opposed to them for several reasons. 1) It is extremely difficult to make an interface that is as versatile as the text-equation-diagram interface. Non-notebook interfaces usually end up being limited choice devices and are therefore quite restrictive. 2) People already understand the text-equation-diagram interface. (Actually many don't but they are in a preliterate state.) Each new pallete or widget interface presents a new learning challenge. It's true that the introduction of Windows type GUI computer interface from PARC was a vast improvement on the old command line computer interface. But it only brought us back to the possibility of an active text-equation-diagram interface. The Mathematica notebook already incorporates this. It may be possible to come up with something different and better - but it's going to be very difficult. 3) Is the widget going to completely replace notebooks or is it going to be some kind of extra palette tool? Competition to get your widget on the desktop is fierce. Desktop space is precious. One will have to come up with something really good to get one's widget on very many people's desktops. Special purpose widgets for special applications have a better chance - but even here there is much misplaced effort. Mathematica notebooks are already a revolutionary and versatile user interface for recording and communicating technical material and people would be well advised to put their efforts to exploiting their possiblities. David Park djmp at earthlink.net http://home.earthlink.net/~djmp/ From: Steven T. Hatton [mailto:hattons at globalsymmetry.com] To: mathgroup at smc.vnet.net I am 100% certain that a better UI could be created for Mathematica. Are my perceptions in error here?