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Re: Re: Package Help in Mathematica 6

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  • Subject: [mg76020] Re: [mg75971] Re: Package Help in Mathematica 6
  • From: Murray Eisenberg <murray at>
  • Date: Tue, 15 May 2007 04:43:53 -0400 (EDT)
  • Organization: Mathematics & Statistics, Univ. of Mass./Amherst
  • References: <>
  • Reply-to: murray at

I beg to differ: the help system in 6.0 is, in my experience, precisely 
built to handle such a large and complicated system in a way that the 
old Help Browser was not.

For your example, you said you are interested in Combinatorica.  So I 
presume you would just type "Combinatorica" into the search bar at the 
top of the Documentation Center page and be taken to a results page (the 
first of 49) with probably the most relevant two at the top:  a tutorial 
on Combinatorica and a guide to the package Combinatorica.

Your presumed new user would likely not, I agree, know what 
"Combinatorica" meant.  So likely she would do one of two things:

  (1) On the main page, under Mathematics and Algorithms, find the link 
Discrete Math.  The target lists a bunch of likely familiar terms, each 
with its own home page.  Or, on the target, she could select one of the 
tutorials or "More About" links.

(2) Enter a particular search term, say "graph".  The search results 
would turn up 45 entries, the first of which is "Graph (Combinatorica 
Package Symbol)".

With the old Help Browser you still had to wear out your fingers 
clicking, first to pick the right tab (The Mathematica book?  Built-in 
Functions?  Master Index?), then navigate from one pane to another with 
up to 4 levels of selection, etc.

Compatibility is a thornier issue: Undoubtedly a single source would be 
useful, up to a point.  But there are so many changes, it's still vital 
and useful to have the detailed update information at the points where 
it's most relevant.

For example, look up Permutations.  In the upper right corner of this 
function's home page, you see the legend "Updated in 6  Show changes". 
Click "Show changes" there, and all the change will be highlighted in a 
color you're not likely to miss.

Dana DeLouis wrote:
> I find the new "help" system worthless....
> There is a folder called "Compatibility" that talks about some of the
> packages, and their changes.  Even here, the help files are not very
> helpful.
> I have no idea what Wolfram was thinking when they came up with this
> terrible Help system.
> For example, I am interested in Combinatorica.  A new user would have no
> idea what that was....
> This help system is not designed well for such a large system.  It needs to
> be broken down into sections that are more readable.  My hand is sore from
> all the clicking.  For each item, you have to click "more about., scope,
> properties, issues.etc.  
> Absolutely terrible!!

Murray Eisenberg                     murray at
Mathematics & Statistics Dept.
Lederle Graduate Research Tower      phone 413 549-1020 (H)
University of Massachusetts                413 545-2859 (W)
710 North Pleasant Street            fax   413 545-1801
Amherst, MA 01003-9305

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