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Re: Mathematica 6 review [first impressions]

  • To: mathgroup at
  • Subject: [mg76398] Re: Mathematica 6 review [first impressions]
  • From: Szabolcs <szhorvat at>
  • Date: Mon, 21 May 2007 06:03:57 -0400 (EDT)
  • Organization: University of Bergen
  • References: <f2orqp$74e$>

science2003 at wrote:
> Premise: I use Mathematica. here and then -not everyday. Symbolic calculus,
> matrix algebra, with plotting, etc. are mine 80% activity on Mathematica.
> I was curious on the hype that mounted. I look around for  "first
> impression" reports. But I did not find many. So here is mine. Just
> first (partial) impressions  on a Win2k. I hope someone can add others
> Installation (trial v.): It is a big one! At the end in the Wolfram
> folder there are more than 800Mb, plus I guess the files spread in
> Application data and (I hope just few of them) in the System.
> Interface: It did not change so much. I know that almost everyone say
> it did. But inputs needed to be inserted as usual. I would say that
> another system did change its interface (the one in Java) not Mathematica.
> The first thing  (I guess a big one) that one notices is the coloring code.
> Helpful, but not amazing. Not all menus are in the same position. I
> notice that "Palettes" have gain a place of first order (it was before
> under "File" at least in v4.x).
> Palettes: There are some new. One of it about layout (Document,
> article, report, etc). But unfortunately I was unable to find the main
> I always used: Basic Calculations. This is a big miss! For a saltuary
> user it helped to input correctly and carry on the job, without too
> much mistakes. If it is not hidden somewhere this is certainly a minus
> of Mathematica 6. It was probably also in 5.2 (I do not have it): it is possible
> to add  new palettes from your calculations. To add them it easy. I
> was unable to find how to remove them! (probably the only way is to go
> in the folder where they are placed and physically remove them.)
> Help files: You have the opportunity to see the 5 minutes introduction
> to Mathematica 6. But the new helper system is indeed less helpful of the
> revious versions of Mathematica. Several links are for online material.
> Tutorials refer to (at least the one I met) to a online courses
> (starting from $800!). Why they do not make tutorials online these
> days! They will expand the possible user base and sell more copies!
> Well this is a topic for next time. I notice also that the help is
> also much slower than the old version. (My CPU is just 1100Mhz).
> Dynamics and cursors: I look at What new and the main thing that I
> remember was sliders and dynamics. They are nice features that
> already attracted - as I see - here much attention. I do not have the
> competence to assess if they are also revolutionary. For my needs
> probably not.
> Under the hood: in a fist impression after a day of experience I
> cannot really assess them. I hope others can as I hope that others can
> tell more on "user experience", not just "expert experience"

You do not seem to be impressed, but you are focusing on the graphical 
interface, while Mathematica is primarily a an interactive programming 
system. You type in commands and the results are printed into the 
notebook. Instead of using the palettes, spend some time exploring the 
programming language first. Read the tutorials from the Core Language 
section or look at some lecture notes on MathSource, e.g.:
I am sure you will have a lot of fun with this :-)

The big improvement in the version interface 6 is the interactive 
graphics. Now you can click on a plot and set line width, colour etc. 
interactively. You can annotate graphs, rotate 3D objects or change the 
aspect ratio of graphics by only using the mouse. These are huge 
improvements over 5.2 even if you only use Mathematica for very simple 
tasks. In earlier versions you had to type additional options manually 
and re-evaluate the plotting command to make these kinds of changes.

And there is Manipulate[] -- a brilliant idea! This is probably the most 
useful way to exploit a GUI in a system like Mathematica, encapsulated 
in a single command. (Other systems do provide complicated gui toolkits, 
but most of the time it is not worth spending time making a gui unless 
you are building an application that will be used many times by many 
people who are not familiar with programming.)

Or I could mention Locators for graphical input instead of the tedious 
type coordinates, re-evaluate cycle ...

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