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MathGroup Archive 2008

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Re: Wolfram User Interface Research?

  • To: mathgroup at smc.vnet.net
  • Subject: [mg88041] Re: Wolfram User Interface Research?
  • From: "King, Peter R" <peter.king at imperial.ac.uk>
  • Date: Wed, 23 Apr 2008 04:05:14 -0400 (EDT)

>It's really all a matter of what one has learned, and how well, and how
>accustomed one is to the language. As just one rather simple-minded
>example, suppose you want to form the running cumulative sum of a list
>(in APL-speak, a vector) of numbers. In APL, this is given by
>
>+\ vec

But I suspect that most users of Mathematica are mathematicians (or physicists or engineers or the like) and so come from a background of standard mathematical notation. Whilst Mathematica does try hard to stick with this it doesn't always and special symbols (like #, @) and so on are not transparent to a new user and not something that you would ordinarily search on. I have the advantage of an old fashioned thing made of paper, with hard covers (called a book) for Mathematica 5 and can flick through,  see a symbol I don't recognise and read about it and think there may be better ways of expressing things than the way I am used to. With an online help I don't know that you would ever go and just look up random symbols unless someone had pointed you in the right direction.

Whilst this is also true for standard mathematical notation, it is just that - standard. Mathematica isn't, it differs in some notations from other similar software (yes they do exist) and for the casual user (such as myself) it is very hard to learn this. One thing that would help me enormously from this forum is that when someone posts a suggestion for how to encode a particular issue (and I find these posts extremely helpful)is a bit of explanation of some of the more obscure terminology. I realise this adds a little to the effort involved in posting but if the idea is to help users learn how better to use Mathematica rather than just provide one off solutions to problems then this would be a big benefit.


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