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Re: Wolfram User Interface Research?

  • To: mathgroup at
  • Subject: [mg88109] Re: Wolfram User Interface Research?
  • From: AES <siegman at>
  • Date: Fri, 25 Apr 2008 05:27:27 -0400 (EDT)
  • Organization: Stanford University
  • References: <fuhfdc$ihb$> <fuhrka$s88$> <> <fukeo8$s2j$> <> <fupm08$s2t$>

In article <fupm08$s2t$1 at>,
 Andrzej Kozlowski <akoz at> wrote:

> On 23 Apr 2008, at 17:07, AES wrote:
> >    Is the primary market for Mathematica supposed to be
> >      "Mathematica programmers", skilled in the arcana of the
> >      more abstruse parts of Mathematica, or "ordinary users"
> >      whose primary interests and skills lie in many, many other
> >      fields -- and who want Mathematica to be (for them) just
> >      an easy to learn, easy to use, easy to remember tool?
> Mathematica could not function the way it does unless it satisfied  
> both types of users. It has to be powerful enough for professional  
> programmers if not for other reason than just the fact that a large  
> part of Mathematica itself (and all add on packages) are written in  
> the Mathematica programming language. It also has to satisfy enough  
> "ordinary users" for even more obvious reasons. In my opinion it has  
> always performed both functions admirably.

Fully and totally agree.
> These "abstruse" parts of Mathematica are not obligatory for "ordinary  
> users" but for Mathematica programmers and developers (and many "power  
> users") they make life a lot easier.

Also agree -- but my expectation would be that there are (or could be -- 
and should be) a *great* many more ordinary users than power users.

So it's important for both types that *both* markets be well served -- 
and especially the ordinary users, because there are so many more of 
them.  Getting their $$ is vital to the success of Matheamtica .  The power users 
are savvy enough that if Mathematica is very good -- which it is -- they'll wade 
through minor difficulties.  The ordinary users won't --- they'll go 

 > I believe you are familiar with TeX; at least you mention it often  
> enough. Do you seriously claim that Mathematica has more of these  
> "abstruse parts" than TeX? Have you ever heard words like "TeXPert",  
> "TexMaster" etc? Are you able to program or even understand a set of  
> advanced TeX macros, like, for example, the AMS ones?

I'm quite familiar with TeX and can "program" in it, though I'm not 
really a TeXpert.  Plain TeX is *much* less complex than Mathematica.  
Several decades ago, in fact, the lab I was in had several 
secretaries/technical typists in the so-called "Reports Group", several 
of whom had not finished high school --- but one could hand a 
hand-written draft of a ms to them, full of complex math -- and they'd 
turn it into TeX source. 

TeX is *much* smaller than Mathematica by whatever measure you like (syntax, 
size of code), and very well documented for ordinary or power users 
(have a look at Knuth's TeXBook to understand this).

LaTeX and other macro packages built on TeX are much more complex than 
plain TeX; I use them but would never try to dig into their internals.  
I can, however, go to amazon and buy any of several introductory manuals 
that tell me in understandable terms how to use them.

> Finally, in all your posts you never seem to mention the very essential  
> (in the case of Mathematica) distinction between the Front End and the  
> Kernel. The great majority of new functionality in v. 6 concerns the  
> former. In principle there is no reason why Mathematica should not be  
> available with alternative Front Ends. It used to be possible to run  
> later versions with earlier Front Ends. I have not tried this with v.  
> 6 but that would be one way to do away with most of the new  
> "complexity" that you seems to displease you so.

If that can be done --- and documented for ordinary users --- have at it!

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