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Making _on line_ Help be the default?

  • To: mathgroup at smc.vnet.net
  • Subject: [mg92346] Making _on line_ Help be the default?
  • From: AES <siegman at stanford.edu>
  • Date: Sat, 27 Sep 2008 22:24:50 -0400 (EDT)
  • Organization: Stanford University

Two lines from a recent post:

> See this link:
> http://reference.wolfram.com/mathematica/ref/Dot.html 
 
bring up an immediate thought:

      Any way to make the Help key in Mathematica (either the 
      HELP key on my extended keyboard or the standard keyboard   
      equivalent) go *by default* to the "on line" (Internet) link like 
      the one above, instead of to the nominally identical "on disk" 
      version of the same material that's on my hard disk?

[Or, go to this on line (OL) version if I'm Internet-connected -- which 
I am a large fraction of the time -- and go to the on disk (OD) version 
if I'm not?}

If so, this would be a truly vast improvement in the friendliness and  
usability of this documentation, aka a damn good idea.  Why is that?

   1)  The OL documentation opens up in a much bigger browser 
   window, which can be easily preset to be sized and positioned 
   as the user might like.

   2)  Once the OL window opens I can instantly enlarge the type 
   face to a readable size by a few Cmd + keystrokes (not possible
   in the OD version).

   3)  Once the OL window opens I can just hit the down arrow key 
   and rapidly page down through the displayed material (not 
   possible in the OD version).

   4)  My browser has a much better "Find" capability for searching 
   down through the window contents than does Mathematica.

   5)  Ditto for Print (maybe not 'much better', but better).

   6)  I can toggle back and forth between this Help window and 
   the Mathematica notebook window I'm working in with single 
   Cmd-Tab commands (haven't yet found an easy way to do 
   this in Mathematica -- ???).  In fact, could easily have
   multiple Help window open, in multiple browser tabs.

   7)  Wolfram could update/revise/improve the OL version one 
   page (one command) at a time, and each change would be 
   instantly available to everyone, without needing to do some
   more complex distribution of an updated version of the whole
   app to Mathematica users.  (Might stimulate some serious 
   attention to the nagging defects of many of these Help pages.)

There are probably other benefits I haven't thought of off the cuff -- 
for example, people with minimal HTML skills (lots more of those around 
than people with deep Mathematica skills) might be able to download 
selected OL pages and build or print their own custom manuals to serve 
their own custom needs.

And maybe, in the long run, since Wolfram is already maintaining the 
HTML pages anyway, they could strip all the Help apparatus out of 
Mathematica itself, and remove one non-trivial bit of complexity from 
Mathematica, letting it do better at its primary jobs.


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