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Re: Making _on line_ Help be the default?

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  • Subject: [mg92352] Re: Making _on line_ Help be the default?
  • From: Szabolcs Horvát <szhorvat at>
  • Date: Sun, 28 Sep 2008 07:22:41 -0400 (EDT)
  • Organization: University of Bergen
  • References: <gbmptv$ia6$>

AES wrote:
> Two lines from a recent post:
>> See this link:
> 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).

Use PageUp/PageDown

>    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.)

The doc pages can already be updated from the web.

> 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.

The idea of removing the documentation centre is simply outrageous.

Do you ever use Mathematica without an internet connection?

Do you ever try to understand the examples from the documentation centre 
by modifying and re-evaluating them?

Did you ever read the docs on dynamic interactivity and did you try out 
the examples?

Also, do you really use the web browser's supposedly superior find 
feature to search the online doc pages?  If you had tried that at least 
once, you would have discovered it long ago that: 1. the web browser 
cannot search in input/output cells because they are images in the 
online docs.  2. the web browser cannot search in unexpanded sections of 
the doc page.  Unexpanded sections aren't even loaded before you expand 
them, so saving the web page won't even save these sections!  You need 
some not-so-minimal JavasScript skills, too, to make your customized manual.

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