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Re: Exporting data into a file, OpenWrite

  • To: mathgroup at smc.vnet.net
  • Subject: [mg96747] Re: Exporting data into a file, OpenWrite
  • From: AES <siegman at stanford.edu>
  • Date: Mon, 23 Feb 2009 05:04:34 -0500 (EST)
  • Organization: Stanford University
  • References: <gnq6s2$87n$1@smc.vnet.net>

In article <gnq6s2$87n$1 at smc.vnet.net>,
 Bill Rowe <readnews at sbcglobal.net> wrote:

> 
> When you use Export, the file will be created in the current
> working directory. That is the directory that is returned by Directory[]
> 

Bill,

When you included this very sensible and helpful paragraph in the 
overall very helpful reply you gave to the OP on this thread, I suggest 
you also inadvertently touched on one of the, in my view, classic 
examples of Wolfram's inadequate approach to documentation for 
Mathematica.

Export[] is a command which can be viewed as a kind of "shipping label" 
or set of instructions for shipping data to somewhere, akin to the 
warehouse shipping labels one finds inside incoming amazon.com 
shipments, or the FedEx shipping labels I occasionally prepare online 
for outgoing shipments.

As such the Export[] command specifically spells out what's to be 
shipped; what name (i.e., what product identification) is to be put on 
the package; and, in detail, how it's to be wrapped and packaged (i.e., 
the format).

But after all this, the Export[] command itself says nothing -- gives no 
information at all -- about the equally crucial matter of _where_ this 
package is to be sent!

And worse, if you go to the Help message for Export[] (up through v6, at 
least), and expand this message out to the fullest, it also gives _no_ 
information about this.

If a slightly expanded version of your paragraph above had been included 
in the Export[] Help file, for example in the "More Information" 
section, it would have told the OP where his data would be sent to 
(which you'll note was actually the key question in his opening 
sentence). 

But more than this, this simple addition to the Export[] documentation 
could gently help educate novice Export[] users to the concept of a 
"directory" and of Directory[] type commands -- right at a time when 
they need this education, and are ready to absorb it.

Is this less than optimum result for the Export[] help command just one 
particularly unfortunate example, that leaps out from the page? -- or a 
classic illustration of a general weakness in Wolfram's approach to user 
documentation?  It's certainly the former -- my view is, it's also very 
much the latter.

   --AES


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