Re: Re: Mathematica 7.0.1.0 and some General Comments

*To*: mathgroup at smc.vnet.net*Subject*: [mg97316] Re: [mg97262] Re: Mathematica 7.0.1.0 and some General Comments*From*: George Woodrow III <georgevw3 at mac.com>*Date*: Tue, 10 Mar 2009 05:39:16 -0500 (EST)*References*: <goqphr$lt2$1@smc.vnet.net> <200903090607.BAA09472@smc.vnet.net>

Regarding: > "Types of elements typically supported include:" > > What does the word "typically" mean? Presumably it means that the > author > could not be bothered to obtain a definitive list - even as of some > particular version. To make matters worse, since the elements are > specified as strings, there is absolutely no way to discover the > elements that the author happened to forget (or, indeed the > corresponding functionality!). I complained to Theo Gray about this very topic when Mathematica 6 came out. There has been no movement as far as I can tell. As a programmer, I'd really like to know exactly what all the options are, and, if possible, have them available with a simple command. (Options[] does not provide a complete list.) I found that trolling the demonstrations for code written by Wolfram people often turns up interesting things. As for the electronic format: other than the above problem, I'm pretty happy, especially with the new stuff. I sent an e-mail to Wolfram suggesting one of their free seminars to cover just documentation, since a lot of things -- task specific screen-casts, for example -- are not easy to discover. I also see the need for a short introductory book, similar to Gray and Glynn's Beginner's guide, now hopelessly out of date. I started an unofficial update to V6 some time ago, but got bogged down. There is simply so much stuff that a guide is necessary, particularly for beginners. Wolfram seems to think that this is a third party opportunity, but I think that whoever wrote such a book would really need to have inside information. Let's hope that Wolfram follows the lead of Apple with their Snow Leopard for the next version: NO NEW Features, just optimization and fixes. george woodrow On Mar 9, 2009, at 2:07 AM, David Bailey wrote: > David Park wrote: > >> One other requirement to make a breakthrough is the necessity of >> anyone to >> be able to freely read an active and dynamic Mathematica notebook. >> It should >> be something like the model of the free Acrobat reader. PlayerPro >> would do >> the job but it is too expensive. I know there are problems here. I >> wouldn't >> care if the reader couldn't print or save the notebook. Perhaps >> dynamic >> InputFields could be limited in the total number of typed >> characters for the >> notebook. Anyway, if it is so easy to hack PlayerPro in a usable >> way, why >> don't some people just pay the $200 and do it? A free general >> Mathematica >> reader would do more to smash the old technology and advertise the >> power of >> Mathematica notebooks than anything else I can think of. >> > > Just to concentrate on one of your issues - that of documentation, I > am > sure that the people at WRI who decided to move to paperless > documentation used arguments such as: > > 1) We can redirect all the effort that went into a finished book into > providing more and better information. > > 2) Virtual documentation is so much better because it can be updated > so > easily. > > In reality, what has happened is a retreat from quality > documentation in > the belief that whatever is wrong can always be fixed at the next > pass. > Thus for example, we find the following phrase in the help for Import: > > "Types of elements typically supported include:" > > What does the word "typically" mean? Presumably it means that the > author > could not be bothered to obtain a definitive list - even as of some > particular version. To make matters worse, since the elements are > specified as strings, there is absolutely no way to discover the > elements that the author happened to forget (or, indeed the > corresponding functionality!). > > The documentation of new or enhanced features is littered with > phraseology of this sort. Compare, for example, the documentation of > 'Import' with an old favourite like 'Map'. > > Furthermore, I don't think people learn a new package well by just > invoking the help system. The help system is more suitable for people > with at least some experience, who know what they want to look up. > > I learned Mathematica from the old book. People laughed at it > because of > its size, but it gave me a clear idea as to what was important, and > what > to read first - and of the overall scope of the software. As an > example, > I doubt if any newish Mathematica users think they need a clear > understanding of the frontend/kernel architechture - so they never > read > about this, and suffer from a variety of misconceptions as a result. A > book spoon-feeds the information in roughly the right order. > > David Bailey > http://www.dbaileyconsultancy.co.uk > >

**References**:**Re: Mathematica 7.0.1.0 and some General Comments***From:*David Bailey <dave@removedbailey.co.uk>