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Re: Re-virginating Manipulates?

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  • Subject: [mg114483] Re: Re-virginating Manipulates?
  • From: Daniel Lichtblau <danl at>
  • Date: Sun, 5 Dec 2010 21:54:07 -0500 (EST)

----- Original Message -----
> From: "AES" <siegman at>
> To: mathgroup at
> Sent: Friday, December 3, 2010 4:20:41 AM
> Subject: [mg114398] Re: Re-virginating Manipulates?
> In article <id2emh$d7s$1 at>,
> "Ingolf Dahl" <ingolf.dahl at> wrote:
> > This interaction between different Manipulate cells can be a pest,
> > especially in the authoring notebook for a new demonstration, where
> > you
> > should have the same Manipulate cell in several variants, as
> > thumbnail and
> > as snapshots. If you manipulate one of them, the other cells might
> > interact,
> > especially if some variables are defined in the Initialization
> > option. I
> > denote this problem "the Isolation Problem". The Manipulate command
> > puts all
> > controls inside a DynamicModuleBox, (hopefully) isolating them from
> > interaction with other cells. However, variables defined by the
> > Initialization option are defined outside the DynamicModule, and
> > they might
> > interfere with outside code and other Manipulate cells, if the same
> > variable
> > names are reused. According to my current understanding, there are
> > three
> > measures you could take: some combination of them could be
> > effective.
> > Please correct me if I am wrong, I would very much appreciate that.
> I suggest that there's a lot of wisdom in the above paragraph; and
> further suggest that this "Isolation Problem", while serious and
> destructive enough by itself, is just one example of a larger
> "Excessive
> and Unsustainable Complexity Problem" that Mathematica suffers from.

That's a fairly vague statement. Not new, but I don't see it losing much of its unspecificity with repetition.

> If I prepare a presentation as a PDF, Keynote, or PowerPoint document,
> with links from individual slides to other documents, graphics,
> movies,
> or animations in external files, I can edit, update, or totally
> replace
> any of these linked components (so long as I keep them under the same
> file names), and know for absolute certain that there will be no
> "gotcha" interferences between any of these components.

These are all signs of a healthy work flow.

> [And as an aside, I can edit, update or re-generate any of those
> external components using the bestor easiest tool for that purpose --
> and buy new and better tools for those individual tasks, as they come
> along -- thus gaining all the joys and economic and usability virtues
> and efficiencies of software modularity.]

These are further signs of a healthy work flow.

> [Beyond that, I can -- and routinely do -- maintain the large
> collection
> of individual slides used in these presentations as individual
> free-standing files; edit and update them also as needed and with the
> best tools for each task; keep them cataloged in topical catalogs in
> an
> excellent file catalog app (happens to be iView MediaPro in my case);
> and then easily and rapidly reassemble and repurpose them into
> different
> presentations and documents for different audiences and different
> occasions -- >>> all the while keeping all the external component
> links
> from each of them active and fully independent <<<.]

Still sounding quite solid.

> Trying to do the analog of this in Mathematica -- enormously powerful
> as
> it is -- would be a nightmare. Mathematica's attempt to create and
> manage the "presentation" levels, the "typesetting and typography"
> levels, the "symbolic analysis" levels, the "numerical calculation
> levels" and the "graphics and animation" levels" involved in all these
> slides and external components, all in one app and under one user
> interface, is and always been a monomaniacal fantasy.

This last is out of line. We have, as a company, consistently tried to put solid technology into the hands of our users. Calling this monomaniacal is an insult to some really good work (and the people behind it) that has gone on for a number of years. Sure, there's been some bad work in there, and some real missteps. Some indeed has happened in areas you like to bash on, e.g documentation. There have also been consistent attempts to improve that which can be made workable and/or better.

As for the specific areas you mention, it is certainly true that effort has been put into all of them. It is also true that the level of success has varied, and in some areas we are probably relatively weaker than we have a right to be (though of the ones you mention, I'd say only one or two at most are anything below state of the art).

I will also mention some of us have a very different work flow from yourself, and manage to keep a considerable amount of material e.g. presentations and electronic papers, in Mathematica. That is to say, while the tools you use work well, I think the ones I use also have their place. I'll also mention an area you omitted, the development of an IDE. That too has taken considerable effort and has had, I think, commensurate success.

> Individual Manipulates are beyond question a wonderful addition to the
> array of "graphics, movies, animations" and other external
> presentation
> components mentioned above. Wolfram deserve great credit for
> innovating
> them, and I intend to learn how to create and use them. But:
> 1) I have no intention of even attempting to understand the immensely
> complex Dynamic underpinnings that control Manipulates. (Who knows
> what
> ever deeper troubles, complexities, and frustrations that will then
> lead
> me into?!?)

Fair enough. The main point of Manipulate was to shield relative novices from the sort of detail in Dynamic functionality. By "relative novices" I refer to us (as in you and me).

> So, I just want to know how to totally isolate them from each other.
> 2) I've presented the kind of presentations listed above in a large
> variety of classrooms, industrial and academic conference rooms,
> conference centers, hotel ballrooms, etc, domestic and overseas, over
> the years.
> When I do this, I generally tote along my Mac laptop and suitable VGA
> adaptor cables in case I need to project from it -- but I can almost
> always just hand over a flash drive or memory stick or SD card to my
> host or the AV guy; and the laptop or computer already installed in
> the
> room will have Adobe Reader, PowerPoint, and some usable variety of
> QuickTime, WMV, or other graphics software, ready to go, and
> everything
> will go fine.
> Does Wolfram really think that every such facility is going to have
> Mathematica (or even Mathematica Player) installed in every one of
> their
> presentation rooms, any time in the foreseeable future? I don't think
> so (and frankly hope not).
> Rant mode off . . .\

First I will say that I also make PDF copies of my Mathematica slides, and for this very reason. So far I only had to resort to them once, when my laptop had a disk failure at a workshop. Someone actually did download and install Mathematica Player, whereupon we learned it would not toggle between display modes (I had left my slide show in Working rather than Slideshow mode; I do not know if this Player deficiency has since been addressed).

Clearly Power Point and other common formats make sense to retain, and for the reasons you give. But that does not mean Mathematica slide shows are useless, and indeed one can do quite a bit with them that cannot readily be done in other formats. Of course the reverse is true as well. That's what makes for a horse race. And better technology.

Daniel Lichtblau
Wolfram Research

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