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Re: Mathematica 8 & reports / books

  • To: mathgroup at smc.vnet.net
  • Subject: [mg114993] Re: Mathematica 8 & reports / books
  • From: AES <siegman at stanford.edu>
  • Date: Tue, 28 Dec 2010 06:47:15 -0500 (EST)
  • References: <if1o2q$p54$1@smc.vnet.net> <201012250734.CAA13605@smc.vnet.net> <if70av$32i$1@smc.vnet.net>

In article <if70av$32i$1 at smc.vnet.net>,
 Murray Eisenberg <murray at math.umass.edu> wrote:

> However, "Mathematica Navigator" is not a good buy for Mathematica 8: it 
> was written for Mathematica 6 (with what would seem like last-minute
> add-ons to bring things up-to-date for Mathematica 7). And it explicitly 
> warns, "Because version 6 differs so much from earlier versions, this
> book cannot practically be used with older versions...."  That's from
> the 2009 Third Edition; is there a newer one?
> 
> Also, what the section "Acknowledgments" near the end of the Preface
> says about producing the book from Mathematica is minimal: each chapter
> was a separate notebook; the notebooks were joined by the Authortools
> package; and the index (and the HelpBrowser version of the book) were
> generated also using AuthorTools.
> 
> Moreover, so far as I can tell, the AuthorTools package no longer works
> with Mathematica 8. At least when I try to create a new project after
> specifying its name, target directory, and selected files in the target
> directory, I keep getting an error message (which is truncated in the
> error window that opens).

Murray, I think most everything you've said above strongly reinforces my 
continuing opinion that the basic concept of using Mathematica as _both_ 
(a) a tool for doing analysis, numerical computation, and creation of 
graphics (tasks at which it's great!) _and_ (b) the same tool for 
publishing re-purposable or publication-quality documents from these 
results, is a foolish and destructive endeavor.

You'll note that Heikki -- surely a Mathematica guru, if there ever was 
one -- didn't choose to produce his book _directly and completely from 
notebook form_, but chose to employ some secondary tools, and generally 
some "hand-processing" steps, from the the "calculate" stage to the 
"publish" stage -- and once you're going to make this break between the 
two stages, you might as well make it complete, and use separate and 
optimized tools in the two stages. 

There's also the instructive lesson that "so far as I can tell, the 
AuthorTools package no longer works with Mathematica 8".  That's not the 
only auxiliary Mathematica tool or utility that's ceased working between 
versions of Mathematica, right?  (and in several cases, with no formal 
announcement from Wolfram, right?)  (I have to ask these as questions, 
because I never trusted that these auxiliary tools would continue 
working in the long run, and so never invested -- i.e., lost or wasted 
-- any time in learning them.)

Suppose Mathematica focused its basic design -- its syntax, its notebook 
format, its user interface, its whole structure -- on the symbolic 
analysis, numerical computation, graphics creation, and Manipulation 
parts of its mission, which it does so well, and included directly in 
Mathematica only just enough added publication or results-displaying or 
formatting capabilities to make its results reasonably displayable on 
screen to its users?  

Notebooks could still be printed to PDF for class notes, handouts, 
rough-and ready reports or memos, using the already available 
print-to-PDF capabilities in most computers.  Results could be displayed 
to classes or seminars or other audiences just by displaying your laptop 
screen to whatever projector was at hand.  And an immense amount of 
formatting clutter and confusion and learning (and publishing!) 
difficulty could be removed and separated entirely from a still 
improving but more stable and learnable (and documentable!) Mathematica.

And then after this, instead of a (failed?) toolset like AuthorTools 
(failed in part because it had to be written in Mathematica?), Wolfram 
might provide a new and totally separate Author Tool that would convert 
any standard Mathematica notebook (as viewed on screen, or as a file) to 
a standard LaTex document.  This new Author Tool could be written not in 
Mathematica but in some other language suited to its task.  And, 
Mathematica users who wanted publication quality output could then 
themselves, or with editorial assistance, touch up the LaTeX source file 
produced by this new Author Tools, using a TeX application designed for 
just that task.

Finally, Heikki's book, even with its limitations, seems to be about the 
only independently authored book about Mathematica available on amazon 
that's reasonably good, comprehensive, and more or less up to date for 
M7.  Does that say something important about the real market penetration 
of Mathematica in the broad educational and "general user" worlds?   Or 
does it say that Mathematica's built-in documentation is so good that no 
supplemental books are wanted or needed?  I guess my view on this is 
pretty clear . . .


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