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Re: Mathematica 8 & reports / books

  • To: mathgroup at smc.vnet.net
  • Subject: [mg115055] Re: Mathematica 8 & reports / books
  • From: Murray Eisenberg <murray at math.umass.edu>
  • Date: Wed, 29 Dec 2010 06:00:10 -0500 (EST)

I made no attempt at sweeping conclusions whose purpose would be to 
denigrate Mathematica or to make a claim that its design is 
fundamentally flawed, or any such thing.  I regard such posts to this 
list as distracting and time-wasting for nearly all its readers and 
contributors, whose main interest is getting help, seeing new ways of 
doing things, etc.

All I said was that for the current Mathematica version:

(1) "Mathematica Navigator" is not a good fit. (What I should have added 
is that for the O.P., it could be useful, as he was using version 5.2, I 
believe.)

(2) AuthorTools does not work now, at least for me.

In particular, I did not make, nor did I even consider here, any general 
claim about the suitability of Mathematica for publication. Indeed, I've 
found Mathematica a superb tool for "publication" in a number of 
situations, from instructional materials for classes to a paper 
illustrating certain Mathematica uses in complex analysis.


On 12/28/2010 6:47 AM, AES wrote:
> 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 . . .
>

-- 
Murray Eisenberg                     murray at math.umass.edu
Mathematics & Statistics Dept.
Lederle Graduate Research Tower      phone 413 549-1020 (H)
University of Massachusetts                413 545-2859 (W)
710 North Pleasant Street            fax   413 545-1801
Amherst, MA 01003-9305


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