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