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Fonts, Formats, and examples as learning tools

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  • Subject: [mg113586] Fonts, Formats, and examples as learning tools
  • From: AES <siegman at>
  • Date: Wed, 3 Nov 2010 02:57:01 -0500 (EST)
  • References: <iaonfn$jeg$>

In response to a query about Fonts and Formats, Bob Hanlon 
<hanlonr at>  suggests the example:

> Style["This is a test of various fonts 0123456789",
>     FontFamily -> #, 18] & /@
>   {"American Typewriter", "Arial",
>    "Papyrus", "Playbill", "Webdings",
>    "Zapf Dingbats"} // Column

I was intrigued by the "// Column" suffix -- a usage I had not 
previously encountered.

And, it took my mind back to a couple of recent threads where posters 
enthused over 'examples' as a desirable form of documentation, and as a 
good way of learning the intricacies of Mathematica.  

My (unposted) reaction at that time had been that examples can give you 
good bits of code, which you can copy and use immediately; but they can 
also be a *bad* (or at best misleading) way of learning Mathematica, 
because of the human tendency to think that if some particular coding 
gimmick works in one example, it's likely to work in other apparently 
similar or parallel situations -- in other words, the natural human 
tendency to generalize.

The above example provides a beautiful example of this.  Try copying it 
and executing it six consecutive times, replacing the word 'Column" 
successively by

   Row, RowForm, Column, ColumnForm, Table, TableForm

[and, as always, make your own prediction *in advance* as to what's 
going to happen in each case.]

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