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Re: Fonts, Formats, and examples as learning tools

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  • Subject: [mg113658] Re: Fonts, Formats, and examples as learning tools
  • From: Murray Eisenberg <murray at>
  • Date: Sat, 6 Nov 2010 05:00:51 -0500 (EST)

I believe one of the factors involved here is that TableForm is an older 
function, and that Row and Column (and, more generally, Grid) appeared 
only in more recent Mathematica versions -- although in some form they 
clearly had to be working behind the scenes before.

On 11/5/2010 6:11 AM, AES wrote:
> In article<iatt31$egu$1 at>,
>   Murray Eisenberg<murray at>  wrote:
>> I tried it and got exactly what I expected, including having the input
>> spit back at me when I used RowForm (since there is no such built-in
>> Mathematica function).
> Consistency -- for the reasons stated.
> By the way, Column appears to yield the same default vertical spacing
> between elements as does TableForm.  So, I'd assume Row also yields the
> same default horizontal spacing between elements as does TableForm?
> I can appreciate that some applications might routinely want zero
> horizontal spacing in a Row; but then others might not.  In fact, many
> might expect that Row[{a,b,c,d}] and Row[{ab,cd}] ought to come out
> looking different, at least in the default case.  Anyone who wants to
> can of course then easily reduce this spacing to zero.
> Given the natural similarities between rows, columns, and tables in
> everyday life, might it have been sensible to build Mathematica using a
> basic structure in which Row, Column, and Table all had consistent
> iterators, and RowForm, ColumnForm and TableForm all were formats or
> "wrappers"?
> Maybe there are subtleties that would make this difficult -- but maybe
> not.
>> What were _you_ expecting, and why?
>> On 11/3/2010 3:57 AM, AES wrote:
>>> 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.]

Murray Eisenberg                     murray at
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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