Re: New Version 3 Presentations

*To*: mathgroup at smc.vnet.net*Subject*: [mg112571] Re: New Version 3 Presentations*From*: "David Park" <djmpark at comcast.net>*Date*: Mon, 20 Sep 2010 05:44:08 -0400 (EDT)

The OptionsFinder was contributed by Thomas M=FCnch and Syd Geraghty. It's pretty neat. (You should also be able to find an earlier copy if you search MathGroup.) I made a few small changes, such as extending it from System functions to functions in any currently loaded package. I put it on the PresentationsPalette in a rather prominent place and that caused Murray to rediscover it. The various standard Mathematica "Assistant" palettes were designed by Eric Schutz of Walla Walla Community College. http://math.wwcc.edu/eric/html/contact.html It shows that WRI is not totally adverse to picking up good ideas from "outsiders". I tried to copy Eric's approach with the PresentationsPalette. The main difference is that I don't have direct paste buttons, but have grouped everything in ActionMenus. This gives a quick overview for the routines in the package. Another nice feature is the ability to paste alternative forms of a command, for example the basic command or a form with optional arguments included. At first I was dubious about the "Assistant" palettes and I notice that there is still an opinion that students might start with them but should then get weaned away. But my doubts have been erased and I see nothing wrong with regularly using these kind of palettes if they are done right - and Eric's are done right. WRI has set up a working interface paradigm for general Mathematica usage. I think it is pretty good and it is worthwhile adhering to it because that is what users will expect. It goes like this: 1) A Mathematica notebook as the working document. (Usually just one notebook at a time.) 2) The Documentation Center as the source of all information about Mathematica and about any application. 3) A palette to help edit the notebook, usually by pasting available commands. The palette is not an interface (the notebook is), it is an editing tool. Proliferation of palettes is something to guard against. A semi-permanent palette should strive for maximum functionality in the minimum space (with a judicious use of Openers, Tabs and ActionMenus). Temporary palettes should be non-savable, easy to bring up and get rid of, and not on the palettes menu. Screen space is expensive. In this regard it would be nice if there was a way to narrow the default width of the Documentation Center window. And it would be super nice if the DC had tabs, with each tab containing a list of pages - just like my browser. David Park djmpark at comcast.net http://home.comcast.net/~djmpark/ From: Murray Eisenberg [mailto:murray at math.umass.edu] The "old stuff" in Presentations is still good, too! For example, if you want to do even just draw graphics in the plane, it's often more natural to describe geometric objects by means of complex numbers instead of by length-2 lists of reals. The complex graphics functions of Presentations support that. About the new stuff: The new PresentationsPalette, which among other things pastes function templates in the same sort of way that the Mathematica Classroom Assistant does, is very useful to beginners. At least my complex analysis beginners are finding it so. That palette includes a bonus: a button "OptionsFinder" that pops up a separate little palette. Now when you have an function expression in your notebook and you want to know what options are available for it, you just click the button on the OptionsFinder palette to get a pop-up palette showing all the options and their defaults. This is quicker than evaluating an Options[funcname] expression in your notebook. And what's even better, if you put the cursor in your notebook where an option should go for the function in question, the button on the pop-up palette for an option opt inserts into your notebook an expression of the form opt -> defaultValue. That OptionsFinder works not only for Presentations functions, but for built-in Mathematica functions as well. (I used to be skeptical about the utility of palettes; I thought they might just delay learning the actual things to type. But Helen Read's postings to this group about how her students eased into typing out Mathematica expressions by beginning with the ClassroomAssistant palette have convinced me otherwise. And for a function in Presentations that's new or insufficiently familiar to me, I often find the quickest way to get started learning it is to insert a template from the palette.) -- 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