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Re: New Version 3 Presentations

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  • Subject: [mg112571] Re: New Version 3 Presentations
  • From: "David Park" <djmpark at>
  • 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.

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 

From: Murray Eisenberg [mailto:murray at]

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
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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