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Re: How to write a "proper" math document

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  • Subject: [mg120160] Re: How to write a "proper" math document
  • From: Richard Fateman <fateman at>
  • Date: Sun, 10 Jul 2011 05:02:35 -0400 (EDT)
  • References: <> <iv9eu9$dg4$>

On 7/9/2011 4:44 AM, Murray Eisenberg wrote:
> David pointed out that if you want interactive content in a .cdf, you
> have to do so by means of Manipulate. But there are situations where
> Manipulate is much too restrictive and you want other Dynamic content,
> including DynamicModule.
> Also, to promote the .cdf format and CDF Player and plug-in, surely a
> more attention-getting name than "CDF" or "Computable Document Format"
> is desirable? Yes, "CDF" has a nice analogy to "PDF", but so what. (And
> just wait for Adobe to catch on and sue over the use of "DF"!)

I think that there is very little likelihood of the world standardizing 
on CDF for digital distribution of mathematical documents.  There IS a 
standard, and it is different. The www has evolved document 
representation to include math, and MathML is how.  Numerous programs, 
including Mathematica, can use MathML.  Is this a good standard?  Eh, 
probably not the simplest way of representing a Mathematica notebook.

However, one can, via "save-as", save a Mathematica notebook as XML+MathML.

There is another standard, "OpenMath" which is more ambitious.

I have been critical of both of these, in part because they are 
incredibly verbose.  But no one has to look at the internals.

One possibility is that by means of a click a browser displaying MathML 
might stuff the MathML into a computer algebra system.  This is
the kind of thing I was hoping the NIST would consider in its digital
library.  I see no reason that Mathematica cannot be linked to MathML
in a web document, if the browser is running in a Mathematica-ready 
computer system.

If it is not already programmed as the inverse of "save-as" XML, I 
imagine it would take only a few lines of code (probably in jscript) to 
suck up (suitable) XML documents into Mathematica.   Actually, I
glanced at the output XML, from Mathematica and it is not really 
suitable as Mathematica input, (in version 7 anyway).

But it could be made to work, in my opinion.

It might even make documents that could be read on telephones.


> On 7/8/11 4:54 AM, John Fultz wrote:
>> David,
>> I wanted to respond to one particular point you made in your recent post:
>> On Thu, 7 Jul 2011 07:28:02 -0400 (EDT), David Park wrote:
>>> One path is to produce a free easily obtainable Mathematica Reader on the
>>> model of the Adobe Acrobat Reader. The reader could read the document,
>>> operate the controls (with maybe some minor restrictions) but not much
>>> else. The idea is that once users could publish in Mathematica they would
>>> write more literate documents. More people would see them and decide they
>>> really wanted to do the same (or use the generated knowledge) and so
>>> would buy regular Mathematica themselves. I despair that WRI will ever
>>> make this approach work. (A free Mathematica PlayerPro would be close but
>>> they don't want to do that.) WRI puts too many restrictions and caveats
>>> in their approaches such that it will never convince people that it will
>>> be a general method of publication. For example, it looks as if all
>>> dynamics must be via the Manipulate statement and one cannot write custom
>>> dynamics. I was once hopeful, but now have doubts that this approach will
>>> ever work.
>> You've made this criticism before, and the criticism was much more valid then
>> than now.  It's not clear to me from what you wrote above whether you know or
>> appreciate how much things have changed.  One of your previous criticisms has
>> long been that Mathematica could not simply create and maintain a native
>> document which would be readable and executable by Player.  I.e., because Player
>> could "play" .nb files, and Mathematica could not create .nbp files (without
>> submission to a website, and all that this entails).  My understanding is that
>> this a large part of why you believed Player Pro to be the superior
>> solution...because Player Pro can play .nb files.
>> But, in version 8, the situation has changed significantly.  Mathematica can now
>> directly create and maintain CDF (or sometimes called "FreeCDF") files.  Player
>> can play CDF files.  CDF, as they might say, is the new NBP.  There remain, of
>> course, some restrictions as to what can be accomplished in the Player.  The
>> broadest category of items is that CDF files created directly by Mathematica
>> cannot store new content to disk.  They can't use Export[], save files, etc. (*)
>> But they do support much of what you've suggested before, and much more than
>> Mathematica 7 did.
>> That you may not be aware of this isn't your fault.  Wolfram hasn't said much
>> about it yet because we've been in the process of making sure that we can launch
>> the right message about CDF in a strong way.  There will be a lot more to be
>> said about CDF soon...I expect that before long plenty will be said on the
>> Wolfram website and elsewhere describing it in much more detail.  But the
>> functionality is already there, in version 8, and I encourage you to play with
>> it.
>> Sincerely,
>> John Fultz
>> jfultz at
>> User Interface Group
>> Wolfram Research, Inc.
>> (*) It is possible, incidentally, to create CDF files with the capacity to,
>> while running in Player, create content using Export[], saving, etc.  But that
>> functionality can't be unlocked directly from within Mathematica, and more will
>> be said about that later, as well.

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