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Re: Workbench - Recommendation?

  • To: mathgroup at smc.vnet.net
  • Subject: [mg119424] Re: Workbench - Recommendation?
  • From: Albert Retey <awnl at gmx-topmail.de>
  • Date: Thu, 2 Jun 2011 19:11:38 -0400 (EDT)
  • References: <is7rcs$ren$1@smc.vnet.net>

Hi,

> I've begun using Mathematica and have invested quite a few hours
> learning to program and getting into the mindset. I'm wondering
> whether Workbench is worth the investment.

I think that depends a lot on your needs and preferences. In general I 
would guess that you will be happy using workbench if

a) your are used to work with eclipse (or another Integrated Development 
Environment) and do like the integration of various functionalities in 
one tool.

b) you develop Mathematica packages for a wider audience or work on 
larger software projects where Mathematica is only part of a larger 
system involving also e.g. code in Java, database systems or 
web-applications.

The workbench is basically a Mathematica language extension to eclipse, 
which is interesting if you have need for tools like version control 
systems, bug- and task-trackers etc. which often can be integrated with 
various plugins. Concerning Mathematica the workbench has things like a 
Unit-Test environment, a debugger, a profiler and tools that help you 
create packages and documentation to be integrated in the Mathematica 
"Documentation Center". AFAIK except for the profiler everything can 
also be done from within Mathematica or with extra tools, so the main 
benefit is that you have everything nicely integrated in one tool and 
some things are already conveniently automated within the workbench.

> I do plan on using
> Mathematica during the course of my studies in Communications
> Engineering over the next two year.

My personal recommendation for that scenario would be to stick with the 
normal FrontEnd interface. I don't see too much benefit from using the 
workbench if you use Mathematica as an accompanying tool for your 
studies _and_ you will find that Mathematica without the workbench has 
plenty possibilities to still your learning hunger :-). I also think 
that the Workbench was never meant to be a "better" or "more powerful" 
user interface to Mathematica but rather is an alternative to people 
with needs that differ from the most common uses of Mathematica, for 
which the normal FrontEnd is optimized. Learning and teaching is for 
sure a very common use case for Mathematica and the normal FrontEnd 
serves it very well.

> I would appreciate hearing
> feedback, recommendations and/or criticism and in getting a feeling
> for how widely used workbench actually is amongst Mathematica users.

My feeling is that workbench is not used very widely, but you will find 
some users who really appreciate what it provides (like me). It might 
have to do with the fact that Mathematica is not (yet?) noticed or 
accepted as a platform fit for serious software projects in a larger 
public, although Wolfram Alpha proofs it can very well be used as that. 
I guess it is used a lot by some (many? all?) WRI developers, but I 
don't know whether that counts :-).

just my 2 cents,

albert




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