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Re: CDF Player vs. Mathematica browser plug-in

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  • Subject: [mg117206] Re: CDF Player vs. Mathematica browser plug-in
  • From: John Fultz <jfultz at>
  • Date: Fri, 11 Mar 2011 04:35:06 -0500 (EST)

On Thu, 10 Mar 2011 16:02:01 -0500 (EST), Murray Eisenberg wrote:
> What exactly is the relationship between the new CDF Player, on the one
> hand, and the Mathematica browser plug-in, on the other hand.

You do not need the CDF Player if you have Mathematica installed.  In fact, the
browser plugin will always prefer to execute content in Mathematica instead of
CDF Player if both are installed (except, perhaps, in cases of wildly disparate
versions of the two).

> So far as I can tell, if you have a full Mathematica 8 installed along
> with the Mathematica browser plug-in, then you can open any .nb directly
> in the browser (and it will start the Kernel automatically). And, if
> that notebook has a Manipulate, you can evaluate it in place within the
> browser and get the same interactivity you would had you been working
> directly in the Mathematica Front end.
> Suppose now I install CDF Player. Do documents open in that ONLY within
> a browser? Or does CDF Player also have some separate user interface?

CDF Player does have a separate user interface which you could use.  Installing
it alongside Mathematica would allow you to use both, but the browser plugin
would only use Mathematica.

> And once CDF Player is installed, if I open a .cdf file in the browser,
> does CDF Player preempt my installed Mathematica itself to evaluate the
> input in that file? Or is there some way to choose whether to open in
> the browser using the full Kernel via the Mathematica plug-in, on the
> one hand, or just the CDF Player, on the other hand?

There are developer hooks to allow you to select which installation the browser
plugin chooses, but the default behavior is to always go for the one that will
give you more functionality.  Mathematica, of course, gives you more
functionality than CDF Player.  I'm reluctant to publicize the developer hooks
because, if you use them, then forget about them, you could cause serious
problems down the road with browser plugin functionality.

> Finally, will CDF Player at all open a .nb?  Or just a .cdf?

Yes, it will open a .nb file.  But if that .nb file contains Dynamic content,
then CDF Player will not play that content.  Whereas it will play Dynamic
content in CDF files, with certain limitations.


John Fultz
jfultz at
User Interface Group
Wolfram Research, Inc.

> P.S. The CDF MIME type makes perfect sense: Wolfram Wolfram Computable
> Document Format. However, it's an unfortunate choice of term if you
> search for it in the Documentation Center, since of course the first
> thing you get in the search result is CDF, as in "cumulative
> distribution function."  I guess with only three symbols to use for the
> MIME type and so many combinations already staked out, one doesn't have
> so many choices for a new type designation.

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