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Re: Sample Workbooks - Suggested sources to get a newbie going?

A subject that greatly interests me. Many Mathematica users are simply
interested in using Mathematica as a kind of super graphical calculator to
obtain some numbers and a plot, or perhaps a dynamic Manipulate output;
others see it as a programming language in which they write extended code
for some problems and perhaps again obtain some numbers and plots.

I see Mathematica more as a platform for creating a longer term knowledge
base and capability in some technical area. Doing it correctly produces
material that will have long term value for yourself and might well be very
useful to other people. If you spend a lot of time at it, it's the fruit of
your labor. Getting off on the right foot will help you to more quickly
produce useful material.

I'm not going to go into great detail in everything because this will be
long enough as it is.

Suppose you have a major field of interest, say BeamEngineering. There is a
single good place to put your work. Evaluate $UseBaseDirectory (or possibly
$BaseDirectory) in Mathematica. This will give you the location of your
private Mathematica folders. There you will find a folder called
Applications. In the Applications folder create a BeamEngineering folder.
This is THE place to put all your work on that subject. You can have a
folder structure inside of BeamEngineering. You might have folders for
developmental notebooks and folders for relatively finished notebooks. You
might include files other than Mathematica notebooks. As you accumulate
useful routines that you may have developed along the way, you can add
package files to the BeamEngineering folder (i.e., Application). At some
point you might develop style sheets and palettes that go with your
Application. You simply add a FrontEnd/StyleSheets and Palettes folders and
put them there.  You might add a Kernel/init.m file to contain
initialization statements when the Application is loaded. Even later you
might use Workbench to add Mathematica style Documentation to the

The reason this is a good place for your work is: 1) It is all together and
not scattered all over your computer; 2) It is outside the WRI folders and
not lost or hidden when you update Mathematica; 3) Mathematica automatically
looks at that location for packages, documentation, style sheets and
palettes. It just works smoothly. If you want to transmit your Application
to someone else you can zip it (and maybe delete certain folders) and they
just unzip into their private Mathematica/Applications folder and it will
work right off. (It is shocking that many users fall into convoluted and
difficult to use schemes when they don't follow this standard form.)

My paradigm for a Mathematica notebook is a piece of paper on which I'm
trying to write a literate technical document. I use a Title and Sectional
groupings. I use Text cells to explain the material, just as one would in a
technical paper. I generally have a Routines section (Package Purgatory)
near the top where I place routines that have been developed but not yet
placed in a package. I have a style sheet that looks more like a paper.
(Section heads and Output cells are unadorned. Text font size and Output
font size are the same. The range of font sizes is less than WRI uses. There
are openers on the various section headings but not Input/Output groupings.)

If I find a need for a new routine I will develop it in a main Section of
the notebook, often with a number of tries, and then transfer it to the
Routines section where I will make it an initialization cell. I will always
write a usage message for the routine, SyntaxInformation, and Attributes and
Options definitions when appropriate. The routine will be ready to transfer
to a package after a bit of testing and usage.

As for learning Mathematica, I wouldn't buy too many books. They tend to be
out of date and cannot illustrate dynamics very well. Also, with books, one
just tends to copy other peoples` special interest code. WRI supplies plenty
of documentation and tutorials that you can work with. Study them,
especially the functional programming commands. Then take SIMPLE
non-Mathematica books or material in your field and try to "fly solo" with
Mathematica. This is much better learning.

David Park
djmpark at 

From: d_j_fennell at [mailto:d_j_fennell at] 


I'm a brand new Mathematica user.  I'm trying to get up to speed in
Mathematica to set up workbooks for engineering problems.  I've been using
pad and paper to calculate beam stresses and deflections and to solve a
variety of other engineering calcs for many years.  Time to update my

Anyhow, I'm impressed with Mathematica's documentation.  That said, I wish I
could locate some fully worked out sample problems/workbooks.  Mathematica
has a huge library of awesome demostration projects, but it appears that the
meat and potoes code of these demonstrations is not provided.  It seems as
if the only code available to view is in the "Maniupulate" section of the
demonstration workbooks.  I haven't downloaded a demonstration workbook yet
that shows any code in the "Initialization" section.  The code that I can
see tends to be specific to the cool user front-end.  Right now, I'm trying
to pick up best practices for more mundane coding process.  I suspect the
code that I really want to be looking at right now is usually located in the
Initialization area of the demos, which seem to be mostly blank.  Am I
looking in the wrong place?  Is all the the code in every demo available to
be seen or is much of the underlying "meat and potaties" work of the demo
files typically remove  d/hidden by the authors or Wolfram?

I'd like to better understand how power users document their work, choose
symbol names, format their workbooks, and choose amongst the various ways of
getting things done.  Looking at power users' VBA code for excel proved
extremely helpful when I was trying to pick up some wherewithall in that
area.  I suspect that my ability to use Mathematica effectively will be
greatly enhanced by following a similar process reviewing Mathematica code.
(I have ordered some texts, but still waiting on delivery.)

In the meantime, if anybody could point me towards a source of sample
workbooks with all code available for view - I would much appreciate the
help.  Workbooks related to mechanical engineering problems would be awesome
- but any mathematical problem solved with Mathematica would prove helpful
to meat this point. 


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