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Re: Work on Basic Mathematica Stephen!

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  • Subject: [mg130774] Re: Work on Basic Mathematica Stephen!
  • From: R Martinez < at>
  • Date: Mon, 13 May 2013 03:49:43 -0400 (EDT)
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Count me as one who has been using Mathematica since Version 1, and who uses Mathematica for serious Mathematics and for teaching.  Mathematica enables me to do things expeditiously that would take a tremendous amount of effort to do otherwise.  So I love Mathematica. I wish I'd had it when I was in college.

Having said that, I agree with many of David Park's comments, especially about the Front End and stability.  I would like to see Wolfram Research pay attention to David's constructive criticisms.

Adding my bit to David's comments about Front End stability, I'm one who complained about the new default notebook style that surfaced in Mathematica 9.  The fonts and text color used in the new default style are ugly.  Moreover, opening an old Mathematica 8 default notebook in Mathematica 9 changed all the fonts and colors to the new undesirable ones.  I complained to Wolfram (apparently I was not alone) and a workaround was found by including the Mathematica 8 version notebook as a style that one has to select (as opposed to the default style). So Wolfram was responsive, but the lack of foresight remains: Why not reverse roles and include the new default notebook style as an option and keep the old one as default?  This would address one aspect of stability that David eloquently describes.

So yes, Wolfram, please pay attention to Mathematica and the effect changes on users, particularly the stability issue.  Change is good, but it has to be done well.

Raul Martinez

On May 12, 2013, at 12:28 AM, djmpark <djmpark at> wrote:

> (I've renamed this and started a new thread because my reply is not exactly
> to the question.)
> Oh, what a wonderful Wolfram blog! Earlier Stephen hinted at Mathematica as
> an iPhone app. Now it's data mining Facebook data (Gee I wonder if
> Zuckerberg has thought of that? He might be able to develop a great business
> model.) Can Twitter be far behind? There are many significant mathematical
> equations that will fit into 64 characters - or whatever the limit is.
> Ramanujan would probably have done well on Twitter. And women are more
> interested in personal relationships and men are more interested in sports?
> Who would have thought? The average person on Facebook has 342 friends! Well
> there are friends and there are friends. Montaigne wrote that his friendship
> with Etienne de La BoE9tie was such that "So many coincidences are needed to
> build [it up] that it is a lot if fortune can do it once in three
> centuries." One might say, ephemera in ephemera out.
> For the dwindling few of us who still have desktop computers and large
> screens, or maybe two large screens, who are interested in learning or doing
> some extended mathematics, and the even fewer who would like to write
> literate Mathematica notebooks as technical documents, I wonder if Stephen
> could find some time to attend to basic Mathematica, fixing its problems and
> fulfilling its vision?
> Mathematica lacks stability. Things that worked fine in one version don't
> work in the next. Especially troubling to me is the basic user interface.
> This got much worse in Version 9 with outright bugs that are in your face
> all the time. For example: often if I click in an existing Input cell and do
> a line return the Messages window opens with a contact WRI if this happens
> message. Or if one clicks after a word in a Text like cell and uses Ctrl+K
> for spell checking the message window again opens with a similar message. I
> like to use spell check a lot so this is especially annoying to me. I don't
> see why WRI couldn't have fixed these problems by now. (Or introduced an
> actually useful feature to spell check a selection such as a Text cell or a
> Section.)
> The Version 9 command completion feature, which used to be great, no longer
> works well. I have turned off the auto completion feature but what is left
> still does not work as well as the Version 8 behavior.  For example, if one
> types:
> Carm
> and then uses Ctrl+K to complete the command, there is only one choice,
> CarmichaelLambda. In Mathematica 8 the symbol would be automatically completed and the cursor would be left at the end of the word. But now it brings up a menu,
> even though there is only one choice, and one must click the menu. But you
> are not finished yet! No there is another menu (somewhat displaced so you
> may miss it), which is the equivalent of Ctrl+Shift+K and which we could
> have done if we wanted, so one must by-pass that by clicking at the end of
> CarmichaelLambda to get back to the normal typing entry. That's two extra
> clicks added. You might say that's not much, but when it's at the basic
> entry point for material in a notebook it is a lot.
> One has to wonder how many parsers there are in Mathematica for kernel,
> front end, packages, workbench and how their behavior shifts around between
> versions? Can one copy and paste an expression without its underlying
> representation changing? I suspect this may be a nagging underlying source
> of instability.
> I realize and appreciate that WRI continues to add new capabilities to
> Mathematica and this inevitably results in learning and stability problems.
> There could be better design efforts on these things and more professional
> testing so the designs would stick and work well.  Progress might be slower
> but it would be surer.
> Doing mathematics is not social media. It's not done that well on an iPad.
> And iPhone, iPad technology is not necessarily appropriate for Mathematica.
> People do not want to scroll two 25" screens with their hands. Just ask
> Microsoft.
> Mathematics and Mathematica are intrinsically difficult enough as it is.
> That makes it all the more important that WRI present users with a stable,
> robust, easy to use basic interface. WRI had not done the best job they
> could at this and not what one would expect for a relatively expensive
> product.
> David Park
> djmpark at
> From: r.b.nachbar at [mailto:r.b.nachbar at]
> I'm interested in making word cloud graphics, as demonstrated in the recent
> Wolfram Blog post
> near
> the end of the post). Does anyone have a function that will do this?
> Thanks,
> Bob

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