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Re: Work on Basic Mathematica Stephen!

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  • Subject: [mg130787] Re: Work on Basic Mathematica Stephen!
  • From: Alexei Boulbitch <Alexei.Boulbitch at>
  • Date: Wed, 15 May 2013 02:53:11 -0400 (EDT)
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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

David Park

Although I'm a heavy user of Mathematica, I may not be typical and my
suggestions might be off the mark or just plain incorrect. Nevertheless I
think public discussion of where Mathematica should go can only be helpful.

David Park

In respond to the David's calls cited above I  would like to give a short list of those Mathematica features I would like to see improved. I understand that my preferences are specific (as most of us have, who works professionally in some specific field). Nevertheless, let us start the public discussion. If many of us join it, I hope Mr. Stephen Wolfram and his colleagues will see much better, what do we need.

So, here I list few features that already exist, but that seem not satisfactory enough to me in their present form. These features are ordered such that I place first the one that is most important to me.

1. I miss several operations that would enable one to manipulate analytic expressions. In fact the instruments to manipulate analytics in Mathematica is insufficient. For those people who make indeed serious analytical calculations the tasks that these operations alone may fulfil look children games, far from what they need in reality.

Mr. Conrad Wolfram declared recently his attitude to school education using Mathematica, the argumentation of which I find very reasonable. Recently I read that one of the countries decided to go this way, and what? The school children will be from this point on unable to make the analytic transformation we all easily did just on the paper due to this Mathematica lack?

Yes, I know, that combination of other Matematica commands (like Map, MapAt, Thread, MapThread and some others) with the existing operators to manipulate analytics may help, and I actually heavily use that. But I also know that it is very often not enough, especially when one deals with serious calculations.

What is more important, it requires an additional programming, and often a lot. It is, thus, contradictory to the main idea, that computers should complete all technical stuff, while the human's heads should be free to think about really important aspects of the problems being solved.  

There is the subpackage "Manipulations" in the "Presentations" package of David Park that covers a significant part of this problem offering some such operations. I use it on the everyday basis, and it indeed solves most of the problem, if not all.

However, why not to make a reasonable agreement with David Park and to include this subpackage into the main Mathematica body?

Why not to think of a development convenient-to-use instruments to efficiently operate analytical expressions and their subexpressions on-screen much the way we in the past did it on the paper?

Tutorials and examples teaching to operate analytics are rather basic. Why not to think about developing special examples and tutorials teaching how to operate analytics that would also give examples of applying general Mathematica functions to complex analytical expressions?

2. I regularly write technical/scientific texts using the JournalArticle StyleSheet. It is very conveniently designed for scientific texts at the first glance. But if one works with it longer and had second, third and so on glances, one finds few serious drawbacks.

First, is that the font size in the printing environment is much too small.  My colleagues claimed that it is so small that it was impossible to read my texts. They asked me, therefore, to switch to Word.

Yes, I know that one may modify the StyleSheet. I actually did that. This is not easy, and WRI offered no comprehensive tutorial of doing that (at least to my knowledge). By the way why not? If I would not meet such a discussion on the forum, I would never be able to modify something.

Anyway, is it not possible to make instruments to establish the desired document font parameters right in the menu of the notebook easily accessible, in the style such as the JournalArticle?

Further, there is only one type of the JournalArticle style. Is it not possible to make few of them like those used in scientific journals (and not only mathematical, but also physical ones)?

3. When writing articles using Mathematica as a redactor I need referencing of literature, numbered equations and figures. I do not need referencing anything else. Indeed, there is such a feature in Mathematica, I use it, and it is a headache.

One can compare the easiness of making such a task with EndNote for references and MathType for numeration of equations. Both these programs do it in one-two clicks.

In the same time Mathematica requires to (1) mark the corresponding cell, (2) click Menu/Cell/CellTags/Add Remove Cell Tag (3) type the tag, (4) close the "Add Remove Cell Tag" dialog (5) when in the text go to Menu/Insert/Automatic Numbering (6) in the dialog "Create Automatic Numbering Object" choose the desired cell tag, (7) in another its window choose the right type of object, say, "EquationNumbered" then (8) click OK.

Did you count the number of clicks? It is not 8 it is 15.

But that is not all, since at the very last step, in the dialog "Create Automatic Numbering Object", in its window "Counter" you need to choose a right item out of 71 available! And you need to each time scroll through it.

Now imagine a normal paper with about 10 to 15 numbered formulas each is referenced between 0 and 5 times, on average 3 times each, about 10 Figures, each referenced at least once and about 30 references, each cited at least once in the text. Overall you reference about 70 times per paper, and each time you go through this whole procedure. And all these 70 times you scroll through those 71 items! I think I really underestimated the problem, when calling it simply "a headache" above.

Why not to improve this feature? Why not at least to make it easy to customise the list of the "Create Automatic Numbering Object"/"Counter" dialog, to enable us to choose those items that we need and not to show those we do not?

These features I would like to see improved. Just before I finish, I would like to say, that already as it is Mathematica is the greatest thing, and I am grateful for it to Mr. Stephen Wolfram and his colleagues.


Alexei BOULBITCH, Dr., habil.
ZAE Weiergewan,
11, rue Edmond Reuter,
L-5326 Contern, LUXEMBOURG

Office phone :  +352-2454-2566
Office fax:       +352-2454-3566
mobile phone:  +49 151 52 40 66 44

e-mail: alexei.boulbitch at

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