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Re: Work on Basic Mathematica Stephen!

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  • Subject: [mg130795] Re: Work on Basic Mathematica Stephen!
  • From: George Woodrow III <georgevw3 at>
  • Date: Wed, 15 May 2013 02:55:52 -0400 (EDT)
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I appreciate your comments. It was not my intention to suggest that the 
notebook interface should be abandoned. For a lot of what I do in 
Mathematica, it is very good. It is pretty close to the blank sheet of 
paper you describe.

I wish it were easier to make a document/app that was essentially 
displayed as a dynamic user interface alone. I have time to explore this 
at length now that I have 'retired', and I hope that existing structures 
(palettes??) can be adapted without too much effort. It may turn out 
that for advanced work, an analogue to Workbench will be useful for UI 
design and implementation.

There are points of strain, though. I don't think that a default 
stylesheet will work that can be optimized both for 'print' and screen. 
I am ready to be wrong about this, but the current default stylesheet 
seems to please no one.

I am a big fan of Tufte as well. Many of his comments about software 
design from the era of small screens that became moot with the advent of 
large monitors are again relevant for mobile devices. It has always been 
one of my design goals to make my software as elegant as his printed 
books. I could achieve this goal when writing native apps for the 
Macintosh, at the expense of a lot of time and a lot of code. I can be 
100 to 1000 times more productive with Mathematica, but it remains to be 
seen if I can match the level of elegance in interface design I can when 
I use Xcode.

george woodrow

On May 14, 2013, at 12:30 PM, djmpark <djmpark at> wrote:

> I just reply to one aspect of your comments.
> I believe the basic design of the notebook interface is fairly good. The
> classical format of presenting technical material in serial form using text,
> equations and diagrams combined in sectional groupings is thousands of years
> old. It has worked very well, it is what people know, it is the uniform
> current practice, and it should not be lightly abandoned.
> This style can be extended to include active elements, active calculation
> and various dynamical presentations, both within the notebook or as side
> windows. Such notebooks can be orders of magnitude superior to static
> documents. But even working from a familiar and intuitive base style, there
> is much to learn to implement this. I have gradually evolved a number of
> principles, some of them adapted from Tufte, but I won't expound on them
> here other than to say: use a light touch and eliminate any feature that
> does not clarify an idea or convey information, no matter how nifty it might
> seem in its own right.
> David Park
> djmpark at
> From: George Woodrow III [mailto:georgevw3 at]
> I think that the real problem is that the notebook interface paradigm has
> been stretched past its breaking point. I don't think that the same metaphor
> works for both printed presentation and screen. The recent problems with the
> default notebook style is in part the result of an effort to satisfy two
> different requirement sets. (Granted that there are also aesthetic issues --
> the use of Arial, the size and color of the Title, Sections, etc.)
> Once it became possible to make an entire 'document' with interactive
> elements, the need for a GUI designer like Interface Builder (or the current
> Storyboard) should have been obvious.

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