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Sharing Mathematica notebooks with non-Mathematica colleagues?

Posted 11 months ago
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What is your best recommendation for sharing Mathematica notebooks with non-Mathematica colleagues?

  1. Printing to pdf often cuts off graphics and they are only partially contained in the file.

  2. Latex export for a notebook produces a mess. Sometimes I see 1000s of nested Holds.

  3. Sharing the nb directly and asking the colleague to download and install Wolfram Player. There is little documentation for Player from the user perspective. It appears unprofessional The differences between Player Pro and Player are not documented, so the benefits of the upgrade are unknown to the colleague and me. The cost of the upgrade is also hard to find out. Finally, if I use a private style sheet in a Mathematica notebook, Player is confused and has no way to specify to default style sheet, instead showing a mess.

  4. With regard to 3. The CDF format appears to be deprecated (legacy) by Wolfram. But much of the documentation still refers to CDF Player. This confuses colleagues.

  5. S. Wolfram talks about the computational essay, but more how-to documentation is required.

  6. The cloud is not the answer when one wants to share Mathematica notebooks within a company and protect proprietary information.

10 Replies

This is an important question. I wish you had started a new thread for it.

I don't know of a solution that I am 100% happy with. I either save as PDF (not print to PDF, but save as PDF!) or I use the cloud.

  1. Printing to pdf often cuts off graphics and they are only partially contained in the file.

Useful tricks:

  • Adjust the margins and make them smaller.
  • Normal size graphics are not cut off. I assume you increased their size. One trick I occasionally use is ImageSize -> Full, which makes the graphics as wide as the notebook. This makes them as big as possible without cutting anything off. Drawback: 1) doesn't play well with legends 2) if you like to make your notebooks full-screen, the graphics will be too large when viewed on-screen.

I find that in order to make this work well, I need to plan in advance. I write the notebook knowing that I'll need to convert it to PDF, and I pat attention to graphics sizes.

  1. The cloud is not the answer when one wants to share Mathematica notebooks within a company and protect proprietary information.

You can protect the notebook with a password. This is what I usually do.

Posted 11 months ago

I have had some limited success by setting the page size Printer Settings | Page Settings.

But, that doesn't work very well if you want to print the PDFs. But it seems to work sort of OK if you don't need to print.

For me and the world I live in PDF is essential. For sure CDF and cloud hosted notebooks have a place. And in some situations can be the way to go. But many of the calculation notebooks I produce are intended to be static documents and, more often than not, will form part of a larger report prepared using a host of other software tools (e.g. word processors, CAD applications, etc, etc.). Also, pretty much everyone has a PDF reader installed on their computer, tablet device and smartphone. So for them to view, use and reshare with others a PDFd notebook requires zero effort.

I totally get what WR is aiming for with CDF and cloud hosting and don’t discourage such strategies. But for the practical reasons mentioned above, I’d like to see more effort put into making the generation of report quality PDF notebooks ‘just work’ out of the box. The addition of other ‘standard’ features such as being able to change paper size and orientation at any point within a notebook would also be welcomed.

Generating a report quality PDF From Mathematica notebooks can be challenging. And is something I wish would be addressed. Preferably before I retire ;-)

Anonymous User
Anonymous User
Posted 11 months ago

"Printing to pdf often cuts off graphics and they are only partially contained in the file." Format->Screen Environment->Printout will show you the page perfect look of your document. PDF, or Postscript, are page languages.

In Mathematica 4.0 PDF and PS were nearly perfect, down to issues of fine pixel or sub-pixel granularity. There should be no reversion from perfection of old features (graphics and text). I did run into a minor one (line drawing of a TableForm grid which did the postscript incorrectly, but i avoided it by using a different line grid). Overall I think the PDF system is still "perfect" per say, down to the pixel usually.

The way notebook was shared in Mathematica 4.0 is that the Front End was free and downloadable (and still is) but the Kernel was disabled (disabling the end users from changing any content). Front End was released multi-platform (meaning Apple and Microsoft and "True Unix" or SCO Unix, at the time, although the Microsoft version was highly broken due to microsoft font issues and microsoft instability of Win95).

CDF or ?Player, I understand, is supposed to replace the "free front end", and involves Java - many did not applaud, although Wolfram team said it was transitional and would improve to make releasing the Front End for download "un-necessary" while GIVING FREE USERS the ability to animate and "play back" interactive notebooks (I don't understand why a free Front End cannot do this, but don't care because I only share my complaints anyway!) I've never read an article saying Wolfram has stopped allowing free download of Mathematica Front End - but I think they have done so.

LaTex was never fully supported, and modern versions are drastically hacked by GPL and bound not to have any true support ever in anyone's lifetime. (AMS LaTex was mostly supported - the American Math Society, which is now no longer interested in producing a free math font system, if i am correct). Latex worked find but if you read older math books you'll see it was always far from complete - most old math books used various tricks to get around things Latex could not do or simply out of laziness. The higher end math books were type-set by professional layout persons who literally laid out the book by hand before publishing. I was introduced to a person who did such a thing once, in his office.

I'm not understanding why the CDF and Player and 15 day free trial are insufficient to share a notebook. Perhaps you can be more clear how many notebooks you wish to share and which end user cannot install CDF?

POSTED BY: Anonymous User
Answer
Anonymous User
Anonymous User
Posted 11 months ago

Another idea is to Web Publish. Mathematica is very helpful with web publishing notebooks I understand - it can web publish CDF as web-interactive or notebooks, and now iPhone IOS Player is "free". But wow, with that in mind, Mathematica has a wide variety of Export[] formats (none of which are suitable for your need perhaps - but you might check!).

I think ultimately it will be best if you change your document to fit what your audience will see, that is, try it yourself and do not (ie, rely on making images that require two pages in width). If your audience is unwilling to install software ? then even a cell phone player might be refused as well, and Web Publish or physical printing would be the un-deniable "did you read it yet" choice. Mathematica ultimately is not at fault for users who do not wish to do more than view a web page to "see your work". The whole computer wars, the whole industry, is at fault for "making things difficult". Blaming Mathematica for your co-workers being un-sure about whether to install CDF to view a document? Not Wolfram Mathematica's fault. It is how the industry has always been - obstructive and even ... well I better stop there.

Meanwhile, most Mathematica users are all hoping for a "mostly full Mathematica release" on cell phones and iPads - which are now far more powerful than in the past. I'm unsure why CDF or Player will be needed in the future or if they ever were really needed. All of Mathematica 4.0 was only 15 MB installed: the Front End only a part of that. CDF player is how many gigabytes! It's not trivial to say the whole front end fits where the CDF Player also fits. So why bother?

So I would not invest allot of time. I would take the simplest way as things are bound to change drastically.

POSTED BY: Anonymous User
Answer
Anonymous User
Anonymous User
Posted 11 months ago

The "CDF Concept", if I remember, was (is) to allow streaming collaboration and cloud publishing, that is, being able to show (part of) a notebook to colleagues real time, steaming, if they are connected, even allowing remote software to connect and receive realtime cloud updates. The entire concept was not "display whole notebook to a colleague" which was considered "old fashioned". However, the new Front End does cloud publishing and web server streams and cloud publishing. I'm unsure how CDF can trump that game either. Personally, I see front end has "end user collaboration tools" but people share work in Wolfram Communities in old fashion form! And then also, while many upload CDF or view on the wolfram demonstrations site - these are not real-time. I'm at a loss as to whether CDF can achieve its goals and not be a copy of the Front End by the time it completes it.

And still, we share our work, questions and answers, not using Mathematica's built-in collaboration tools, but a silly blog website (that's moderated!) It's bound to be that way for the fore-seeable future. Who would store the contents and make it all searchable? Why do people keep coming back to blog websites to communicate if they have advanced collaboration tools?

POSTED BY: Anonymous User
Answer
Posted 11 months ago

For the time being I have used the cloud publish option. But anything wrapped in Manipulate, for example, takes seconds to respond. It is painful and unimpressive.

Personally I hope they figure out a way to make CDF, or something like it, work. The prospect to make dynamic and interactive documents (i.e., computational essays) is what really attracted me to the platform over other options. See Brett Victor's Explorable Explanations as an example of what I mean. I very much like Mathematica as an authoring environment, so much more than hand coding JavaScript and HTML (ugh). But you have to have a way to share. In the early days of PDF, Adobe got their PDF viewer proliferated and it ultimately caught on. I really hope the folks at Wolfram have a push to clarify how the Wolfram Viewer helps with sharing coming soon.

To understand the problematic of the players, I think that it is important to know that on the corporate world, having a piece of software approved for installation can take many weeks (and sometimes even months), eventually being denied at the end.

For reasons that I think are obvious, in this same environment, making the notebook available through cloud service is also a no go, as content is typically IP sensible, and the public cloud is not an approved sharing point (I mean, if the CDF player is not listed on the company tools, why would the public cloud be...).

So, either Wolfram technologies are well integrated on the working environment of a given company, and all these tools are pre-approved, or even eventually already installed (a very small chance... as I myself, for instance, have never encountered such a case....), or there’s a great chance that the pdf will be the only option for sharing.

In a corporate world a Wolfram Enterprise Private Cloud installation on a company server, accessible only to the intranet or selected users, could very well be an approved way of easily sharing Notebooks, packages and scrips. I am sure if Wolfram would, say, for a year or so, provide well-known-companies with existing Wolfram customers a reasonably-prized (or free) version of a WEPC, it would be quite a success. Since then the problem of effortless sharing Mathematica notebooks with non-Mathematica colleauges is kind of solved; all those colleauges would need is a standard browser and a reasonably fast connection to the intranet installed WEPC (Linux) virtual machine. Sure, even the WEPC is not as fast regarding Dynamic interactions as desktop Mathematica or CDF Player, but it is faster than the public cloud, since there is less delay, and WEPC (JavaScript) technology is improving ( though ununderstandably there is always a noticable delay between public and private cloud releases ).

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