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Some retrogressions in Version 10 with respect to writing documents

Posted 7 years ago
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I am primarily interested in Mathematica as a development and communication medium. Someday most technical papers will be published in the form of CDF files or Mathematica notebooks, and a great deal of collaboration will be done through the medium of Mathematica Applications.

However, for this to come about more attention has to be paid to robustness and stability. It should be possible to get good enough at Mathematica that one would spend most of one's time thinking about the technical problem and much less time thinking about Mathematica. If the Mathematica overhead becomes too large then it will defeat the objective above and Mathematica will be used more as a calculator scratch pad with results copied out to other (inferior) media.

There are some nice features in Version 10 but also a few items that seem to be either retrogression or lack of progress.

Side Windows

We can produce very sophisticated dynamic presentations with Mathematica but these will generally require extended discussion in a notebook. If the diagrams are placed within the notebook then it is likely that they will scroll out of view when reading the discussion. So put them in a window beside the notebook. But this ability has been somewhat degraded in Version 10 in that side windows with dense graphics will be difficult to position with the mouse. They will not drag smoothly. Here is an example (made dynamically slow with PlotPoints):

CreateDocument[
  Manipulate[
   RegionPlot[Abs[x] < a Abs[y], {x, -2, 2}, {y, -2, 2},
    PlotPoints -> 150, MaxRecursion -> 2], {a, 1, 4}],
  WindowTitle -> "Jerky Positioning",
  WindowSize -> All];

This will (at least in Windows 7) initially reposition smoothly but then eventually become very sticky and this seems a bit random. In Version 9 it can always be smoothly and quickly repositioned. It's as if the slowness of the dynamics has been transferred to the window as a whole. A retrogression.

Also, how does one control whether a menu toolbar appears?

SaveAs

In early versions of Mathematica, using SaveAs on an existing notebook always brought up the directory that contained the notebook. It is most often the case that the notebook will be saved in the same directory with the same or a different name. For example, style sheets can only be saved with SaveAs even though we usually want the same name.

Then in later versions of Mathematica this got broken and the SaveAs window went to the last folder that was browsed to. People complained and it got fixed. Now in Version 10 it has gotten broken again. Another retrogression.

WordCompletion

It used to be that when typing a Text cell one could use Ctrl+K to complete a word or more commonly to check its spelling. This got partly broken in Version 9 in that it worked but always generated an error message. A retrogression. In Version 10 it is completely broken - doesn't work at all. A further retrogression. If one is accustomed to adding discussion to their calculations (like writing a technical paper!) this is the loss of a valuable aid.

It also would be nice if one could spellcheck a selected part of a notebook rather than always having to go through the entire notebook, and always having to skip a number of items.

Workbench

Finally it's a bit disconcerting that Workbench has not been updated. I use it mainly for documentation. For serious projects - and I suppose most Mathematica users are working on serious projects - the Application format with documentation is a very good way to accumulate work in an organized manner. Workbench Version 2 is a bit ragged. For example it allows for multiple packages but accommodates them by an undocumented trick, which produces error messages that can be ignored. This is not going to be reassuring to most people. Apparently there is a Version 3 out there (and Mathematica documentation looks a little different than Application documentation) but even though I have a professional license, have always bought Premier service, have written a number of somewhat successful Applications, and am trying to help now with a major project, I don't seem to have any access to it.

4 Replies

I would call the WordCompletion issue a bug rather than a retrogression ;-) I sent in a bug report for it. Hopefully it will get fixed by WRI for a 10.x update

SIDE WINDOWS: I don't see any jerkiness when I reposition the produced "Jerky Positioning" window on my iMac under OS X Mavericks (10.9.3). So this may be a hardware or OS limitation rather than a Mathematica version 10 problem -- but why you should be seeing it with version 10 and not version 9.0.1 remains unclear.

SAVE AS: I'm not seeing what you see. Under OS X, the Save As dialog always opens with the folder already holding the previously saved notebook

WORD COMPLETION: Does one really still need Ctrl + K (in Macdom: Cmd + K) for word completion, now that we have the String Completion functionality of the Input Assistant?

Word completion, and Ctrl+K, works in Input cells but does not work in Text cells. That's what I was talking about. Neither does it work in Text cells with the autocompletion feature turned on. Interestingly, I just received an email from Wolfram Support (concerning the problem in Mathematica 9) that says:

"You reported an issue with Mathematica wherein, Ctrl+K to complete a word in a text cell gave internal self-test errors. We believe that the issue has been resolved in the newly released Mathematica 10."

That is just not true. (Or do they mean in the to be released Mathematica 10.1? Probably not.)

To add to my comments on Workbench, an Application Build that takes 6 minutes using Mathematica 9 takes 58 minutes using Mathematica 10. I call it retrogression - improving toward the worse.

With Mathematica 10.0.0 under Mac OS X 10.9.4, I get the same Internal Self-Test Error upon trying to use Cmd+K after typing the start of a command within a Text cell. Just submitted an error report.

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