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Getting Started: The very basics, and circumstantial licensing

Posted 9 years ago

Hello everyone. Please indulge me in some very basic questions because I feel I'm in a forrest-for-trees situation about products and licensing.

So thank you in advance.

My situation: I'm a Math and Analytical Engineering geek but I do this strictly recreationally. My real job is software development unrelated to the domains where Wolfram is used. So with that in-mind...

QUESTION 1: How does one get started with the Wolfram Language? Specifically, what do I need to install to get started? Can somebody point me to where this is made clear in plain text (i.e. not a video)? Do I buy Mathematica? What else? Why is this information evidently so buried? Painfully slow Wolfram website response isn't helpful.

QUESTION 2: I just want to geek-out. I use three different computers: an iMac in the office, a Macbook Pro I can carry from room to room, and another older Macbook Pro on the kitchen counter. I want to use either box at any time. I want to math-geek with my kids at the kitchen counter, I want to geek outside, and I want to geek on my big screens in the office. How can Wolfram products work for me license-wise? My wife is a K-6 teacher :-) Maybe this helps?

Thanks for helping me out, gang.


POSTED BY: Steven Black
6 Replies
Posted 9 years ago

Thanks everyone.

I found what I sought on Wikipedia wherein the link between the Wolfram Language and Mathematica is made clear in the very first sentence.

It seems this elementary association is not easily found in introductions on At least, I never managed to locate it.

About licensing: darn, that's a bummer. Tying myself to a single node isn't ever going to happen. I don't live that way. Who does?

Thanks again!

POSTED BY: Steven Black

Maybe to get started, you'll want to use Mathematica Online?

It's still fairly new and isn't as smooth as the desktop version, but you don't have to install it on a specific machine. Also the really basic version of it is free:

If you purchase a developer account on the site, it comes with a desktop client that is very much like the full mathematica called Wolfram Desktop.

For regular Mathematica, you generally have to pay per installation. There is, however, a license manager called "MathLM" which you can install. This is a program that distributes licenses to whichever machine on the network needs it. I'm not sure if that is available standard with the home edition of mathematica, but I'm sure someone in sales would be able to help and tech support could help you install/ configure it.

POSTED BY: Sean Clarke
Posted 9 years ago

Thank you Sean. I'm going to try an online trial.

POSTED BY: Steven Black

What to 'buy' is a really difficult question for Wolfram language products.

At the "free" level is the Wolfram Programming cloud.

This will give you a taste of the language and you can do stuff. There are various levels of support, etc.

You could also look at Mathematica on-line. This is the equivalent of Mathematica in the cloud. There are some things you can't do that you can with desktop mathematica, but the advantage is that you can log in forming of your computers, and you can keep your files in the cloud. This option gets pricey quickly, although your wife could probably get an educational plan which is a lot cheaper.

I am a long time Mathematica user, and I am used to using the desktop version of Mathematica. This is the most powerful option, runs without the cloud, and lets you do a lot more dynamic manipulation (since it does not need to go through the cloud to update stuff).

The downside for you is that this is a single computer license. However, I see that there is a desktop+on-line option for education that is inexpensive. The desktop-only version is $195, and the student versions are even less (one account for each kid is probably affordable). I did not want to click through to see the current pricing.

My suggestion is that you try the free options -- including a free trial of desktop Mathematica -- to see if this is what you want.

Your experience may be different, and my experience with the on-line versions is by working with beta versions, but I think that if you can afford it, the desktop version of Mathematica will provide a superior user experience for all but the most casual user.

Posted 9 years ago

Thanks for that detailed reply, George.

POSTED BY: Steven Black
  1. There is a site to help programmers get quickly started that I think you might find helpful:

For most people I suggest they read through the "virtual book". The "virtual book" is available inside Mathematica itself as a set of interactive notebooks:

If you want a really principled programmer's perspective on using the Wolfram Language, I would consider "Mathematica programming - an advanced introduction".

I began learning it by reading and playing around with the interactive examples in the documentation center.

POSTED BY: Sean Clarke
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