Frequently Asked Questions about the Computable Document Format (CDF)
Creating and Distributing CDFs
How do I create CDFs?
Currently, CDFs are created directly in Mathematica. Deploy CDFs as standalone applications or embedded web objects by choosing File > Deploy or using the CDFDeploy function. Create a new CDF with File > New > FreeCDF. Export as a CDF with File > Save As > Computable Document (.cdf) or the Export function. More ways to develop CDFs are coming soon.
How do I prepare content so that it will work interactively in Wolfram CDF Player?
Almost all programming and computational functions available in Mathematica can be used to build CDF applications. Use the Manipulate command to generate interactive content controlled by mouse-driven actions.
Can I use any Mathematica functionality that I want?
Yes. Almost all of Mathematica's computational functions can be incorporated into CDFs. However, in files saved straight out of Mathematica for the free CDF Player, some functionality is not available: non-numeric input fields, dialog windows, and data import and export (except from Wolfram-curated data sources, e.g. ChemicalData, CountryData, and WordData). Please contact us about activating higher-level application content in CDFs.
How can I get more details about creating CDFs?
For more about creating CDFs, see Introduction to Manipulate, How to Create a Computable Document Format (CDF) File, and Details for Mathematica Programmers.
Can Mathematica run CDFs?
Yes, Mathematica creates, edits, and runs CDFs.
Can I import Microsoft Office documents, PDFs, or other file formats into CDFs?
When you create a CDF, you can import data, text, and images from Excel and Word files. You can copy equations from Word documents and paste them as MathML expressions into Mathematica. You can import content from PDF files and import all standard raster and vector image formats.
Do CDFs plug in to Microsoft Office documents or PDFs?
Currently, the CDF Player plugin only supports web browsers. We are exploring the same capabilities for a number of other applications. Contact us for more details when CDF support for other applications becomes available.
What's the difference between .cdf, .nbp, and .nb files?
Notebooks saved normally in Mathematica are .nb files, viewable but not interactive in CDF Player. Notebooks saved in recent versions of Mathematica as .cdf files make content interactive in CDF Player. Notebook files previously created online as .nbp files will also operate interactively in CDF Player, and users of Mathematica 6 or 7 can continue to save their notebooks as .nbp using the Mathematica Player signing portal.
Are there restrictions on how CDFs can be distributed?
Mathematica-generated CDFs are freely distributable as long as the content itself is free or in the public domain. Restrictions apply if the CDFs are being sold or otherwise commercially licensed by content creators. For more details, consult the CDF licensing options.
Can I remove the welcome screen, toolbar, or watermark logo I see when opening CDFs in CDF Player or viewing CDFs online with the web browser plugin?
The presence of Wolfram branding is part of the FreeCDF licensing terms—a minimal requirement for the benefits of dynamic computation as part of your free interactive content. Please contact us about our commercial licensing and consulting solutions, which range from white labeling to complete content creation services.
Can I put copy protection on my CDFs?
At the moment, we do not have Digital Rights Management (DRM) for CDF, but we are working on making it available. Contact us for more details when DRM support becomes available.
Can I provide downloads of CDF Player from my site?
You can provide a link to our download site, but cannot have the download come directly from you. This ensures that those downloading always receive the latest version of CDF Player. If you have a special use for CDF Player that requires it to be distributed physically or through your organization's portal, contact us.
Can I put CDFs on my site?
Yes, assuming that your usage meets the CDF licensing options and does not infringe upon any copyright or other proprietary right of any party. You may also want to add a CDF Player download icon link nearby.
How can I embed a CDF into my web page or blog?
First, upload the CDF to your site or a free storage account such as Amazon's Simple Storage Service (S3) or Dropbox. Soon you will be able to store CDFs on cloud services from Wolfram.
Is CDF Player available for iPad? The iPad is an important part of our CDF strategy. Contact us for more details about when CDF support for this platform becomes available.
Is CDF Player available for other mobile devices? We are actively pursuing solutions for all mobile devices, including cloud-based services. Contact us for more details when CDF support for mobile platforms becomes available.
What's the difference between webMathematica and embedded CDF? Both webMathematica and embedded CDFs can make your website interactive. With webMathematica, the computation happens on the server, and with CDF, it happens locally in the CDF Player plugin. Embedded CDFs can be simpler to create and implement.
Is CDF an open file format?
Wolfram currently provides the CDF specification as a public format, meaning it is publicly available, natively unencrypted, and documented throughout our Wolfram Mathematica Documentation Center.
What's the difference between CDF and other document formats like DOC or PDF?
When viewed with Wolfram CDF Player, CDFs allow a platform-independent interactive experience, exploiting dynamic computation along with standard document features. Unlike static PDF or DOC files, CDFs combine the capabilities of documents and apps into a single, computation-powered knowledge container, empowering readers to drive content and generate results live.
Where can I find existing CDFs?
Content is emerging across the web as publishers and content providers embrace the format. Wolfram sources include the Wolfram Demonstrations Project, Wolfram Blog, The Mathematica Journal, and Wolfram|Alpha.
I found a CDF on a public website. Am I licensed to run it with CDF Player?
Yes, assuming that doing so does not infringe upon any copyright or other proprietary right of any party.
How can I be sure a CDF file has no viruses or malware?
When the CDF is viewed in the CDF web browser plugin, the plugin is running in a sandbox mode. In this mode, access to the local file system is shut down, along with a number of other features that could affect your local environment.
When you open the CDF outside of the web browser in the standalone environment, many of the restrictions of the sandbox mode are lifted. However, CDF Player will detect any potentially risky interactive code and disable it before it's executed. At this point, CDF Player presents an option to enable or disable the interactive content. Whether you choose to enable the content depends on whether you trust the source of that content.
CDF in Different Fields
I'm developing a comprehensive application. Can I use CDF? CDF can help you develop computationally intensive applications with user-friendly controls and deployment flexibility. CDF applications can be prototyped quickly and can be deployed as traditional desktop applications or as convenient browser-based applications. See example»
I just want to share one example. Can I publish it with CDF? With CDF deployment, one tool lets you easily create and publish interactive content. You can share your app via the Demonstrations Project, which has 7,000 apps on topics from elementary school math to commercial engineering to music and games. You can also embed your app or put a download link on your own website or blog. See example»
How can I use CDF for textbooks? As a complete ebook solution for STEM publishers, CDF saves time and money, because everything authors need to do, from typesetting diagrams, text, and math to developing interactive graphics to deployment, is in one tool. Plus, readers can interact with content for an engaging experience and a deeper understanding than with static books. See example»
How can CDF improve research papers and journals? CDF allows authors to add interactive elements to their papers, providing readers with greater understanding without involving programming specialists. Articles can include data and computations so that other researchers can verify results directly in the article. See example»
I'm a consultant. How can CDF help me? With CDF, you can help readers make better decisions. Clients can interact with your report's diagrams and other data representations and dynamically explore scenarios, or see the same material presented in a step-by-step manner as an interactive presentation. See example»
How can CDF improve financial reports? CDF-based interactive financial reports provide more information than PDFs with static charts. Readers can interact with diagrams and dynamically explore scenarios to better understand the content and make more informed decisions. See example»
Can CDF help me write reports for my customers? CDF reports are interactive and include real-time computation tools that enable readers to test multidimensional scenarios, empowering them to make better decisions than with static reports. See example»
How can the news media use CDF? Interactive infographics made with CDF illustrate complex topics or present data in a clear manner—bringing life to online publications as readers or viewers interact with charts, diagrams, maps, and other graphics. With the built-in ability to do intensive computations, CDF can better inform users than standard web technologies. See example»
Using Wolfram CDF Player
Will CDF Player open all Mathematica notebooks?
Yes, all Mathematica notebooks can be viewed in CDF Player, but only .cdf files (or .nbp files) will function interactively.
I've opened a notebook, but the interactive elements don't work—they're either gray boxes or images of the applet. What's wrong?
The author of your notebook has not saved it as a CDF using Mathematica. You can do this conversion yourself provided that the notebook's content does not infringe upon any copyright or other proprietary right of any party.
When I open a CDF, I see a warning about dynamic content. What does that mean?
Files containing interactive content can automatically evaluate code without any additional action by the user, aside from opening the file.
Certain directories, including the desktop and downloads directories, are "untrusted" by default, so opening a CDF that is stored there (or in a subdirectory of the desktop) will trigger the warning. You can click the button in the warning to enable dynamic content. For more information, see the Notebook Security tutorial.
Why can't I edit text in CDF Player?
CDF Player is intended as a deployment option. If you want to edit or create applications or documents, then you need Mathematica or any other CDF content creator, such as Wolfram|Alpha.
When I install a new version of Mathematica, is the web browser plugin also upgraded?
Yes. When you install the latest version of Mathematica, the latest version of the browser plugin is also installed. However, Mac OS X users will need to install the Mathematica Extras package from the DVD or disk image and restart their web browsers to upgrade the plugin.
I'm having trouble getting CDFs to work. How can I tell you about it?
Please contact us with a description of the issue to help us solve the problem.
About Wolfram CDF Player
Does CDF Player work for movie or audio files?
No, CDF Player is not a media player, but a runtime that specifically supports viewing and interacting with .cdf, .nbp, and .nb files.
Does the interactivity I see in CDF Player use other applet technologies such as Java, .NET, and Flash?
No, the applets are driven by Wolfram's Mathematica-derived technology, developed in-house for more than a decade. This promotes higher-level authoring, in one language only, with the ability to assume the broad functionality of the technology, in turn making more and more refined resources available to CDF Player users.
On what platforms is CDF Player available?
CDF Player is available for Windows and Mac OS X with desktop and web plugin functionality. Linux is supported with desktop functionality only. We are actively pursuing solutions for all mobile devices, including the iPad and cloud-based services, to make CDF available to anyone, anywhere. Contact us for more details when CDF support for mobile platforms becomes available.
What are the system requirements for CDF Player?
CDF Player requires an Intel Pentium III 650 MHz or equivalent processor, and we recommend 1 GB+ of RAM. On Linux systems, CDF Player requires 32-bit support.
I'm in a secure environment. Can my site administrator distribute CDF Player internally to my colleagues?
Yes. If you are in a lab or other facility where our download site is not accessible, you can distribute CDF Player within your organization. Contact us for details.
If I received CDF Player bundled with my computer or another application, is it the same as the CDF Player I can download from here?
Yes, we have licensed CDF Player for bundling with a range of hardware and software. The versions provided in OEM bundles have the same capabilities as a download version and can be upgraded the same way. To get the latest version of CDF Player, or to see whether there's been an upgrade, visit the download page.
I've purchased Mathematica. Can I open CDFs in Mathematica instead of in CDF Player?
Yes. Your Mathematica installation will always supersede CDF Player if it is based on the same major version number and CDF Player is not already running.
Why do I need to download a plugin to run CDFs?
The CDF Player plugin essentially gives you the whole of Mathematica, providing specialist algorithms for computation and visualization on topics ranging from engineering to finance to statistics to image processing. These calculations far surpass what standard web technologies can provide with the speed and smooth interactivity of client-side computation. For more see the power behind CDF.
Why is the CDF Player download so large?
CDF Player provides essentially all of Mathematica—more than 3,000 built-in functions for a dozen application areas—for computation and visualization on topics ranging from engineering to finance to statistics to image processing. For more see the power behind CDF.
Can I distribute CDFs with enhanced functionality to people who have the free CDF Player?
Yes. You can work with us to provide CDFs with enhanced functionality, like importing or exporting data or non-numeric input fields. You can also consider deploying with Wolfram Player Pro.
What's the difference between Wolfram CDF Player and Wolfram Player Pro?
Wolfram CDF Player is a runtime with advanced functionality particularly suited to all Wolfram file formats, including CDFs created by Mathematica or other sources, with newly added web plugin functionality. Wolfram Player Pro, a standalone runtime with advanced functionality, is particularly suited for application deployment where data import, text input, and other typical features are required. Mathematica is the complete development tool for CDF and the world's ultimate application for enterprise-wide computation. For details, see the features comparison chart.
What's the difference between Mathematica Player and Wolfram CDF Player?
Mathematica Player is an earlier Wolfram runtime. If you have Mathematica Player, upgrading to the free Wolfram CDF Player will let you use all the functionality of recent versions of Mathematica as well as the web browser plugin.