Presentations in Mathematica for lectures

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Presentations in Mathematica for lectures

Postby Kelvin_Mischo » Fri Apr 30, 2010 1:23 am

Hi Everyone,

We talk to people a lot about preparing lecture materials, and their overall workflow. For example, faculty sometimes like to prepare a notebook with lecture materials, then create a slideshow for the actual lecture (to be shown on overhead projector), then create an HTML version to post online for students who want to review later.

Mathematica includes built-in functionality to be able to do all of these tasks, and our seminar "S23: Presentations with Mathematica" offers a great way for people to learn how to utilize Mathematica for this kind of workflow. But sometimes users prefer to use other products, like PowerPoint. Do you utilize Mathematica's built-in presentation tools, or should Wolfram Research consider more connections to things like PowerPoint?

And I'm sure others would like to hear your favorite tutorials on learning these sort of things, if it isn't the S23.

thanks!

Kelvin
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Re: Presentations in Mathematica for lectures

Postby bsyehuda » Sat May 01, 2010 10:24 pm

Dear Kelvin
As a Mathametica user I use Mathematica for writing, lecture notes and preparing slides.
I find that is not the perfect tool, but I have already tried for years PowerPoint and LaTeX (using several styles) and Mathematica is in the first place.
Two weeks ago, a colleague of mine who were using my lecture note broke his hand. Needless to say, he needed to move to slides, in a VERY theoretical subject. I have shown him how to turn the relevant parts of the handouts (written in Mathematica) to slides and he found it very easy, although he didn't have ANY experience with Mathematica besides programming.

Several points could be improved (as a beta tester I'll not mention things that I know that are already fixed, otherwise I would have a longer list)
1. Resolution - Projectors are of low resolution. Mathematica allows to change the appearance of the working window, but it decreases the size of the notebook. It would be better to adopt the PPT approach and gives a full resolution (especially when having a high resolution screen) and let the front end rescale.
2. The change in style properties locally to the specific notebook is not so convenient. First, one need to specify that the changes are made to the specific SlideShow environment, and this is not reflected to the Printout Environment which, for presentations, better be the same (no change of fonts, font sizes/colors etc). Otherwise, one have to manually copy all the changes made to the SlideShow environment and besides copying and modifying other things, such as backgrounds etc.
3. Making the screen black - is a very missing property. I wish you could implement this.
4. Group open/close. When working with a remote mouse controller, I wish I could open and close the groups without having to approach the computer and use the mouse locally. Very annoying.

I know that PPT has many appealing properties, but I wouldn't expect Mathematica to support it or try to be another PowerPoint.

As to S23, I didn't see it yet, but the content looks promising to people that need to learn it. I will try to register to it soon, and in case of having more comments I'll submit.
All in all, it is a great tool.

yehuda
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Re: Presentations in Mathematica for lectures

Postby telefunkenvf14 » Sat Jul 10, 2010 6:59 am

So far, my strategy has been to prepare a regular notebook for each lecture (a master version, if you will) and then create additional versions; one for in-class use by students and one for myself. In the version I give to students, I make sure to go through the notebook and delete significant bits of code and certain definitions, etc. The version I use for presenting gets most of the code stripped from it as well, but I do leave in a few small code 'prompts', that way I don't have to use notes while presenting.

The reason I went with this approach is that students learn more if they're actually doing some programming---just hitting 'shift+enter' doesn't get them involved and build their confidence enough. I also find it quite enjoyable to make mistakes in class! (odd, huh? :lol: ) This enables you to show students how to debug and provides you with opportunities to demonstrate programming pitfalls.

I also like to make time in class for students to work on programming (usually in small groups). This is a good way to break things up and keep them interested and also forces them to stretch their capabilities and learn to navigate the documentation. Often I provide students some 'hints' as to how to solve the problem in question, then walk around the room observing and answering questions. When common issues arise, I can then call attention to the board or my laptop and explain (or help troubleshoot).

Ideally, I'd like to develop a better way to version my work, perhaps by creating altered styles or by tagging cells. This would enable me to concentrate on maintaining the 'master version' of each lecture and avoid recreating new in-class versions for students and myself each semester.

One final thing I'd like to share: http://www.prezi.com (It would be cool if something similar to this could be accomplished with MMA or connected to MMA---I mentioned this in my application to be a beta tester, but haven't heard anything back.) I showed Prezi to my students last semester and one of my students used it in a presentation for another class (statistics). Here's the link to see what a beginner can easily do: http://prezi.com/cyviuygxxweh/malt-o-meal/

Note: (1) Best viewed in full-screen mode. (2) Once the 'Prezi' loads (requires a Flash enabled browser), here's how to navigate:

Image

-RG
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Re: Presentations in Mathematica for lectures

Postby Anthony_Siegman » Wed Jul 14, 2010 1:00 am

Presentations, and especially the use of Mathematica for preparing presentations and publications, are controversial topics, on which I have strong and long-standing views, based on very long experience with teaching; lecturing, preparing and giving all kinds of presentations; preparing and publishing innumerable reports, journal articles, class notes, and books; and even doing a bit of web page creation. So I'll take the opportunity of this forum to express my basic views straightforwardly, and others can and, I expect, will differ!.

Main points:

1) Based on my experience, Mathematica is beyond question a superb (if at this point overly complex and overly expensive) tool for doing symbolic analysis; for doing numerical computations; and for preparing the "graphics" part of sophisticated graphics displays of these analytical and numerical results. Don't know of anything better (and I've used every version of Mathematica to date, and a fair number of other tools before that).

2) The Manipulate aspects of Mathematica in particular are "insanely great" -- what else can one say?

3) But, a real problem with Mathematica is excessive complexity of its interface, and the size of its command and options vocabularies, both of which seriously damage its usability for a very large fraction of its potential users.

Speaking for myself, if I could buy at a much lower cost a "Mathematica Lite" that provided maybe 300 to 500 of the most used of Mathematica's current 3000 commands, and then supplement this with various specialized, individually priced packages for more specialized areas, I'd choose this an instant. And, I think the science, engineering, educational, and academic and professional worlds would all be far better off, and Mathematica could serve a far wider user base, with this alternative -- but I don't expect this to happen.

4) Mathematica is, to say it again, fantastically powerful for preparing the "graphics" parts of graphics output: the points, the lines, the surfaces, the axes, the tics, the pixels. But it is, for multiple reasons, a far from optimum tool when compared to almost any WYSIWG-type and/or mouse-controlled graphics software alternatives such as (just for example) Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop Elements for handling the "annotation and labeling and formatting" aspects of a graphics display: the fonts, the annotations, the labels, the titles, the line weights, the point sizes, the colors, and so on.

And, there is no way around this. These "annotation and labeling and formatting" tasks are just inherently better and more easily done and, very importantly, the skills and techniques for doing them are more easily learned and remembered in conventional, heavily mouse-oriented graphics software programs than in a "command-line" interface like Mathematica.

And, when one is going to re-purpose or re-use a graphics output for many different purposes (in class notes, and in a formal lecture, and in a journal article), with the same points, lines and curves but with modified annotation and formatting, this basic distinction just becomes even stronger.

And, many users will in any case, want to have those "Illustrator and Photoshop and Acrobat type" skills for other purposes, whether they're also present in Mathematica or not.

And finally, attempting to get around this problem by adding WYSIWYG or mouse-driven graphics capabilities within Mathematica itself -- attempting to imbed an ersatz Illustrator within Mathematica -- just makes things worse (rapidly worse!). The already excessive complexity and unlearnability of the Mathematica interface gets worse; and the ersatz Illustrator commands just frustrate anyone who has even modest knowledge of Illustrator.

5) So, this basic situation leads me to two conclusions. The absolutely clear and crucial conclusion is that Mathematica should put top priority on making its graphics-related "Export" commands as solid, powerful, reliable, consistent, simple, and absolutely format-compliant as possible, for all of the major standard document-transmission formats -- PDF first and foremost, of course, and then JPEG, TIFF, and any others that merit similar treatment.

Mathematica should in particular create and structure its Exported graphics output files in ways that help subsequent processing by other imaging-editing and document-preparation apps and make this subsequent processing easier, rather than hindering such subsequent processing. [Minor but telling example: If Mathematica exports a label or some other text string in a graphics output in such a way that the string is formatted as individual characters rather than as a single PDF string -- or if it formats a label like "height -L in meters" broken into three PDF strings just because the "-" is from another font -- this makes subsequent font name or font size changes really painful.]

6) The second conclusion -- for me, anyway -- is that WRI should back off on its oft-state objective trying to make Mathematica a "single tool for all tasks" or at least tone down its focus on this. Concentrate on making it better, faster, more powerful at the tasks at which it's truly great -- symbolic analysis, numerical computation, Manipulation, and very sophisticated implementation of the "graphics" aspects of graphics displays.

But, restrain this urge when it comes to the "annotation, labeling and formatting" aspects of graphics display. Let these be good enough that Mathematica graphics output will be acceptable, if not great, for class notes, lectures, reports (academic and industrial), and for the great majority of routine academic and industrial presentations.

But if you want to go beyond that and prepare "publication-quality" documents and presentations (e.g., glossy advertising brochures or whatever), then do that by exporting from "basic Mathematica" into a separate publications tool, sold separately, and learned separately, primarily by sophisticated programmers. Trying to cram this capability into a "universal" Mathematica that's supposed to be usable by, let's say, high school students and teachers, or even college-level students and teachers, is just a recipe for making Mathematica a worse experience for all levels of its user base.

Those are my views, and I'm pretty confident in them. Others may of course differ . . .
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Re: Presentations in Mathematica for lectures

Postby telefunkenvf14 » Thu Jul 15, 2010 9:19 am

3) But, a real problem with Mathematica is excessive complexity of its interface, and the size of its command and options vocabularies, both of which seriously damage its usability for a very large fraction of its potential users.

Speaking for myself, if I could buy at a much lower cost a "Mathematica Lite" that provided maybe 300 to 500 of the most used of Mathematica's current 3000 commands, and then supplement this with various specialized, individually priced packages for more specialized areas, I'd choose this an instant. And, I think the science, engineering, educational, and academic and professional worlds would all be far better off, and Mathematica could serve a far wider user base, with this alternative -- but I don't expect this to happen.


NOOO!!! (Versioning = bad!! Don't do it WRI!!) There are a core set of things every programmer in MMA has to know and then there are branches into all sorts of areas of math/stats/programming. If the branches aren't of interest, just try to ignore them, no? (it's hard to... I'm a bit ADD :shock: )

As for your other points, I can somewhat relate. However, why not just tweak options and set up your own graphing function(s) to call those options? This might get you closer to what you'd want for output---although I admit that programmatically placing labels in diagrams can be a hassle.

I also have Illustrator, but haven't used it for dressing up MMA diagrams yet. From what I gather, many info-graphic pro's use this type of strategy. (get something basic in R and export into illustrator)

Finally, I guess I'm more optimistic on what WRI can do with the front end. It's just a bunch of markup. Maybe the fact that the language is proprietary (i.e., WRI has chosen their own path) slows them down a bit, that is, relative to some of the other types of GUI's out there today. Nonetheless, WRI is sticking to the rules established by the language and I see plenty of room for growth.

-RG

-RG
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Re: Presentations in Mathematica for lectures

Postby Carlos_Salema » Fri Jul 16, 2010 9:52 am

Hi everybody

I do use Mathematica to prepare lecture notes, student's home work, even a book (published recently in Portuguese).
I think Mathematica is a great and almost works for me a jack-for-all-trades tool. To improve it I wished that:

a) There was some type of dictionary (at least in English, preferably also in Portuguese) to correct misspells. This facility existed in some prior version (I believe 3) mas it appears to have been discontinued.

b) The tool to make small alterations in graphics should include an arc tool. A rectangle is not enough.

c) The tool to make small alterations in graphics appears to need some refinement. It is sometimes quite difficult to select am item (to change its location)

d) Exporting a graphic (say in pdf format) does not necessary allow other programs (such as Illustrator) to further process it, which is a pity.
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Re: Presentations in Mathematica for lectures

Postby Kathy_Bautista » Fri Jul 16, 2010 2:59 pm

Carlos_Salema wrote:a) There was some type of dictionary (at least in English, preferably also in Portuguese) to correct misspells. This facility existed in some prior version (I believe 3) mas it appears to have been discontinued.


You'll be happy to know that the current version of Mathematica does in fact include spell check feature. Here's a video that shows how to utilize it to spell check your notebooks.
http://reference.wolfram.com/mathematic ... ebook.html

DictionaryLookup[] also includes support for a Portuguese dictionary.
http://reference.wolfram.com/mathematic ... ookup.html

e.g. DictionaryLookup[{"Portuguese", "c" ~~ ___}, 10] returns the first 10 words in the Portuguese dictionary.

Carlos_Salema wrote:d) Exporting a graphic (say in pdf format) does not necessary allow other programs (such as Illustrator) to further process it, which is a pity.


Mathematica can export graphics in a variety of raster and vector formats. Try exporting the graphic as an EPS and see if that works for you. If you run into problems with the file size or rendering quality (this is a known issue that is being addressed), you may want to rasterize the graphic. For example, you can use

Export["test.eps", %,"AllowRasterization" -> True ]

This generates an EPS file with much smaller size. Moreover, using this function also allows to add options like ImageResolution or RasterSize which let you to control the resolution and size of the output file. Of course, as it indicates, the output is no longer vector format graphic and it becomes difficult to resize it later.

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Re: Presentations in Mathematica for lectures

Postby Anthony_Siegman » Fri Jul 16, 2010 6:20 pm

Carlos_Salema wrote:Hi everybody

d) Exporting a graphic (say in pdf format) does not necessary allow other programs (such as Illustrator) to further process it, which is a pity.


Have to say, I don't understand this. There may be a few "gotchas" in Mathematica's export functionality, depending on just how you do the Export (or Copy/Save) process; but assuming you export a graphic properly into a standard format, the resulting file should be (and in my experience essentially always is) editable by any other software that is intended to handle that format. (I do this all the time.)
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Re: Presentations in Mathematica for lectures

Postby telefunkenvf14 » Mon Jul 19, 2010 7:31 am

Anthony_Siegman wrote:
Carlos_Salema wrote:Hi everybody

d) Exporting a graphic (say in pdf format) does not necessary allow other programs (such as Illustrator) to further process it, which is a pity.


Have to say, I don't understand this. There may be a few "gotchas" in Mathematica's export functionality, depending on just how you do the Export (or Copy/Save) process; but assuming you export a graphic properly into a standard format, the resulting file should be (and in my experience essentially always is) editable by any other software that is intended to handle that format. (I do this all the time.)


I agree that there are some quirks. Here's a resource from my collection that lays a few issues out in detail: http://www.uoregon.edu/~noeckel/MathematicaGraphics.html#GraphicsAnnotation

Below is an excerpt (issue #14) from the above link, which may or may not be relevant to the issues Carlos has experienced.

Mathematica graphics shows incorrect fonts in Adobe Illustrator

Mathematica's interactive drawing tools are only a meager subset of what a program like Adobe Illustrator can do, and so the interoperability between these two programs remains an important issue. I'll assume Illustrator CS 3 and Mathematica Version 6 here. If you're interested in older versions, check the web archive.

As you can tell from the archive link above, this page has been online for many years, and for historical reasons has been geared toward EPS as the main format. With Mathematica V6, EPS format has ceased to be the optimal vector format because it doesn't support transparency or gradients well. So we should aim for PDF export instead, in particular on a Mac where this is the native graphics format.

The official solution:
It turns out that we can completely fix all of Illustrator's font problems with PDF and EPS by executing the following cell in Mathematica (assuming Mac OS X):

Code: Select all
With[{temp = Directory[]},
If[ $Failed =!= SetDirectory["~/Library/Application\ Support/Adobe/Fonts/"],
If[! MemberQ[FileNames[], "Mathematica"],
  CreateDirectory["Mathematica"];
  Run["/bin/ln -s " <> $InstallationDirectory <>
    "/SystemFiles/Fonts/Type1 " <> $HomeDirectory <>
    "/Library/Application\\ Support/Adobe/Fonts/Mathematica/"];
  SetDirectory["Mathematica"];
  Print[Style["Created symbolic link\n", Green], FileNames[],
   Style["\nin folder\n", Green], Directory[]],
  Print[Style[
    "Nothing to be done, folder already exists.\nTo re-install, first remove\n",
    Red], Directory[] <> "/Mathematica"]];
SetDirectory[temp]]
]


This creates a new directory Mathematica in the folder ~/Library/Application\ Support/Adobe/Fonts/, and places a symbolic link to Mathematica's Type1 fonts in it. The symlink prescription was sent to me by Aron Yoffe who got it from at Wolfram Tech Support; I made it into a Mathematica script and added an extra level to the directory structure to avoid potential naming conflicts in Adobe's Fonts folder.

If you prefer to install the fonts for multiple users, replace ~/Library by /Library and $HomeDirectory by $RootDirectory. This cell only has to be re-evaluated if the Adobe directory "/Library/Application Support/Adobe/Fonts/" is modified (i.e., after updating Adobe products); but there is no harm in repeating the instructions (the procedure does nothing if the needed directory is already in place).
Once you press shift-return on the above cell, you'll even be able to copy Mathematica graphics to the clipboard and paste it directly into Illustrator without the dreaded font substitution dialog. This is something that the two alternative methods below don't allow.
At this point it's worth pointing to a remark on another page that also applies here: when exporting annotated graphics from Illustrator, it's a good idea to create outlines from fonts (Type > Create Outlines) first.

(SEE THE WEBSITE FOR MORE...)
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Re: Presentations in Mathematica for lectures

Postby Anthony_Siegman » Mon Jul 19, 2010 4:18 pm

[quote="telefunkenvf14"]

I agree that there are some quirks. Here's a resource from my collection that lays a few issues out in detail:

http://www.uoregon.edu/~noeckel/MathematicaGraphics.html#GraphicsAnnotation

[quote]

Based on my own experience, I'm in general agreement with what telefunkenvf14 has posted.

1) The Noeckel site is indeed useful (though also a bit idiosyncratic).

2) "EPS format has ceased to be the optimal vector format because it doesn't support transparency or gradients well. So we should aim for PDF export instead, in particular on a Mac where this is the native graphics format"

My understanding is that Adobe itself now considers PDF (not EPS) to be the native language for graphics created using Illustrator and other Adobe tools, so I believe EPS should be generally deprecated for _any_ uses (???), unless you're using legacy tools (some earlier versions of TeX tools, for example) that absolutely require it.

3) "It turns out that we can completely fix all of Illustrator's font problems with PDF and EPS by executing the following cell in Mathematica (assuming Mac OS X)"

Thanks for the code on how to solve this. Should this knowledge be more widely distributed, in MMA and Mac OS groups and circles?
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