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01 Quick Overview of Functions and Features

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Welcome to this short introduction to Wolfram Notebooks. Wolfram Notebooks were first released in 1988, as the user interface for Wolfram Language systems. So, a typical Wolfram Language session might look something like this, with inputs and outputs displayed in a notebook window. Wolfram Notebooks have always been much more than just a user interface though. In addition to inputs and outputs, the notebook can include headings and comments, as shown here, as well as project information and hyperlinks and anything else that you might want put in the document. Here is a more finished notebook, with notes and tables and interactive features like buttons and sliders, all organized into sections and subsections. A Wolfram Notebook like this is uniquely itself, a programmable Wolfram Language expression. It can be saved to the cloud for viewing in a web browser or formatted as a slide presentation or shared as a standalone electronic document or viewed on mobile devices. And a Wolfram Notebook can be created and edited programmatically from the Wolfram Language, which enables a broad range of applications, like generating rich reports automatically or even saving notebooks as expressions in a blockchain, for a computational contracts. To see a few details of how all of these features come together, consider a project that starts with an empty notebook. This first input imports some data related to earthquakes, and this next input organizes that data into a dataset. There are a variety of aids to help with getting the syntax right when entering these inputs. This next input will give a plot of the geographic locations of earthquakes. And as this input is being entered, unmatched brackets and quote marks are shown in a different color, and different types of keywords are shown in different colors. And for longer programs, there are other programming aids like automatic line breaking and so on. This shows another one of those programming aids called command completion, which displays a menu of choices, given the first few letters in the name of a function. And after the function is chosen, you can bring up a menu of function templates for the arguments of the function. This input gives a histogram of earthquake magnitudes. Before a project like this gets very far along, it can be useful to include notes and background information to describe, say, an overview of the project, or to give details about what each calculation is doing. Notes like that, can be inserted by clicking anywhere between the inputs and outputs, and entering text, much as you might do in any text editor. You can indicate that you are entering text by choosing Text from the Style submenu, under the format menu or by using the equivalent keyboard shortcut. Eventually the notebook can become large enough that it is useful to add some organization. There are several ways of doing that. Here I will start by entering a title and then a section heading, at the start of each new topic. Section headings are added much like text, by clicking where you want to put a heading and choosing Section from the Style submenu of the format menu or by using the equivalent keyboard shortcut. A key feature of notebooks is that notebooks are structured documents, where everything in the notebook is organized into units called cells. There are many different types of cells. Inputs are shown in input cells. Outputs are shown in output cells. Text is shown in text cells. Section headings are shown in section cells and so on. Cells are typically identified by cell brackets, near the right edge of the notebook window. Cells can also be nested. So, for example, there is a cell bracket that groups each input with the corresponding output. And in this notebook, for each section heading there is an outer bracket that automatically groups the section heading with all of the cells in that section. Returning now to the top of the notebook, one useful feature of grouped cells is that cell groups can be opened and closed. For example, double-clicking on the outer section cell bracket in this notebook closes the section cells to show only the section headings, which gives this outline overview of the notebook. For many projects, it is convenient to start with an outline like this and then proceed with the project by entering content within that outline. Closed cells can be reopened by double-clicking on the same cell bracket or by clicking this icon in the heading of the closed cell. Notebooks support many other formatting features. So far, this notebook has only been shown with the default styles. But the notebook can be displayed in a variety of formats by choosing from different stylesheets, like the ones shown here, or by setting up your own styles. Another important feature of notebooks is support for mathematical typesetting, which is useful for projects that involve any sort of mathematics. The default mathematical typesetting will look more like this, with slightly different typeface and formatting, which has some advantages, or there are options to make the display look more like what you might find in a traditional textbook. All of this is fully integrated with the rest of the system, and can be used for input or output or anywhere else in a notebook. You can also create tables and itemized lists and automatic numbering and other structures that you might expect to find in a modern typesetting system. Notebooks also support interactive controls, like buttons and sliders. Here, for example, is a display that provides sliders for selecting a range of earthquake magnitudes and buttons for selecting the year. Controls like these can be used to set up interactive documents so that anyone using the notebook can explore data or choose the content that they want to see or even control complicated calculations right from within the notebook. As noted earlier, there are a number of ways of sharing notebooks or saving notebooks to the cloud. Under the File menu, you can choose save to cloud and then reload the notebook from the cloud, or here I will choose publish to cloud, which saves a notebook that can be viewed in any web browser. This shows that notebook in a web browser, where the notebook looks and behaves much like the original notebook, including all of the interactive features. So, this is a dynamic document. Notebooks can also be shared just as they are, as electronic documents, and viewed using any Wolfram Language system, or using the free Wolfram Notebook player. This shows that notebook viewed in the Wolfram Player, which again behaves much like the original notebook, except for a different border around the window. With a few clicks of the mouse, this notebook can also be converted to a slideshow, with each section in a separate slide. For this notebook, that can be done by setting the style sheet to a PresenterTools style, and then setting the screen environment to Slideshow Working, to access the tools for editing the presentation. One of those tools brings up this dialog box to get a separate slide for each section. Then click Start Presentation to show the slides. All of the editing and interactive features work in the presentation just as they do in the original notebook. So basically, Wolfram Notebooks provide a system for organizing projects and collaboration, all the way from initial concept through to distribution of reports or presentations or sharing in the cloud or even as Wolfram Language expressions embedded in code. There is much more to be said about all of the features that came up in this short video. You can find more information in online documentation or in other videos on Wolfram Notebooks.

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Duration: 6 minutes and 48 seconds
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Language: English
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Posted by: wolfram on Nov 18, 2019

01 Quick Overview of Functions and Features

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