|Maple V Release 4||- by Dr. Dirk Terrell|
Maple for OS/2 requires Warp. The program installs effortlessly; you simply tell it where to put the files, and which files to install. A minimal installation requires 18 megabytes of disk space, and a full installation, including extensive example worksheets and user-contributed packages, requires 28 megabytes of space. The minimum RAM requirement is 8 megabytes, and the documentation lists a 486 as the minimum CPU.
Powerful commands are not useful if you don't know how to use them, however. Maple ships with excellent documentation that will have you acting like a math wizard in a matter of minutes. The Learning Guide starts with the very basics of how to enter commands and through its 263 pages, shows you how to find solutions to equations, create graphs, evaluate and simplify expressions, and read/write data to/from disk files. The Programming Guide shows you how to use Maple's programming language to solve problems that would be quite time consuming to solve in more traditional languages like FORTRAN or C.
The Maple Handbook is a 476 page, spiral-bound reference of the built-in Maple commands. This book is very handy when you are working on a problem, and can't quite remember the option of a particular command that you need. If you need more information on a particular command, it lists page(s) in the Programming Guide and Learning Guide where you can find information on that particular command. And on top of all this printed documentation, Maple comes with on-line help that is extensive and easy to use.
The worksheet interface is much more than a way to get nice output that looks like equations as opposed to poor renditions done in ASCII art. It is a full-fledged document editing tool that enables you to effortlessly combine text, equations, graphics, and even hypertext links to other documents. Complex documents can be outlined, enabling you to collapse and expand sections and quickly get to the information you are looking for. The on-line help for Maple is a Maple worksheet, for example.
As you would expect, the interface enables you to cut and paste both text and graphics between it and other programs. I had no problems pasting figures from Maple into PMView and DeScribe.
Maple's very natural language makes it easy to solve mathematical problems. For example, if you wanted to integrate a particular function, say y=x*x over the range where x varies from -2 to 2, you might use Simpson's rule and write a FORTRAN subroutine to do this, in which case you would probably have to write 30 or 40 lines of code. In Maple, you simply enter:
and upon pressing the Enter key, Maple responds with:
which you recognize as being the correct answer since this example is a trivial function to integrate. You can even check it by doing the integral manually:
Say, what does that function look like? Maple draws it faster than you can think "Where is my graph paper?"
And if you need to change the way the plot is done, a right-click on the graphic brings up a menu of parameters for the plot such as the type of axes to use, the symbol or line type to use, etc. With 3-D plots (GIF, 15k), you can even change the point of view by clicking on the plot and dragging the mouse around. You can also change the perspective and lighting of a 3-D plot with a click of the mouse.
Now that I have praised the graphical interface, let me point out that Maple also ships with a text-mode version that can be very handy when you just need to do a quick and dirty calculation. However, the real power of the text-mode version reveals itself when you use REXX as the glue to piece the Maple engine together with other programs. You can have one program create some data, then have Maple do some processing on it, and then have another program do something with the output from Maple, all done automatically by a REXX script.
Waterloo Maple has announced that they are making Maple an OpenDoc application. OpenDoc is the future of interoperability in programs, and would enable you to embed a Maple object within a DeScribe document, for example.
Even more annoying is the fact that the program is not multi-threaded. If a complex graphic is being rendered, you will sit there and stare at the clock cursor until it is done. Now, I realize that such threading would be much more complicated to program, but even printing is done on the main thread, meaning that you are locked out of the program until the print job is spooled. That is simply inexcusable.
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Copyright © 1996 - Falcon Networking