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Macsyma 2.1

Macsyma 2.1

Macsyma 2.1 functions equally well in both Windows 3.1 and NT. Its interface is a spiral bound notebook with the traditional Macsyma two-part communication format - on the C (command) line you type the expression to be analyzed and Macsyma responds with the answer on the D (display) line with the same number. Combinations of the C & D lines can reduce the typing significantly.

The notebook approach with Macsyma's Front End (MFE) and the menu system is ideal for creating crisp documents and connecting to Macsyma's number crunching engine. The approach lets the user organize math operations by inserting text, Macsyma commands, graphics, or any imported bitmap files into the same document.

The range of help options in v2.1 lets you access any command, syntax, or feature, complete with demos and extensive examples. However, the on-line MathHelp is probably the best enhancement in this version. You can view any command and capability in MathHelp by description, where hypertext links access more than 2,000 commands. Examples and demos of the commands are available from the main help session or can be requested explicitly.

The new template option lets you fill the attributes of each command and then submit the command for execution. The only problem with this option is that you need some help or an example for the right syntax when filling the template.

The MathTips Advisor is an excellent hybrid of all the advantages of the other help options in Macsyma. In any advanced math program, remembering what is available and how to use it is sometimes a difficult task. Now, starting from the MathHelp menu, you select a topic, calculus for example, which in turn will branch to a subtopic, in this case differentiation. Macsyma will bring up all the possible ways you can do differentiation, each complete with a description and an example.

Capabilities. The core of Macsyma's symbolic engine has new improvements and additions. A notable addition on the numerical analysis side is least square fit routines for fitting data to an ordinary differential equation using exclusively symbolic manipulations. The results can be graphed and some meaningful statistics can also be extracted indicating the goodness of fit. A macro that encapsulates all these features could be constructed or supplied as a special command.

Macsyma has a very robust math engine and you will be hard pressed to find expressions that cannot be handled correctly. On those rare occasions, you will find that explicit bounds and assumptions need to be posed by the user, as Macsyma takes its best guess with its symbolic tool. In even fewer instances, Macsyma's response to math problems with obvious or not-known closed-form solutions was the expression in math notation or no activity at all.

Data Viewer lets you import or export one- and two-dimensional numerical data in a spreadsheet-like interface and then perform data analysis using Macsyma's internal graphics, or numerical or statistical routines. This version covers ASCII and comma-separated value formats. Considering the numerical and graphical muscle of Macsyma, binary data would have been a natural choice for large arrays. A good fit for the Data Viewer, along with binary data formats, would be applications such as vibration and noise analysis where data acquisition systems are implemented and further analysis of large sets of data in the time and frequency domain is of essence.

Macsyma 2.1 is a major enhancement to its predecessor with significant hits being the MathTips engine and the promising Data Viewer capabilities.


Spec Box

Macsyma is an integrated tool for symbolic and mathematical manipulations of problems in engineering and the sciences. Requirements: a 486 or better PC with 8M bytes of RAM, 18M bytes of HD space, and up to 20M bytes for swap file. The Windows 3.1/NT version requires 16M bytes of RAM. Macsyma is also available for UNIX.

List Price: Windows 3.1 & NT, $499; Unix $1,250

Macsyma, Inc., 20 Academy St., Arlington, MA 02174; Ph: (617) 646-4550; Internet: http://www.macsyma.com.

A similar product:

Maple - Waterloo Maple Software, 450 Phillip St., Waterloo, Canada N2L 5J2; ph: (800) 267-6583.

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