Wolfram released Mathematica 9 yesterday. It doesn’t take everyone’s fancy but to a hack programmer like myself it is a revolution. I’ve been using Mathematica for 20 years and it is essential to my research. But I do not really know how to use Mathematica. That requires spending the time to learn programming syntax and to structure programs. Instead, I have always used Mathematica as a means of having a conversation with a very smart mathematically trained research assistant. I use it to solve equations, take derivatives and plot things. Occasionally I do more but can never remember the commands.
Mathematica 9 appears to be built for people like me. The new predictive interface suggests commands to you as you place one in a line. If you take a derivative of something it then asks you if you want to see a plot or take another derivative or factor or what have you. And it learns your preferences. So I never have to look up commands — even those really annoying ones to make graphs look nice and have labels etc. I don’t even have to type them.
In addition, if I can’t remember a command to get started I can just type what I want in words and Mathematica understands the plain language construct.
Anyhow, this is really worth checking out. Here are more details.