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Wolfram Research Provides Technology for IBM techexplorer 3.0

Published October 20, 2000

October 20, 2000–IBM has chosen the international conference “MathML and Math on the Web,” hosted by Wolfram Research, to announce the release of techexplorer 3.0, a browser plug-in for rendering mathematical expressions sent in the MathML extension to HTML. Mathematica users will be particularly interested to know that a technology exchange between IBM and Wolfram Research, Inc. has given techexplorer a unique level of interoperability with Mathematica.

The widespread use of HTML has revolutionized communications, but HTML itself has limitations. Before MathML, the only way to publish any but the simplest formulas on the web was to transmit them as bitmapped images, an inefficent and awkward workaround. The MathML format allows for the web transmission of mathematical expressions in a much more efficient way. Mathematica 4 can already save notebook documents as HTML/MathML with one simple command, but most users could not take full advantage of this capability since the most popular browsers do not include built-in support for the MathML extension.

techexplorer fills this gap by allowing the most popular browsers to render expressions transmitted in either TeX format (a popular format for technical documents in academia) or MathML format. The upcoming release of Mathematica 4.1 will include the techexplorer format in its list of “Save As Special…” options, letting users save their notebooks into a techexplorer-savvy form.


Figure 1   A Mathematica notebook


Figure 2  The same notebook saved as a techexplorer document and displayed in a browser

However, the connection between techexplorer and Mathematica does not end there. techexplorer is primarily a display technology, but thanks to a special software interface developed by IBM and Wolfram Research, techexplorer will be able to use Mathematica‘s kernel to evaluate expressions and formulas directly from the browser (Windows only). Moreover, users can paste MathML expressions directly into their Mathematica notebooks, and Mathematica will interpret them properly–making cut-and-paste from the web as easy for mathematical formulas as it is for text.

What Is Mathematica?

Mathematica is the world’s only fully integrated technical computing system, combining interactive calculation (both numeric and symbolic), visualization tools, and a complete programming environment. Over a million researchers, students, engineers, physicists, analysts, and other technical professionals worldwide have discovered Mathematica‘s unique combination of unmatched computational power and unprecedented ease of use.

A comprehensive look at Mathematica is available.

What Is MathML?

MathML is a W3C-approved extension to HTML designed to encode mathematical expressions. The HTML standard allows for some simple subscript and superscript formatting, but the standard can’t handle anything more intricate. MathML, which is based on the concepts of Mathematica‘s own expression-formatting technology, overcomes this limitation. Just as HTML tells a browser what to display, but lets the browser take care of details like line breaking, MathML tells the browser what formula to display, but leaves it to the browser to actually draw the formula on the screen. The result is that even complex mathematical expressions can be sent efficiently and rendered flexibly.

Details about Wolfram Research’s contribution to the creation of MathML are also available.

The MathML International Conference 2000

The release of techexplorer 3.0 is being announced at the “MathML and Math on the Web” international conference. Another example of Wolfram Research’s leadership in bringing mathematics to the web, this conference is being held on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on October 20-21, 2000.

Cosponsored by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), IBM, the American Mathematical Society, and other industry representatives, the conference is bringing together many of the key figures involved in defining, implementing, and using MathML. For a glimpse of the future of mathematics on the web, see the list of conference presentations.