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Re: [Axiom-developer] Windows front end

From: Mike Dewar
Subject: Re: [Axiom-developer] Windows front end
Date: Thu, 28 Nov 2002 10:13:15 +0000

Hi Guys,

You're probably aware of this but, just in case, it may help for me to
point out some of the differences between the Unix and Windows system.

1. Graphics: On Unix this is done with a combination of bespoke Axiom
data structures and some pretty convoluted X-Windows code.  On Windows
we added facilities to create OpenInventor data structures (OpenInventor
is the basis for VRML - the virtual reality markup language).  The
Inventor geometries were then exported to a little application we wrote
based on the standard SceneViewer application you get with many
OpenInventor toolkits.  The results were definitely superior to the Unix

NAG has a visualisation system based on Open Inventor called Iris
Explorer and some of the reasons for going down this route were product
integration and leveraging our internal expertise.  However since VRML
is a well-defined standard it also made Axiom more open.  The
longer-term plan was to do the same on Unix and drop the old Axiom
rendering stuff completely but sadly we never got to do this.

I wouldn't try porting the X-based graphics to Windows but would either
use the OpenInventor stuff and one of the free VRML viewers or use the
same approach with a different standard format.  For 3D graphics the OI
stuff worked pretty-much out-of-the-box, we just added menus for axes,
scales etc.  For 2D plots we had to add some extra code but that wasn't
too hard.

2. The Browser: This is the part of HyperTex which allows you to look up
domains, categories, operations etc. as opposed to the whole HyperTex
environment.  For the Windows version we pushed a lot of the code which
was in the HyperTex application or used Unix scripts into either the
interpreter (via boot code) or in some cases into the underlying Lisp (I
added a grep function based on some existing NAG code for example).
Incidentally this kind of thing will probably give you problems when you
try using different lisps ...

The upshot of this is that all you require from the front end is a
simple forms interface and everything else can be done by the
interpreter, all the old stuff using scripts and C code is obsolete.

3. The Documentation: The documentation for the Windows system was
translated from the Unix version so that it would work inside
TechExplorer (and in some cases we also added code to TechExplorer to
support particular features).  In most cases this was done by a first
pass using sed and then some tidying up via emacs macros, hand edits
etc.  during the proof-reading stage.  

Again there was a long-term plan which was to migrate the HyperTex docs
to SGML which was then our standard documentation format (now it would
be XML) and then generate HyperTex, TechExplorer TeX, vanilla LaTeX as

So to summarise, its really not necessary to have an X environment under
Windows and, while I don't know anything about TeXmacs, it ought to be
sufficient for your needs if it supports forms.  You will need a
different graphics environment but we found that relatively
straightforward, largely because the object-oriented nature of Inventor
made it easy to model the data structures in Axiom.

Cheers, Mike. 

On Wed, Nov 27, 2002 at 06:23:01PM -0500, Tim Daly wrote:
> > Bill Page wrote:
> > 
> > ...(snip)...
> > 
> > Well we have been discussing TeXmacs as a graphical
> > interface, right? TeXmacs does not currently run in
> > native windows but a version is planned. A user interested
> > in a graphical tex front-end to Axiom running on a PC could
> > still install Cygwin and run TeXmacs to interface with
> > Axiom running in windows native mode.
> > 
> > Currently, as I understand it, TeXmacs has not "off-the-
> > shelf" facility to display graphical output from tools
> > such as GNUplot, etc. But I have seen this discussed
> > on the TeXmacs developer list.
> > 
> > > Magnus has a tcl/tk front end. I believe that tcl/tk
> > > software will run on windows. Do you know if this is
> > > true?
> > 
> > Yes. But these tools are a little "dated". If changes
> > are needed to Axiom then we might consider other
> > alternatives. I can check around and let you know what
> > I find.
> > 
> > If our goal is just to support the existing Axiom graphics
> > capabilities in a platform independent way, then perhaps
> > simply re-coding that part of Axiom to interface with an
> > open source graphics package is all that would be needed.
> > 
> > > Perhaps we can steal the front-end as it is a stand-alone
> > > piece of software.
> > 
> > What are your current thoughts about TeXmacs? Personally
> > I still think it is a good match for Axiom and I would be
> > prepared to devote some effort to helping to extended
> > TeXmacs capabilities where these would better meet the
> > requirements of Axiom.
> > 
> > I think it would be good to avoid having to develop an
> > Axiom specific front-end (even if it is "borrowed" from
> > some other open source package), if at all possible.
> TeXmacs is fine as a front-end. I'm all in favor of it.
> However, it doesn't run on Windows at the moment and we're 
> gonna take flak from the users who are conditioned to the
> TeXexplorer front-end. Helping TeXmacs run on Windows and
> work with Axiom is certainly a worthwhile goal.
> I'm a command-line oriented person and won't use a GUI even
> if it exists nor do I run Windows so I defer to your decisions
> in this area. Choose a direction, give it a try and follow your
> whims. I'll do what I can to help.
> Tim
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