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Re: Is MathML suitable for my requirements

From: Robert Miner <RobertM@dessci.com>
Date: Mon, 15 Jan 2001 11:32:45 -0600
Message-Id: <200101151732.LAA25957@wisdom.geomtech.com>
To: H.Baig@herts.ac.uk
CC: www-math@w3.org

Hi.

You asked:

> It might sound like a rather awkward question but I've read through
> most of the theory behind MathML on different sites but I'm still
> confused whether or not I shall use MathML [snip...]  

MathML is intended for just this type of project, but for people in
your situation, it isn't the kind of thing you would use directly.
MathML would be used behind the scenes by other math software to
communicate.  You say:

> My goal is to develop a website which teaches Ordinary Differential
> Equations to Engineers.  The website has to be interactive to the
> extent that it allows users to to type in their Mathematical
> problems (mainly Engineering applications) and get the answers there
> and then. One of the main objectives is to make the website interact
> with Mathematical software Maple to allow the users to solve
> questions online. [snip...]  

To make your site, you would need 1) some kind of component you could put
in a web page to allow folks to enter math expressions, or maybe you
could fake what you need with standard forms and Javascript, 2) a
server side computation engine like Maple, and 3) some kind of
component or MathML-aware browser to display the results.

At this time, only some of the necessary pieces are available off the
self.  For example, there is a collection of Java applets called
WebEQ, including a WYSIWYG editor applet that you could use for step
1).  However, for step 2) Maple doesn't yet import and export MathML,
though I expect that will be a feature in the next version.  For step
3) there are specialty plug-ins, applets and browsers for displaying
MathML (like WebEQ again, or techexplorer, or the Amaya browser from
W3C) but Netscape and IE don't yet just display MathML by default.

So, you are a little bit ahead of the software -- for now, the kind of
thing you want to do involves both a good deal of customer programming
hooking up MathML-capable components and software, and special purpose
code to fill in the gaps when an off the shelf component isn't available.

> Can u please suggest whether or not I can meet my objectives using
> MathML.  If not could you suggest another language which would
> exactly meet my requirements.  

Nope.  There isn't one.  MathML is as close as you can come.  The
whole reason MathML was invented was because what you are trying to do
is hard, and although there is a fair amount of software that
implements MathML import and export now, not quite enough of it is
finished and release to really solve your problem without a lot of
work.

> One simple question, can MathML codes be embedded in HTML like
> JavaScript.

Not yet.  Quite a few people are working on ways to get Netscape and
IE to display straight embedded MathML, and there are some pretty
promising prototypes.  But as I say, nothing is finished yet. 

--Robert

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Robert Miner                          email: RobertM@dessci.com
Design Science, Inc.                  phone: 651-223-2883
http://www.dessci.com
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Received on Monday, 15 January 2001 12:33:06 GMT

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