Mathematica Online Launched
Written by Mike James   
Thursday, 18 September 2014

Wolfram has just launched Mathematica Online and it provides an easy way to do difficult math.


If you have never used Mathematica, or any other symbolic math package, it is difficult to convey the freedom it brings. It is like having a pocket calculator but for real math not just arithmetic. You can type in equations, differential equations, integrals and so on and have them solved for you in a few moments. It changes the way you approach a math problem because you no longer have to spend time looking things up, writing out long expressions as you evaluate algebra, and you no longer have to doubt your final result because you might have made a mistake.

Of course symbolic math packages aren't perfect and you do have to check and polish results that you obtain before you make use of them or present them to others. But when you are exploring a problem it can save hours of time. 




Until now if you wanted to use Mathematica in this way you had to install a desktop version and for the occasional user this is sometimes a barrier, even if the necessary licences are available. Now you don't have to fiddle with an installation - you can simply go to a web page and start using Mathematica. We first saw this in action when Wolfram launched the Wolfram Cloud - this is the infrastructure that runs the now online Mathematica. 

In use it is much like using desktop Mathematica, and as the server does all of the heavy lifting you don't notice any slow down in performance. Also, as most of the graphics are implemented on the client side, even interacting with the UI is fast and responsive. The only time you notice any difference is when the operation involves transferring a lot of data, which is not the sort of thing you do very often with Mathematica.

As the client isn't doing much of the work you can opt to use a tablet or even a mobile phone to do complicated math. Wolfram is planning to deliver custom apps for iOS and Android in the near future. 

The advantages are not only that you can start to use Mathematica from anywhere you have an internet connection, but you can also share documents with other users. It also makes it a good way to implement applications.  If you do want to transfer your work to the desktop then a single click will do it and the desktop version can work with files stored in the Wolfram cloud. 

If you are worried about the security implications of storing your work in Wolfram's cloud, a private cloud version will be available soon. 

Now for the bad news - there is no free tier. There is a version targeting individual users at $149 per year and a 30-day trial, but at the moment this isn't available. The standard subscription is $995 per year.  Not having a free tier, or a pay-as-you go option, is a missed opportunity. As mentioned earlier the big attraction of something like Mathematica online is the potential for casual use - the need to sign up and pay for a licence is going to put the brakes on this to an extent.




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Last Updated ( Thursday, 18 September 2014 )