Dr. Dobb's is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Channels ▼


Mathematica 8 Review

There are only a handful of personal computing applications that I get excited by whenever a new version is released, and Mathematica is one of those programs. Now in its 8th release, Wolfram Mathematica represents a culmination of computational power and expertise. Those who are already Mathematica users and developers, upgrading to Mathematica 8 is a no-brainer (especially since it works with any Mathematica documents created with versions 6 and 7). For the others who are either on the fence or wondering what all the excitement is about, read on.

Since Mathematica 8 builds upon its predecessors, this review will focus mainly on the features added to the product since its last release. For those who wish to read my earlier review of Mathematica 7, read it here.

With over 500 new features, it's hard to pick out which new additions are most appealing due to the wide variety of professionals that use Mathematica. The product spans engineering, scientific, financial, and educational uses as well as many other disciplines involving numerical computation and data visualization. Nevertheless, if I had to choose the top 20, these would be my personal list (in no special order) from a developer's point of view of the most useful additions in Mathematica 8:

  • C code generation and compilation to a dynamic library or standalone executable
  • Dynamic libraries linking into Mathematica at run-time (no need to restart the Mathematica 8 environment)
  • Native support for Compute Unified Device Architecture (CUDA) and OpenCL GPU parallelization
  • Free-form Linguistic Input
  • Wolfram|Alpha integration
  • Improved Graphic Rendering
  • Expanded Image and Video Processing
  • Text Recognition in Images
  • Oscillatory integration
  • Permutation Group calculations
  • New statistical functions like Non-Parametric Distributions, tool-tip data visualizations
  • Financial Engineering functions that span massive number of types of trading indicators, symbolic representation of cash flows, effective intreats rates, annuities, etc. and a comprehensive FinancialDerivative super-function, an InteractiveTradingChart function, and more
  • Expanded image processing, including morphology, segmentation and feature detection
  • Arbitrary geometric transformations and image alignment
  • Bode, Nyquist, and Nichols control system visualization plots
  • Discrete and continuous wavelet transform analysis (for example, DiscreteWaveletTransform, WavletImagePlot functions) that follow the standard conventions of the field
  • Expanded network analysis (Data and Social network data analysis)
  • Various graphs: export to GraphML, GXL and other popular formats

Let's take a look at some of the more interesting new features in detail.

Related Reading

More Insights

Currently we allow the following HTML tags in comments:

Single tags

These tags can be used alone and don't need an ending tag.

<br> Defines a single line break

<hr> Defines a horizontal line

Matching tags

These require an ending tag - e.g. <i>italic text</i>

<a> Defines an anchor

<b> Defines bold text

<big> Defines big text

<blockquote> Defines a long quotation

<caption> Defines a table caption

<cite> Defines a citation

<code> Defines computer code text

<em> Defines emphasized text

<fieldset> Defines a border around elements in a form

<h1> This is heading 1

<h2> This is heading 2

<h3> This is heading 3

<h4> This is heading 4

<h5> This is heading 5

<h6> This is heading 6

<i> Defines italic text

<p> Defines a paragraph

<pre> Defines preformatted text

<q> Defines a short quotation

<samp> Defines sample computer code text

<small> Defines small text

<span> Defines a section in a document

<s> Defines strikethrough text

<strike> Defines strikethrough text

<strong> Defines strong text

<sub> Defines subscripted text

<sup> Defines superscripted text

<u> Defines underlined text

Dr. Dobb's encourages readers to engage in spirited, healthy debate, including taking us to task. However, Dr. Dobb's moderates all comments posted to our site, and reserves the right to modify or remove any content that it determines to be derogatory, offensive, inflammatory, vulgar, irrelevant/off-topic, racist or obvious marketing or spam. Dr. Dobb's further reserves the right to disable the profile of any commenter participating in said activities.

Disqus Tips To upload an avatar photo, first complete your Disqus profile. | View the list of supported HTML tags you can use to style comments. | Please read our commenting policy.