Road Guide to the Documentation



Those who document computer programs are painfully aware that most of their intended readers hate to read documentation. Users want and expect a program to be written with an interface so intuitive that its use will be entirely transparent, and the existence of more than bare bones documentation is often looked at as an admission that the program is somehow deficient. But as Albert Einstein is supposed to have said:

Things should be as simple as possible---but no simpler.

Any software application has a certain irreducible complexity that limits how simple designers and coders can make a program, and documentors must be prepared to deal with explaining this minimal complexity in as clear a fashion as possible.

While we have worked hard on the design and coding of 3D-XplorMath, trying to make using it easy and intuitive, we hope you will accept that we were dealing with a complex process (visualizing the Platonic Realm of Mathematics) so the program we came up with could not be entirely trivial, and it does require a modest amount of explanation. On the other hand, we know you will prefer using 3D-XplorMath to reading about it, so we have tried to organize the documentation in a way that will permit you, at any given time, to read only what is really required, and to this end we have divided the documentation into several levels:

Level I, The Basics
This gives an overview of the program, and will tell you the minimum you need to know to get started using it. If you are so averse to reading documentation that even Part I makes you gag, then please at least read
Once Over Lightly. It is a condensed version of Level I, and should only take you a few minutes to read. If you are an experienced Macintosh user and will only be using the program casually, this may be all the documentation you will ever need. But to get the most out to the program, we strongly advise that at some point you read the remainder of Level I, or at least Getting Started with 3D-XplorMath.

Level II, The Details
This is what normally goes into a user manual for a computer program: it has a description of each of the menus, gives a more careful description of the program's main features and explains the organization of the mathematical material with which the program deals. If you are interested in what is "under the hood", or need to know more about some particular aspect of the program, this is where to look.

Level III, The Gruesome Technicalities
This is a repository for all the geeky, nerdy stuff for those who really need (or want) to know the gory details. But otherwise, unless you are masochistic (or want to try your hand at writing MathViz software) you probably will not be interested in this level of detail.

Finally, there are a few appendices, with acknowledgements for the massive amout of help we have had in developing 3D-XplorMath, a discussion of copyright matters, and an essay called What Is Mathematical Visualization.

And of course, there is the all important Index to the documentation.


Documentation Table Of Contents.
Documentation Index.