Maple: Maple Turns Suite 16

Samir Khan,
Maple Product Manager

Maple might be coming of age, but it has no intention of slowing down! With faster computational performance, eye-popping plots and a smart document environment, the software goes from strength to strength.

Given Maple’s rapid pace of change over the last five years, I was tempted to think that new developments would slow down to a trickle. So when Maple 16 was released, I installed the software, double-clicked the ever familiar leaf-motif icon and prepared myself to be underwhelmed.

But prescience was never one of my strong points, and right from the get-go, Maple surprised me with new ways of interacting with maths, faster computational performance, and gorgeous plots.

The drag-to-solve feature lets you move parts of a mathematical expression from one side of an equation to another; the correct multiplications, divisions and additions are automatically applied. This degree of interactivity felt so natural that I was surprised it wasn’t already implemented in Maple or indeed any other system.

Here’s an example of the elegance of drag-to-solve. Let’s say I’ve entered this expression:
maple equation
After I highlight the 3x, and drag it over to the left-hand side of the expression, a pop-up asks me if I want to divide by 3x or subtract 3x.

Choosing Subtract applies and documents the operation.
maple equation
Extending the existing theme of context-sensitive menus, if you highlight and hover over part of an expression, a pop-up window comes into view. This window lets you choose between several mathematical functions; the pop-up window also displays the result of the mathematical operation. For example, if I now highlight and hover over the sin(x), a pop-up lets me pick from several trig identities and shows me the results of their application.

Note the plot icon – it’s a live preview of what the graph would look like.

maple equation
Visualisation has had a facelift. Older versions of Maple often required that plots had to be tweaked with command-line parameters to make them look good. Now in Maple 16, the default plots simply look better, with lighting and glossiness coming as standard on 3D plots, and thicker lines on 2D plots.
Figure 1 shows an example of how dramatic this change is. This table compares the default visualisation in Maple 15 and 16 for a 3d plot.

maple figure 1 and 2

Additionally, a new suite of commands help you manage colour sets for plots, with many attractive built-in colour schemes. You can also smoothly zoom into plots by dragging a rubber-band around the area of interest – the plot gradually expands the view to your selection.

Prior releases introduced several automatically multithreaded routines; this included functions for polynomial manipulation, matrix computation, sequential addition and more. Improvements in architecture and memory management mean that these commands are faster in Maple 16. Figure 2 shows an example of a multithreaded function in Maple 15 and 16; the newer release is much faster.

Data type coercion is another significant improvement. Before Maple 16, attempting to pass an Array to a function that demanded a Matrix often resulted in an error. Now, Maple intelligently converts between different data types so these issues are far less frequent.

Many more new features flesh out the offering. A raft of other improvements include new maths applications, plotting and interpolation routines for 3d data, and many improved and new commands.

I’m well over my initial cynicism at another new release of Maple. Maple 16 is an exciting release, with much to offer experienced and new users. For me, at least, the faster multithreaded performance will save time while the automatic datatype coercion makes programming simpler.

But don’t take my word for it. Why not email info@alfasoft.com to request a free Maple 16 trial and see if the software can accelerate your problem solving and calculation challenges? Visit the Maple home page.

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