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[Axiom-developer] [AxiomUI] (new)

From: billpage
Subject: [Axiom-developer] [AxiomUI] (new)
Date: Mon, 27 Jun 2005 18:41:50 -0500

by [Kai Kaminski]


  The goal of this project is to provide a portable and user-friendly
graphical user interface for the Axiom computer algebra system. The
implementation described in this proposal takes advantage of the
capabilities of modern web browsers to achieve both goals.

Benefits to the Lisp/OSS community

  The Common Lisp community will benefit from this project in three
ways. First of all new libraries will be created, for example to
generate well-formed SVG (and possibly X3D) output. Already available
libraries will receive testing on multiple platforms and consequent
improvements if necessary. Finally it will serve as an example for the
construction of platform independent user interfaces.
For the broader OSS community the most interesting aspect of this
project will be easier access to the Axiom computer algebra
system. Axiom is unique among open source projects through its scope
and vision. It strives to provide and open and powerful platform for
computational mathematics and related fields (see [1] for
details). Its potential users are researchers, teachers and students
alike. While the kernel of Axiom is very mature after more than thirty
years of ongoing development, the need of a modern, portable user
interface has become obvious.

.. [1]


  The graphical user interface described in this proposal will have the
following properties:

- It allows interaction with Axiom in a fashion similar to
  Mathematica, that is

  1  one can browse the Axiom hypertext documentation

  2  it is possible to enter a command on a page and have the input as
     well as the result appended to the same page without a page reload

  3  mathematical expressions are displayed in reasonable quality
     almost matching that of TeX

- It is portable to most platforms including but not limited to
  Linux/Unix running Firefox, Windows
  running IE or Firefox, and MacOS X running Safari or Firefox.

- It is able to display static two-dimensional plots generated by
  Axiom. The plots are of production quality so that they can be used
  in scientific publications. Animated two-dimensional and
  three-dimensional plots will be easy to integrate. In fact, this
  will be implemented during this project if time permits.

- It is solely implemented in portable Common Lisp and languages which
  are understood by web browser, i.e. HTML, Javascript, CSS. It does
  not require any external programs beyond a web browser or the use of
  a foreign function interface. It tries to conform to existing or
  upcoming W3C standards as far as possible.

- It meets all other requirements contained in the project description
  at The
  code will also adhere to the general coding standards and design
  guidelines of the Axiom project, e.g. literal programming.

Project Details

  AxiomUI will consist of two components. A simple, standalone http
server written in Common Lisp and a collection of Javascript
functions. The server component connects to Axiom and provides the
Javascript front-end access to Axiom's mathematical functionality. It
is also responsible for converting the pages of the Axiom hypertext
system to HTML.
The Javascript component will change the web browser into a fully
featured user interface. The most important aspects are to support the
user entering 
commands and to dynamically modify the page to incorporate Axiom's
answers to the user's requests. Furthermore the Javascript component
will provide convenience functions, e.g. writing a transcript of the
session as a LaTeX document.

Implementation of the server

  The server will contain a small portability layer for networking and
possibly file i/o. Beyond that it is written in ANSI Common
Lisp. The other components of the server are a parser for Axiom's
hypertext page description language, HTML and SVG generators and code
to implement the Ajax mechanism and to translate messages between the
Javascript front-end and Axiom.

The parser for the Axiom hypertext documentation pages will probably
be written from scratch. If convenient existing parser generators for
Common Lisp might be used.

To display static two-dimensional plots the server will generate SVG
files. SVG allows a high degree of control over the appearance of the
output and is reasonably well supported by modern browser. There are
also free viewers for a wide range of platforms. As a bonus, SVG files
allow the embedding of Javascript. This could be used to create
animations or even embed some controls for the modification of a plot
into the corresponding SVG file.

Implementation of the Javascript front-end

  The Javascript front-end will be written from scratch apart from
jsMath, a library which allows the display of complicated mathematical
formulas in browser without MathML support. While MathML would be the
cleaner way to display mathematics in a web browser it is not
sufficiently well supported by current browsers. A later release of
AxiomUI might of course take advantage of the then (hopefully)
improved MathML support. Using jsMath has the additional advantage
that it will not be necessary to parse LaTeX math syntax and convert
it to MathML, a non-trivial problem.

While working on this proposal the author implemented prototypes
for some of the techniques described above to make sure that this
implementation strategy actually works.

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