Thursday, August 4, 2011

Wolfram launches CDF — PDF's replacement?

Library Journal reported last month that Wolfram Research, makers of the Wolfram Alpha computational search engine have released a document format that brings interactivity to static documents. The new format Computable Document Format or CDF would allow users to interact with online documents by imputing their own data and generating live results. The video above is impressive and it's easy to imagine this technology having a great impact on how information is conveyed in the digital world. The main value of a PDF has always been that the information contained is immutable and therefore its authorship is guaranteed. CDF will maintain authorship by fixing the information just like a PDF but it makes that static info interactive by adding computational tools on the receiving end. This is exciting. Someone reading a CDF can input their own information and see different results of their own choosing.

Surely presentations (academic or business or otherwise) will be greatly enhanced. In addition, e-textbooks, online journal articles, and other digital forms of information relation cannot help but benefit from enabling the the recipient (reader/student/learner) to interact with the content and generate unique results of their own while all the while the CDF format like PDF before it vouchsafes the veracity of the document's contents and the users generated content.

There are already 7,000 demonstrations of CDF documents available in Wolfram Demonstrations Project.

At present you would need to download a special browser to view CDFs. Wolfram says this technology will be entirely web based in the near future. Students, take note, if you want to impress your teachers this fall...

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