Back in 1998, when I first used Mathematica 3.0, I was immensely impressed by the fact that it was not only possible to manipulate algebraic expressions in the computer, but also to visualise them on screen in a form not so far removed from textbook style.

Furthermore, even back then, Mathematica let the user program the interface between the internal representation of expressions and their visual representation on the screen or page. It seemed obvious to me that people would soon want to perform much routine algebraic manipulation on the computer, both to reduce the chance of sill mistakes in a long calculation, and so as to end up with a clear record of the steps they took.

It was with this in mind that I wrote the original ColourMaths` package. The aim was to make it possible to manipulate expressions in the ad-hoc way you would on paper. The fundamental idea, is that if you colour parts of an expression (using a special palette, not the standard Mathematica menu), that can give you a handle to refer to parts of an expression without ultimately changing its meaning.

Although the idea was well received when I presented it at a Mathematica conference, only a few people really explored it, and a later revision of Mathematica rendered it inoperable without changes to the software.

Recently, there has been some fresh interest in this idea, and I have revamped the software to work with modern Mathematica. This is still work in progress – not least because the new package is not fully documented, though it does work with the Documentation Centre.

Read the documentation for the latest version – 2.30 – (PDF file, the corresponding notebook version is included as part of the package download). Also, please read this motivational paper , which contains some larger examples with a downloadable notebook.

Obtaining and installing the package

The ColourMaths package is free and Version 2.30 can be downloaded as a ZIP file containing all the files required in their appropriate directories.. It is vital that this directory structure is preserved. Copy the file to the $UserBaseDirectory or $BaseDirectory directory, e.g. "C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\Mathematica". Note carefully that the package should not be placed in the Mathematica directory tree itself, as was recommended in previous versions of this package. If you have a previous version located there, please remove it completely. It is obviously vital that only one copy of the SWP should be visible to Mathematica! Unzip the file colourmaths.ZIP, preserving its directory structure, using a tool such as PKZIP(R) Version 2.50, or WinZip(R). Finally, re-start Mathematica, and lookup "ColourMaths" in the Documentation Centre to access the main user manual.

Suggestions for new features.

To avoid spam, I have supplied my e-mail address in graphical form – see the top of this page. Comments, suggestions and bugs are always welcome.