Mathematica is split into two parts, the kernel and the front end. The kernel interprets expressions (Mathematica code) and returns result expressions.
The front end, designed by Theodore Gray, provides a GUI, which allows the creation and editing of Notebook documents containing program code with prettyprinting, formatted text together with results including typeset mathematics, graphics, GUI components, tables, and sounds. All contents and formatting can be generated algorithmically or interactively edited. Most standard word processing capabilities are supported. It includes a spell-checker but does not spell check automatically as you type.
Documents can be structured using a hierarchy of cells, which allow for outlining and sectioning of a document and support automatic numbering index creation. Documents can be presented in a slideshow environment for presentations. Notebooks and their contents are represented as Mathematica expressions that can be created, modified or analysed by Mathematica programs. This allows conversion to other formats such as TeX or XML.
The front end includes development tools such as a debugger, input completion and automatic syntax coloring.
Among the alternative front ends is the Wolfram Workbench, an Eclipse based IDE, introduced in 2006. It provides project-based code development tools for Mathematica, including revision management, debugging, profiling, and testing. The Mathematica Kernel also includes a command line front end. Other interfaces include JMath, based on GNU readline and MASH which runs self-contained Mathematica programs (with arguments) from the UNIX command line.
Wolfram Research has published a series of hands-on starter webcasts that introduce the user interface and the engine.
Version 5.2 (2005) added automatic multi-threading when computations are performed on multi-core computers. This release included CPU specific optimized libraries. In addition Mathematica is supported by third party specialist acceleration hardware such as ClearSpeed.
There are several ways to deploy applications written in Mathematica:
Mathematica Player Pro is a runtime version of Mathematica that will run any Mathematica application but does not allow editing or creation of the code.
A free-of-charge version, Wolfram CDF Player, is provided for running Mathematica programs that have been saved in the Computable Document Format (CDF). It can also view standard Mathematica files, but not run them. It includes plugins for common web browsers on Windows and Macintosh.
webMathematica allows a web browser to act as a front end to a remote Mathematica server. It is designed to allow a user written application to be remotely accessed via a browser on any platform. It may not be used to give full access to Mathematica.
Mathematica code can be converted to C code or to an automatically generated DLL.
Mathematica code can be run on a Wolfram cloud service as a web-app or as an API
Connections with other applications
Communication with other applications occurs through a protocol called MathLink. It allows communication between the Mathematica kernel and front-end, and also provides a general interface between the kernel and other applications. Wolfram Research freely distributes a developer kit for linking applications written in the C programming language to the Mathematica kernel through MathLink. Using J/Link., a Java program can ask Mathematica to perform computations; likewise, a Mathematica program can load Java classes, manipulate Java objects and perform method calls. Similar functionality is achieved with .NET /Link, but with .NET programs instead of Java programs. Other languages that connect to Mathematica include Haskell,AppleScript,Racket,Visual Basic,Python and Clojure.
Mathematica can capture real-time data via a link to LabVIEW, from financial data feeds and directly from hardware devices via GPIB (IEEE 488),USB and serial interfaces. It automatically detects and reads from HID devices.
A stream plot of live weather data
Mathematica includes collections of curated data provided for use in computations. Mathematica is also integrated with Wolfram Alpha, an online service which provides additional data, some of which is kept updated in real time. Some of the data sets include astronomical, chemical, geopolitical, language, biomedical and weather data, in addition to mathematical data (such as knots and polyhedra).
Wolfram Research provides documents listing the algorithms used to implement the functions in Mathematica.
Mathematica built on the ideas in Cole and Wolfram's earlier Symbolic Manipulation Program (SMP). The name of the program “Mathematica” was suggested to Stephen Wolfram by Apple co-founder Steve Jobs although Stephen Wolfram had thought about it earlier and rejected it.