Usually I am not too fond of Microsoft. I spent a lot of time as a student, trying to avoid using MS products. Internet Explorer was almost like foul language in the late nineties, so Netscape it was. There are still things uncomfortable regarding Microsoft software, for instance, a new windows PC is takes ages to prepare for proper use, removing malware and pieces of Windows. By the way, this can be automatized by paying a visit to sites like ninite or pcdecrapifier. Choose what to keep and what to remove, and hit the ground running.
Anyway, I have cleaned up my relationship with MS, I am even buying and paying for Office and Windows these days. Windows 7 is pretty good in my opinion, miles ahead of Windows Vista. But the latest reason I have come to like MS is their mathematics software. On my Norwegian blog, i wrote about Microsoft Office Math Add-in. Anders Sanne and I also wrote (a Norwegian) article on the mathematical writing on computers. Someone liked it, I guess :D. You can find it (what? You don’t understand Norwegian?) here: http://www.caspar.no/tangenten/2009/Gjovik-Sanne-409.pdf (pdf-format). This Word add-in makes it easy to make graphs and solve simple equations as well as simplify expressions. All inside of Word, which is handy. But the use is quite limited, wouldn’t it be nice to have the complete Mathematics package? Would you know it, Microsoft decided to hand out Microsoft Mathematics 4.0 for free. You can download the whole thing here.
You may have noted, I am a huge GeoGebrafan. The next version will include CAS and 3D, as mentioned in an earlier post. Does MSMath4 have anything to offer on top of that? Well, yes and no… The approach is certainly different. Plotting surfaces is easier than in the present beta of GeoGebra, for instance:
It seems MSMath4 is less picky regarding syntax. I just typed the expression in the picture above, without consulting any manual. The insertion field behaves much like the formula editor in Word. MSMath4 formated everything right, interpreted this as a function z(x,y) and offers to plot it.
Quite a few special treats are built in. Unit converter, triangle calculator and a book of formulas.
I tried to enter two equations in two unnowns. MSMath4 not only calculated the answer, but showed me step-by-step solutions. You can also choose which METHOD the software should use for solving the problem. Neat.
A few unfamiliar functions exist. I can choose to enter math by hand, (great for tablets or smartboards) and in the picture below my function is interpreted as mathematics instantly.
If this is my software to go to remains to be seen. I get by perfectly with wxMaxima and GeoGebra. In particular, GeoGebra has a lot of teacher-specific-functions like dynamic sliders and things like that make it perfect for teaching and exploring. Perhaps wxMaxima gets eaten by GeoGebra when the latter releases the CAS+3D version. MSMath4 has a great user interface, so many will probably get to like that prior to other software.