Amazon's Kindle DX and RIM's BlackBerry PlayBook were supposed to be the business world's answer to an on-the-go office. Turns out, PDFs viewed in e-ink or on a tethered slate don't offer much in the way of interactive app experiences -- they're still just documents, no matter the tablet they're wearing. Well, Wolfram Group's got an open format contender to Adobe's throne and it's hoping you'll adopt it. Introduced today, the Computable Document Format "puts easy-to-author interactivity at its core," breathing animated life into otherwise static infographics. Not a programmer? No need to worry, the company promises the two-way diagrams are "easy enough for teachers, journalists, managers, [and] researchers to... create." We've seen Microsoft's XPS take a similar crack at dethroning the reigning format king, only to find itself in portable document oblivion. We'll just have to wait and see if CDF's a more noble contender. In the meantime, head on over to the source to download the free player and see for yourself the possible future of live textbooks, tables and charts.
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Wolfram Launches Computable Document Format (CDF): Bring Documents to Life with the Power of Computation

As everyday as a document, but as interactive as an app, the new standard dramatically broadens the author-reader communication pipeline

July 21, 2011-Wolfram Research today announced the Computable Document Format (CDF), a new standard to put interactivity at the core of everyday documents and empower readers with live content they can drive.

Traditional documents are easy to author, but are limited to content that's static or can only be played back. Interactivity is familiar in apps, but usually requires programmers to create, rarely making it cost-effective for communicating ideas. As a result, today's content lacks interactivity to engage with-dramatically limiting readers' understanding.

By contrast, CDFs are as interactive as apps, yet as everyday as documents. Central to the concept are knowledge apps, interactive diagrams, or info apps-the live successors of traditional diagrams and infographics.

"Today it's inconceivable that textbooks, financial reports, or news articles wouldn't include visuals; they're too valuable to communicating the idea," said Conrad Wolfram, Director of Strategic Development at Wolfram Research. "Tomorrow, communicating ideas without interactivity will be just as inconceivable. CDF is here to make that change." Wolfram added, "If a picture is worth a thousand words, an interactive knowledge app is worth a thousand pictures. CDF steps up the bandwidth of communication that much."

CDF is a computation-powered knowledge container. Its interactivity isn't just pre-generated, but live. And for the first time, authoring typically doesn't need professional programmers, but is easy enough for teachers, journalists, analysts, managers, or researchers to themselves create the knowledge or info apps or interactive diagrams for reports and presentations, articles, and textbooks.

"CDF documents liberate me from the confines of static depictions of models when creating interactive presentations of my hurricane insurance research for legislators and other public policymakers," said Seth J. Chandler, Professor of Law, University of Houston Law Center. "When someone asks me a question, I can change the parameters on the fly, rerun the model, and present results. It makes for a much more engaged and constructive discussion."

"After using the Briggs/Cochran Calculus ebook that uses beta CDF technology, many faculty members have told us, 'This is how calculus should be taught,'" said Bill Hoffmann, Executive Editor at Pearson. "Its interactive figures engage students and help them visualize key ideas-far beyond what can be done with chalk or white boards. A first edition, Briggs/Cochran's Calculus has exceeded our expectations and won several industry awards."

More than 20 years of Wolfram R&D have made CDF possible-including a computation-capable player and the highly automated authoring so central to CDF.

"The content author and interactivity author need to be the very same person if we are to achieve mainstream interactive documents," said Conrad Wolfram. "The Wolfram Demonstrations Project, with its 7,000+ contributions, prototyped the power of personalized interactivity authoring. Now CDF unleashes this power for a multitude of uses. The authoring is easier than ever before, but this is only the start of making authoring easy enough for everyone."

CDFs can currently be authored using Mathematica 8 and distributed for free using the Wolfram CDF Player. Additional options exist for restricted and/or monetized content distribution.

Find out more about CDF on the CDF website or watch a media briefing. If you are interested in exploring CDF for use in your publication, please contact us.

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Wolfram launches open CDF format, adds visual pizzazz to charts and graphs