Maple Flow Questions and Posts

These are Posts and Questions associated with the product, Maple Flow

Here's a podcast that covers a few topics that get discussed on MaplePrimes.

We all like finding the right tool for the job. In the Sep 2021 episode of the Engineering Matters Podcast “#127 – Tools for Thinking” you can discover how far engineers have come in their quest for better tools.

It features contributions from several members of the Maplesoft team as they discuss how the user experience shapes the adoption of engineering software tools.

The hosts have fun describing some early calculation hacks - from early Sumerian farmers using their fingers as tally counters, to the paper calculus notebooks of the 1850s used by historical engineering figures like Isambard Kingdom Brunel. What starts as a necessity gets improved over time to save them mental effort – all driven by the way users interact with the tool.

This episode gives a behind-the-scenes look at some of the decisions that shaped the engineering product that is now Maple Flow from its roots in Maple. Maplesoft CEO Laurent Bernardin describes the spark of innovation in the late 1970s, when two professors at the University of Waterloo developed Maple. “The two professors got together, realising that there was a need in math education for a tool to help with calculations and setting out to create that tool. And Maple was born quickly, was adopted across universities around the globe.”

As engineers typically work in ways far removed from the regular academic setting, Product Manager Samir Khan weighs in on the shift that comes from a different user base: “Different tools have different design intents,” says Khan. “Some tools are designed for programmers such as code development environments, like Visual Studio. Some environments are aimed at mathematicians, people who need precise control over the mathematical structure of their equations, and some environments are designed for engineers who simply want to throw down a few equations on a virtual whiteboard and manipulate them and get results.”

The conversation also touches on the design of the GUI itself. Margaret Hinchcliffe, Maple’s Senior GUI Developer expresses the importance of smoothing the user experience - drilling down and taking “the typical tasks that people want to do the most, and make those the most immediate. So really focusing on how many keystrokes do they need to do this task?”.

Ironically the idea of the paper notebook still has features that are desirable. Khan muses on the idea that Maplesoft has “taken the first step with having a virtual whiteboard, but Maple Flow still relies on keyboard and mouse input”. He offers suggestions for what may be next in the industry: “It’d be interesting to see if we can take advantage of modern advances in deep learning and AI to imitate what humans are doing and interpreting handwritten mathematics.”

You can listen to the entire podcast (~30 min) here:

Dear all;

Some of you will have heard of the new open access (and free of page charges) journal Maple Transactions which is intended to publish expositions on topics of interest to the Maple community. What you might not have noticed is that it is possible to publish your papers as Maple documents or as Maple workbooks.  The actual publication is on Maple Cloud, so that even people who don't have Maple can read the papers.

Two examples: one by Jürgen Gerhard, on Fibonacci numbers

and one by me, on Bohemian Matrices (my profile picture here is a Bohemian matrix eigenvalue image).

I invite you to read those papers (and the others in the journal) and to think about contributing.  You can also contribute a video, if you'd rather.

I look forward to seeing your submissions.

Rob Corless, Editor-in-Chief, Maple Transactions

I've written a Mapleflow document that is supposed to use a microphone array to find the intersection of three equations to locate the source of a gunshot.  But the calculation is "Evaluating," and has been for half an hour.  How do I interrupt the calculation?

I'd up load the file, but  


When I fit a function to data [e.g., the logistic function to population data], I want to be able to plot both the function and the data. How do I do this in Maple Flow?

I’m excited to announce the launch of a new math tool called Maple Flow. Here, I’ll outline our motivation for developing this product, and talk about its features.

A large fraction of Maple users are professional engineers .

All use Maple, but very few say that they do math for a living, in much the same way a plumber wouldn’t say they use a wrench for a living.

They say things like:

  • I design concrete retaining walls
  • I simulate the transients on a transmission line
  • I design heat exchangers
  • I model the absorbency of diapers
  • I design subsea pipelines
  • I need to optimize the trajectory of a space shuttle
  • I work for a power generation company doing load flow analysis
  • I model how a robot arm needs to move

Some of these applications are mathematically simple (but are based on scientific principles, such as the conservation of heat, mass and momentum). The equations consist of basic arithmetic operations, trig and log functions, sprinkled with the occasional numeric integration.

Sometimes, the equations are already formalized in design guides, published by organizations like the IEEE, ASME or ISO. Given the specific physical context, engineers just need to implement the calculations in the right order (this is especially true for Civil and Structural engineering). These applications require you to think at an engineering level.

These are what we call design calculations, done by design engineers.

On the other end of the spectrum, some of these applications are mathematically complex. You might need to derive equations, manipulate PDEs, work with quaternions or transformation matrices, or do some programming. These applications require you to think at a mathematical level.

Let’s call the engineers doing this type of work research engineers. Research engineers are often more closely aligned with mathematicians than design engineers.

So we have design engineers and research engineers (and of course we have engineers with feet in both camps, to a varying degree).

Research engineers and design engineers do different mathematical things, and have different mathematical needs. Both groups use Maple, but one size doesn’t always fit well. Either the toe pinches a little, or the shirt is a mite too baggy.

This is where Maple Flow enters stage right.

Maple Flow is a new tool that we’ve built (and are continuing to expand and improve) with the needs of design engineers in mind.

  • The worksheet lets you put math anywhere – just point, click and type
  • The evaluation model is forward-in-space (unlike Maple’s forward in time evaluation model). This means the execution order is explicitly given by the position of the math on the canvas.
  • The worksheet updates automatically, so results are never stale
  • We’ve made several simplifications to massage away some of the complexity of the Maple programming language.
  • You can use nearly all of tools in the Maple programming language.

Here’s how we see people using Maple Flow. They

  • Enter a few major equations somewhere, followed by some parameters scattered around
  • Make the equations “see” the parameters by moving the parameters above the equations
  • Insert any parameters or equations you’ve forgotten, and move them into position, shifting the existing content out of the way to make room
  • Add text, and perhaps an image or plot
  • Finally, align math and format text for a presentable document

I’ve been using Maple Flow for a while now. I like the fact that the nature of Maple Flow means that you don’t have to start with a grand plan, with every computational detail planned out in advance. You’re encouraged to make things up as you go along, and gradually sculpt your calculations into shape.

Basically, Maple Flow doesn’t issue stiff penalties for making mistakes. You fix them, and then move on.

I also like that Maple Flow makes you feel like you’re “touching” your equations, shifting things about easily with either the mouse or the keyboard. There’s a certain tactility and immediacy to Maple Flow that gives me a micro dose of dopamine every time I use it.

Maple Flow’s freeform interface lets you experiment with space, alignment and layout, drawing attention to different groups of equations.

For example, you can design calculation documents that look like this.

You can use nearly all of the Maple programming language in Flow. Here’s a command from the plots package.

Here’s fsolve in action.

The Maple Flow website has more information, including a demo video.

As ever, your feedback is gratefully received.

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