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I am an avid Mathematica user. Not because I need to evaluate that much math, but because I really like its wysiwyg notebook structure for note-taking. It's great for keeping up with lectures and including decent looking equations and tables when they come up (which is fairly often in technical classes). The export to latex is a nice added bonus.

As far as I know, there aren't great alternatives to the Mathematica front end - I'd love to be proven wrong, through.

The ipython notebook is rapidly moving in that direction. See http://nbviewer.ipython.org/ for some examples. It can even embed R, ruby, bash, and Perl code.

Personally I'm looking forward to start playing with this: http://reference.wolfram.com/mathematica/RLink/guide/RLink.h...

If you do, make sure to read this discussion: http://mathematica.stackexchange.com/questions/16657/special...

part of what makes Mathematica notebooks particularly powerful is that they are Mathematica expressions themselves (Mathematica expressions are M-expressions), thus they can be thoroughly manipulated in all sorts of ways.

then there's Dynamic[1], which is the most straightforward event mechanism you're going to find in any language

[1] http://reference.wolfram.com/mathematica/ref/Dynamic.html

check out the sagemath project, too.


there are some other electronic notebooks out there but not many do latexification, drawing of inline graphs, etc.

Yes! I took all of my math notes in university in Mathematica notebooks. Lead to much quicker and deeper understanding of the material, not to mention the side effect that I then knew how to actually use the math to solve real problems.

One thing that came out of that was a nice Wheatstone Bridge calculator w/ GUI that was really useful for prototyping signal acquisition circuits.

Ugh. Ask your professor to provide notes, so you can learn, instead of scribe. Or offer to provide yours, with compensation for your efforts.

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