Wolfram introduces the new .CDF container for interactive math documents
Wolfram Research, the innovative company behind the Wolfram|Alpha computational search engine, officially launched a new online document container called Computable Document Format (CDF) which is essentially your average PDF file that has been given the ability to do live computations and display the data accordingly.
The programming and computational functions in Wolfram's Mathematica software can be used to build, for example, a complex graph with a number of variables. It can then be saved as a CDF file so users can manipulate the variables and see the graph results live within the document. To view a CDF file, all it takes is the free CDF Player plugin.
Wolfram says the CDF Player provides "computational capabilities far beyond those of standard web technologies. It contains most of Mathematica, the engine behind the format's computational power…Mathematica integrates specialist algorithms for topics from engineering to finance to statistics to image processing, meaning one plugin can drive applications for a range of fields."
"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."