Wolfram launches new document format, meet CDF

Wolfram launches new document format, meet CDF

Summary: The goal is to turn "lifeless documents" into ones that bring data to life, show the data behind assumptions and illustrate concepts.


Wolfram on Thursday rolled out its Computable Document Format (CDF), which aims to turn documents into interactive applications.

The goal is to turn "lifeless documents" into ones that bring data to life, show the data behind assumptions and illustrate concepts. Conrad Wolfram, strategic director of Wolfram, said the CDF effort has now reached the point where the company can open it up to developers, publishers and other interested parties.

Wolfram is still working out the business model behind CDF, but publishers have shown "great interest." For now, CDF is delivered via a free player that can bring infographics, journals and math lessons to life. It's not a stretch to see how a magazine like Popular Science could publish in the CDF format.

The rub is that Wolfram needs adoption and there's already a dominant document format in Adobe's PDF. One big challenge would be figuring out the interplay between CDF and PDF. Would someone want to embed a CDF document into a PDF. Conrad Wolfram said that "the CDF format will be open" with the goal of becoming a public standard.

In a demonstration, Wolfram highlighted a bevy of use cases. Financial documents such as 401K information could highlight the assumptions behind savings models. If global warming papers could have detailed the underlying data in the models perhaps there wouldn't have been climate gate, noted Wolfram.

For now, Wolfram needs developers on board. CDF has reached the point where a developer with the knowhow to author an XML document can bring publications to life. Indeed, the use cases for CDF revolve around:

  • Journal articles;
  • Knowledge apps;
  • Textbooks;
  • Infographics;
  • And presentations and reports.

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  • The problem will be twofold

    One, is there really a large enough audience for this? PDF applies to *EVERY SINGLE PERSON WHO CAN READ*.

    CDF will be for those who need hardcore mathematical analysis. Not nearly as large an audience I should think.

    Second, security. CDF is an *application*, just like java's runtime or the CLR or Silverlight or Air. Thus it's going to have all the horrific problems of those platforms--without the audience breadth to make bug hunting sustainable for Wolfram.
    • RE: Wolfram launches new document format, meet CDF

      @wolf_z Who said it's restricted to research equations? Even something as simple as a footnote would be changed for the better with something like this.
      • RE: Wolfram launches new document format, meet CDF

        @Aerowind Ok, as an illustration that it can apply to many areas, I'll throw one out that no one's thinking about: thoroughbred racing past performances! An interactive set of past performances that could filter themselves based on race conditions, highlight types of data the user finds important, contains supporting data for speed ratings, etc. would be very nice indeed.
        Thoroughbred racing's big brother, the stock market, could also be another useful application area, with interactive stock charts and listings.
      • RE: Wolfram launches new document format, meet CDF

        @Aerowind Good point made here <a href="http://www.urban-djs.net">DJ agency</a>
    • This would be great for Text Books.


      There is a myth conception that if you don't end up with >90% market share, you loose. After playing with this, I see this as an amazing tool for upcoming e-text books. This is a huge market as the books are not dime store novels.

      From Electrical Engineering, materials science, physics to biology the CDF format looks like it could be the answer to the issues many of these publishing companies have had with e-Textbooks.

      At 1/2 a GB, however, it really needs to be simplified and paired down. Right now, it is a pig.
  • Wolfram

    Those guys are really really smart.
  • How is this different from flash

    looks like an attempt to create a universal app platform. anything in the details to contradict me?