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Tool for symbolic manipulations?

  1. Dec 12, 2015 #1
    I've started to reach a point where working out problems on my sketch pad is becoming impractical. In classical mechanics in particular, it feels like I'm spending a lot of time doing "grunt work" like working out derivatives or integrals, or making conversions to new variables. It feels like I'm spending much more time on the algebra and calculus computation than I am on the physics. It's not difficult, but it's a time sink. Plus my hand starts to cramp from all of the writing.

    So what I'm looking for is something that can do things like quickly take integrals and derivatives of expressions, change variables in an expression, and do algebra on an equation. Ideally, if it could keep a LaTeX picture of the expression I'm working on open, that would be even better.

  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 12, 2015 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    I use Mathematica for that sort of thing. There are also other programs with similar functionality.
  4. Dec 13, 2015 #3


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    I agree with DaleSpam. Mathematica is a great tool for doing calculations and can save many hours of searching for where you made an error in your hand calculations. There are other tools, but I think Mathematica is by far the most sophisticated.
  5. Dec 29, 2015 #4


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    Staff: Mentor

    I've never used it, but Maxima is free.
  6. Dec 29, 2015 #5
    For symbolic mathematics, the main commercial ones are mathematica and maple.

    The main open source math package is Sage, which binds several software packages together (maxima, SymPy). I know that sage has support for latex (you can write interactive worksheets with latex) and you can use it online as well:

    If you are using linux and emacs, then I recommend using the imaxima addon for emacs, it generates (and renders) latex output:

    For some quick computing (solution of equations, quick integral computations), I use wolfram alpha:
  7. Dec 29, 2015 #6
    I do not understand what does the word "main" mean at that context. I think the choice depends on the solved task.
  8. Dec 30, 2015 #7
    Thanks for the advice guys! I ended up deciding to use Sage for the time being, since it's open source I can't afford to buy a bunch of software right now. Already finding it very useful, I'm getting a lot more done now. Thanks again!
  9. Dec 30, 2015 #8


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    Gold Member

    Mathematica or maple are both very good!
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