Wolfram Research has introduced a new format for interactive content intended to make it easier to create documents such as infographics and reports that mix multimedia content and real-time data.
The Computable Document Format (CDF) is displayed using a free-to-download CDF Player, while the content itself is authored using Wolfram's Mathematica 8 computational software.
This makes CDF similar in concept to Adobe's Flash or PDF, but the aim is to offer "a knowledge container that's as easy to author as documents, but with the interactivity of apps", according to a blog post by Wolfram Research founder Conrad Wolfram.
Interactivity is familiar within applications, according to the firm, but these typically require programming skills to create. In contrast, CDF is intended to be easy enough for teachers, journalists, analysts, managers or researchers to create content such as interactive diagrams.
Examples available on Wolfram's web site include investment scenarios, where users can alter variables such as salary and pension contributions and see a live update in a graph displaying the projected return.
Wolfram said that CDF authoring is at a much higher level than in Flash or HTML5 because the creator does not need to pre-compute or pre-generate content, leaving that to runtime instead.
However, he conceded that there is still work to be done to make creating interactive content as easy as possible.
"We're at the level now where the sorts of authors who'd be able to learn how to make a Microsoft Excel macro could learn how to make a CDF. Instead I'd like anyone who can make an Excel chart be able to make a CDF (i.e. almost anyone)," he said.
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