Turning static documents into interactive presentations, so that a reader can manipulate charts and use demo programs in the middle of a page, is nothing new. But a new document format created by Wolfram Research, the people behind knowledge search engine Wolfram Alpha, claims to overcome the limits of other formats such as PDF, Flash, and those of Microsoft Office.
Stephen Wolfram, founder of Wolfram Research, hopes his Computable Document Format, or CDF, will become an established publishing standard adopted by the makers of document editing and viewing software. In a series of interactive demos and videos, Wolfram Research claims CDF documents beat existing formats at interactivity and flexibility, yet don’t require a programmer to create. It includes some of the capabilities of Mathematica, the mathematical software package sold by Wolfram Research to scientists and engineers.
Wolfram’s challenge will be to gain adoption of his format in the more business-minded makers of publishing tools. Currently, CDF authoring tools allow users to import data from Word and Excel documents, but the format won’t be a winner until it allows them to publish new documents in popular formats. A spokeswoman for Adobe declined to comment on whether that company is considering CDF support for its popular PDF format used for Web publishing.
Wolfram Research told CNET that they are still working on a business model to make money from CDF. Looking at the example documents on Wolfram’s site (you’ll need to install a free CDF player on your computer), it’s believable that CDF was driven by an honest frustration with the limits of current technology rather than a master plan to get rich. If you’ve ever viewed a report with charts prepared by someone else, you may know the feeling: What hidden trends or complete surprises might be uncovered if you could manipulate the author’s data yourself?
DeepMind’s cofounder: Generative AI is just a phase. What’s next is interactive AI.
“This is a profound moment in the history of technology,” says Mustafa Suleyman.
What to know about this autumn’s covid vaccines
New variants will pose a challenge, but early signs suggest the shots will still boost antibody responses.
Human-plus-AI solutions mitigate security threats
With the right human oversight, emerging technologies like artificial intelligence can help keep business and customer data secure
Next slide, please: A brief history of the corporate presentation
From million-dollar slide shows to Steve Jobs’s introduction of the iPhone, a bit of show business never hurt plain old business.
Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review
Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.