A Symbolic Release
Maple 17, the newest release from Maplesoft, reveals more than just a new set of useful
software tools for engineers and scientists.
Anumber of major software companies are approaching mile- stones typically associated with far older industries. Microsoft, for instance, will celebrate its 40th anniversary in a couple of years. Apple will observe the same anniversary just a year later.
Maplesoft, a Canadian-based maker of symbolic computation and
mathematical software for scientists and engineers, is younger than these
veteran companies, but not by a lot. Marking its 25th year in business, the
company was originally conceived in 1980, when Keith Geddes and Gaston
Gonnet, professors at the University of Waterloo, Ontario, began working
on a computer algebra system called, patriotically enough, “Maple”.
Directed at the academic market, the company’s first users were university students. After a successful launch, growth was rapid; and in 1984, the
company launched Maple 3. 3.
In March 2013, Maple 17, the latest release of the flagship product,
shipped. This release represents more than a standalone tool for researchers and developers.
capabilities suggested by Mathworks.
Goossens considers the catalyst for Maple’s growth to be Mathworks,
which allows code generation to be done in a way that used to be manually time intensive and prone to mistakes. As engineers have increasingly
become reliant on code and computer application development, a tool
like Maple has found widespread appeal for its transparency in code generation and additional capability of simulating solutions in MapleSim, a
tool that is part of Maple 17’s environment.
This overall suite of tools has been intentionally built over time as a way
to give users a do-anything platform for problem solving. In many ways,
says Goossens, this strategy has born itself out.
More than 5,500 enhancements and changes have been implemented
in Maple 17, Maplesoft’s suite of software tools for researchers. Image:
The changing face of software
New features in Maple 17
Releases at Maplesoft typically occur annually. The company’s major goal, says
Laurent Bernardin, executive vice president and chief scientist, is to continue
strengthening the mathematical libraries and the power at the user’s disposal.
A major watchword for the Maple development team is integration. The
many aspects of the Maple environment must be contained within the same
navigable environment. Also, Maple must not serve as a roadblock to the
tools engineers and scientists rely on to conduct more mundane tasks.
With Maple 17, Maplesoft has introduced more computation tools and
a large collection of enhancements dedicated to supporting the creation
of applications. New functionality includes the ability to solve a new class
of differential equations; advancements in solving systems of equations;
new signal processing tools; expanded support for physics, statistics, and
dynamic systems; and more.
Performance has also been enhanced with improvements to frequently
called routines and algorithms, as well as in the low-level infrastructure
of memory management.
Digging below the raw numbers—400 new commands—the biggest
additions to Maple’s toolset are a new advanced code editor to make
algorithm development easier for more complex applications; new programming constructs to facilitate the creation of multithreaded code for
parallel routines; and an Embedded Video Component for adding rich
multimedia content to applications.
The power to compute, communicate
In addition to the pursuit of an all-in-one engineering and development tool, Maplesoft has recognized the power of multicore, distributed
computing, and cloud-based resources. With respect to cloud computing, Maplesoft has been a strong supporter of Modelica, an international
repository of mathematical applications open to all users.
The advantages of multicore and distributed computing have been
addressed within Maple itself. Applications built in Maple 17 can be easily
optimized to run on 64-core machines, for example.
In recognition the software’s ability to streamline collaboration, Maplesoft’s developers also introduced the Player application in Maple 17.