Wolfram launches Computable Document Format (CDF) user-created interactive documents

July 25, 2011

Interactive demonstration of insulin molecule (credit: Wolfram Research)

Wolfram Research has announced the Computable Document Format (CDF), a new standard to put interactivity at the core of everyday documents and empower readers with live content they can drive.

CDF is a computation-powered knowledge container. Its interactivity isn’t just pre-generated, but live. And for the first time, authoring doesn’t require professional programmers to create interactive diagrams for reports, presentations, articles, and textbooks.

Central to the concept are knowledge apps, interactive diagrams, and info apps — the live successors of traditional diagrams and infographics.

“Today it’s inconceivable that textbooks, financial reports, or news articles wouldn’t include visuals; they’re too valuable to communicating the idea,” said Conrad Wolfram, Director of Strategic Development at Wolfram Research. “Tomorrow, communicating ideas without interactivity will be just as inconceivable. CDF is here to make that change.” Wolfram added, “If a picture is worth a thousand words, an interactive knowledge app is worth a thousand pictures. CDF steps up the bandwidth of communication that much.”

“The content author and interactivity author need to be the very same person if we are to achieve mainstream interactive documents,” said Conrad Wolfram. “The Wolfram Demonstrations Project, with its 7,000+ contributions, prototyped the power of personalized interactivity authoring. Now CDF unleashes this power for a multitude of uses. The authoring is easier than ever before, but this is only the start of making authoring easy enough for everyone.”

“After using the Briggs/Cochran Calculus ebook that uses beta CDF technology, many faculty members have told us, ‘This is how calculus should be taught,’” said Bill Hoffmann, Executive Editor at Pearson. “Its interactive figures engage students and help them visualize key ideas—far beyond what can be done with chalk or white boards.

CDFs can currently be authored using Mathematica 8 and distributed for free using the Wolfram CDF Player. Additional options exist for restricted and/or monetized content distribution.