Perseverance pays. As someone else commented, Maple has been around for a while and their are different packages that are kept for backward compatability but may be incompatible with more modern versions. Likewise the basic tools that take advantage of the new packages aren't always in place yet. Now that I have a better handle on this aspect of Maple's structure I am having many fewer issues. I now know how to recognize the symptoms of such collisions.
More specifically, while I was originally frustrated with VectorCalculus I am now quite a fan once I got a hold of how it works. I just needed to translate how I do things on a blackboard (or on paper) to how Maple wants to see it. Beyond that, I also have to be able to explain what I am doing to others.
For anyone moving along the same path I suggest going back to basics. I pulled an old vector calc. book off the shelf and re-examined how to think about the basic definitions (I teach physics, not math, so I tend to take a lazy "let's just get it done" approach to complex math problems). I then saw immediately what the programmers were trying to do and how they were doing it. I also found it helpful to build some visualization tools which will help this coming year as I build some presentations. By going through the process myself and reviewing how I would go about generalizing some of the problems encountered in vector calc I was able to understand the approach Maple was taking.
This is the kind of thing that can drive a beginner crazy. The behavior of the engine changes as a result of including different libraries. The engine isn't extended, it is changed. This makes for a very tough learning curve.
I have been playing with Maple on and off for 3 months. This summer, now that school is out, I have set about trying to master this environment. My frustration with Maple has subsided a bit only to be replaced with an understanding of its limitations.
I set about building my own package of doing surface and flux integrals as a way of discovering how to manipulate expressions. I think I know why Maple is so tough. I read somewhere on these forums a diatribe on what seemed an esoteric nuance in the difference between the way Mathematica approaches functions vs the way Maple does. Mathematica is essentially a functional programming language wrapped around list structures (ala LISP). In mathematica everything, at the ground level, is a list. Various types get defined for different quantities but they are essentially lists. Maple defines its types internally. I don't know how they are put together (rtables?) Maple has evolved over time so that these types have grown to a huge number that are hard to keep track of. The inability of maple functions to screen their inputs for different data types means that the Maple programmers have to write lots of different functions for the different data types. This is a very old style of programming.
Ten days playing with Maple has proven that skills in one system don't necessarily translate to another. I have encountered a number of frustrations which are not so much a problem with Maple as my inability to match the subtleties of the new system. Some of the issues I have encountered:
- periodic locking up of the interface in document mode (this may be due to something I am doing wrong)
- getting used to the maple syntax and command list (it is further than the syntax of Mathematica than I originally suspected yet similar enough to completely mess me up)
- occasional odd state like behavior (which is, again, probably due to my ignorance than a problem with Maple)
These are the notes of a new Maple user attempting to come up to speed in, what is for me, a new algebraic manipulation tool. I am looking at the tool not so much as an engine for solving problems as much as I am interested in using it as a tool for teaching advanced physics concepts to students in the secondary school arena. Right now I only seek to use it as an aid to building better presentations for the students as well as supplying a dynamic environment for solving problems for students in my class.