How to use these notes

These notes are not a textbook. In other words, they cannot be printed as a neat volume and taken home in hard copy. Experience with the use of these notes in university lectures shows that the first thing most students want to do is print everything out. It is important to understand the difference between a textbook and electronic notes.

Despite great advances of computer media a book still offers many advantages over the computer screen. I can take a book on the train, I can take it with me to study under a tree, I can use it next to a warming fire in winter. All these factors make learning from a book often more enjoyable than learning from a screen. It is therefore understandable that many students want to have their printed version of these notes.

Electronic notes have their own advantages. They make it easy to use colour in text and illustrations which, if used properly, can be of great assistance in the learning process. (Many students are of course prepared to print colour pages at no matter what cost.) They allow the use of animations which can dramatically clarify complicated issues. They can be upgraded daily in response to comments from users and developments in science. It is obvious that printing the notes will not produce a textbook but a collection of working sheets which do not contain animated information and may soon be outdated.

These notes began as an electronic version of printed lecture notes in black and white. As the months progressed all figures were converted to colour. This produced version 1.0, an electronic version of printed notes with colour illustrations. Version 1.01 includes several animated figures and two online calculators and clearly defies attempts to print out the entire contents. Beginning with version 1.1 the lecture notes are linked to a set of on-screen exercises which cannot be done offline. There is clearly no point any more to try and print the entire volume of lecture notes.

Taking notes

An old art which seems to have gone out of fashion is the art of taking notes. Today, making a copy or printing out a computer page is easy, and in any case it is much easier to simply copy a page than to comprehend and remember it. Making notes as I go through a lecture is an excellent way of training my mind to concentrate on the essentials. The first rule of using electronic material is to make notes while looking at the presentation on the screen.

If these notes are used in a class, at the end of the lecture cycle you should have produced your own well annotated volume of notes, with cross-references to the pages of the electronic material to allow you to look things up quickly when needed. If this is best achieved by including the odd printed page or illustration from these notes, so be it; but refrain from trying to print out every lecture and paste it in your notebook.

Before you start

The following was written in 2006. Most of this is now obsolete.

The lecture notes are entirely written in HTML and JavaScript, the languages used by web pages. They should therefore be readable with nearly all browsers, provided they are configured correctly. Here is a brief test to see whether your browser is set up to handle the lecture notes correctly. Please report all difficulties to .

Screen viewing

The layout of the lecture notes is designed to keep everything together in a single window. Experimentation and experience with first year computer users has shown that this is the safest way of making the interface user friendly. It has a few disadvantages, which can be overcome by the more experienced user. Here are a few tips to influence the screen layout.

  1. Users with smaller screens can increase the window area by hiding all unnessessary buttons of their browser:

  2. You can move the borders between all frames up and down to increase the text or the figure area; move the pointer over the frame border, hold down the mouse and drag the border;

  3. If this still does not give enough area to view text and figures together comfortably you can display individual figures in a separate window:

These instructions are derived from the Macintosh versions of these browsers. PC user may have slightly varying menus and button to use. (For example, the command Open Link in New Window reads Open in New Window in the PC version of Internet Explorer and is reached by holding down the right button, and more bars can be deselected in the View menu.)

Printing from the screen

The most common complaint from students is that the print command only produces a printed version of the text but does not include the figures. The safest way to print is from a window without frames. Follow step 3 under "Screen Viewing" above to open the material which you want to print (the text frame or the figure frame) in a new window and print the content of the new window. This is a somewhat labour-intensive procedure, but as explained above printing should not be an everyday activity, and printing out a single lecture including all its figures in this way is still acceptable.

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© 1999 - 2000 M. Tomczak. Last updated 7/7/2000

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