Getting Started

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Getting Started using the Fractal Science Kit

The Fractal Science Kit fractal generator is a Windows program that generates a fractal image from a set of parameters (called fractal properties or simply properties) that you can set to control the fractal generation process. The Fractal Science Kit provides a rich framework for exploring the world of fractals with thousands of properties to manipulate the fractal image, but the large number of properties can be intimidating. The following sections give you some guidance as to how you can get started using the Fractal Science Kit quickly, and provides pointers to the information to help you along the way.

If you want ask me a question, you can send email to rj.hilbert@verizon.net. I will be happy to help.

Fractal Types

The first step in understanding the Fractal Science Kit is to become familiar with a few basic concepts.

The Fractal Science Kit fractal generator supports 3 basic types of fractals:

You should click on each of the above links and read the descriptions there for an overview of each type. See the Fractal Image Gallery for example images.

Fractal Window / Properties Window

The 2 most important windows when using the Fractal Science Kit fractal generator are the Fractal Window and the Properties Window.

The Fractal Window is the window that displays the fractal image. When you start the Fractal Science Kit, a Fractal Window is opened that displays the default fractal. The Fractal Window has menu and toolbar controls that provide access to all the other windows supported by the application.

To view the Properties Pages for the fractal, open the Properties Window by executing the Properties Window command on the View menu.

There is a separate Properties Window for each Fractal Window. The Properties Pages provide access to the fractal properties that you change to define the fractal. When you save a fractal, it is the information maintained by the Properties Window that is saved.

After making changes to 1 or more Properties Pages, you can view the resulting fractal image by executing the Display Fractal command on the Tools menu.

Typically, you will open the Properties Window, make changes to 1 or more Properties Pages, and generate a new fractal image by executing the Display Fractal command on the Tools menu of the Fractal Window. Then you can make additional changes to the Properties Pages, generate a new fractal image, and so on. If you see something interesting along the way, you can Zoom In to see more detail.

Note that you can save some time by executing the Preview Fractal command on the Tools menu of the Fractal Window (or by clicking the Preview Fractal button on the Properties Window toolbar) prior to executing the Display Fractal command. The Preview Fractal command generates a small preview of the fractal (in the Preview Window). If you like the preview, you can click on the image in the Preview Window and a new Fractal Window will open with a full-sized version of the preview. If you don't like the preview, you can move on without incurring the cost of displaying the full-sized image.

the Fractal Window, the Properties Window, and the Preview Window, are where you will spend 99% of your time when using the application so a general understanding of these windows goes a long way to learning how to use the Fractal Science Kit.

The following pages describe these windows in detail:

These pages describe key features of the application including:

  • How to Zoom In/Zoom Out of a fractal.
  • How to open/save a fractal properties file.
  • How to save a fractal image.
  • How to open additional Fractal Windows to explore multiple fractals simultaneously.
  • How to use the Preview Fractal command to get a quick look at the effects of properties changes without incurring the cost of redisplaying the fractal in the full window.
  • How to use the Preview Julia command to get a quick look at a Julia Fractal by clicking on a Mandelbrot image to define the Julia Constant.
  • How to navigate the hierarchy of Properties Pages in the Properties Window.

Even if you do not fully understand the information presented on these pages, it is good to have a general understanding of what these windows can do and, as you experiment with the application, your understanding will grow.

Fractal Science Kit Tutorials

The best way to learn about the Fractal Science Kit fractal generator is to work through some or all of the Tutorials. These take you step by step through the process of creating a fractal using the Fractal Science Kit. You will learn how to navigate to the different Properties Pages using the Properties Window to view/edit the properties associated with a fractal. Once you have made the required changes to the fractal properties, you will generate a fractal image using the Fractal Window. This paradigm, of changing fractal properties and generating a new fractal image, is repeated over and over again and is the focus of each tutorial.

Click the link below to get started:

Fractal Science Kit Tutorials Overview

The Tutorials Overview describes basic concepts including:

From there you can navigate to one of the 4 basic tutorials where you will learn how to generate Mandelbrot Fractals, Orbit Traps, Orbital Fractals, and L-System Fractals. These walk you through a series of steps to give you a basic understanding of how to create these fractal types. Included are suggestions of additional things you can try to learn more.

Fractal Science Kit Examples

In addition to the tutorials, I have also included a set of Fractal Examples to get you started. The examples are a set of fractal properties files that you can download to experiment with, along with a description of each example and suggestions for things to try. The example descriptions are not as detailed as those in the tutorials and I recommend that you work through the tutorials first so that you have a basic understanding of the application windows and the property page hierarchy.

Click the link below to get started:

Fractal Science Kit Examples

This page contains a gallery of images of fractals created using the examples, links to detailed descriptions of each example with experiments to illustrate key concepts that you can use to produce hundreds of variations, and a link to download the examples. The download contains the fractal properties files that I used to generate the images in the Fractal Image Gallery. You can use these files as a starting point for your own explorations.

Context Sensitive Help

When you are running the Fractal Science Kit application, and you see something you do not understand, you can click the Open Documentation toolbar button for help. The Open Documentation toolbar button opens the documentation in your browser to the page that describes the window or the currently selected Properties Page on the Properties Window. The Open Documentation toolbar button is a small round blue button with a question mark in the center and is the right-most toolbar button on most windows. Those windows that do not have the Open Documentation toolbar button usually have a Help button for this purpose.

This is probably the best way to learn about the advance features of the application that are not covered by the tutorials.

Built-in Programs

The Properties Pages on the Properties Window provide access to the fractal properties. Some of the Properties Pages contain Fractal Programs. These pages, called Program Editors, allow you to view/edit a program's Instructions, modify a program's properties, or to choose a different program altogether. The Program Editors are your gateway to the Built-in Programs; the built-in equations, transformations, orbit traps, and color controllers that come with the Fractal Science Kit fractal generator. See Program Editors for details.

At the top of the editor page is a section used to select a program from the set of programs you have written or the set of Built-in Programs of the appropriate type. The section title, Fractal Equation in the following example, specifies the type of program you are editing. The Based On selector lets you choose the program you want to use. The programs from which you can choose include the Built-in Programs of the given type followed by any programs of that type that you have written.

Based On selector

As you try out different programs, you should read the comments at the beginning of the program's Instructions. The comments (found at the beginning of each program) give you a description of what the program does and how to use the program's properties page found under the program in the page hierarchy (usually called Properties).

The Toggle Code View button is useful when you want to read the program's comments. See Toolbar Buttons for details.

Click the link below for a complete list of Built-in Programs:

Fractal Science Kit Built-in Programs

Fractal Science Kit Hints

The Fractal Science Kit Hints page contains a collection of unrelated hints, tips, pointers, etc. Read over these hints after you are familiar with the application basics. In addition to the Fractal Science Kit Hints page, the Special Topics page contains several other useful pages that you can read at your leisure.

Fractal Programming Tutorial

Most Fractal Science Kit users are not programmers and may never use the programming capabilities of the application. Those users can simply skip this section and all the other documentation related to developing your own fractal software. For those users who are programmers or who wish to learn, read on.

The Fractal Programming Tutorial introduces you to the key concepts involved in writing your own fractal software.

The Fractal Science Kit fractal generator comes with hundreds of Built-in Programs which are used to create your fractals. In addition, you can develop your own Fractal Programs to define the Equations, Data Collection Programs, Color Controllers, and Complex Transformations that generate the fractal image.

The set of statements that make up a Fractal Program are called Program Instructions or Instructions for short. Instructions are written in a language that is similar to the C programming language. The Programming Language supports a complete set of control structures including if statements, while loops, for loops, switch statements, inline functions/methods, arrays, and user defined objects. The complex data type is the fundamental variable type, and arithmetic operators and functions handle complex operands/arguments. A rich set of built-in functions/methods are included, and you can develop your own library of functions/methods for use throughout the application.

Each fractal program can define a set of Program Properties to appear on the properties pages associated with the program. The user can interactively change the values of the properties to control program execution. Properties include enums, function proxies, option maps, options, option arrays, constants, and data tables. Most of the properties result in one or more constants that you will use in your program to control program flow. The user interacts with the properties on the properties pages which sets the values of the constants used by your fractal software.

See the Programming Language page for a complete description of the Syntax of the programming language.

The Built-in Functions and Built-in Macros are a set of built-in functions/methods available to all your fractal software. You can also develop a library of your own Macros; i.e., Objects, Inline Functions, Inline Methods, and #Define Statements for use throughout the application.

Click the link below to get started:

Fractal Programming Tutorial

 

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