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Frequently Asked Questions
Welcome to the Optica Software FAQ page. This page will be regularly updated as new questions arise from our users. If you do not find an answer to your question here, please send us your question and we will be happy to answer it for you!

Q: I am on a limited budget. Is there a lower-priced alternative to Rayica?

A: Yes! We are now offering LensLab as a lower-priced alternative to Rayica for amateur astronomers, experimental hobbyists, and users on a limited budget. In addition, we also offer special discounted rates on Rayica and Optica 3 for individuals on a limited budget. Please contact us for further information.

Q: Do you offer a demo version of your products?

A: Yes! We now offer a demo version of our products on a case-by-case basis. Please contact us for further information.

Q: Where can I get a demo of Mathematica?

A: You can request a Mathematica 15-day trial version at the web link for demos.

Q: What are the chief advantages of using your products over other packages?

A: Our products exhibit a complete language for modeling optical systems in three-dimensional space. This gives you the most control possible over the entire design and analysis process. Built upon the enormous repertoire of symbolic, numeric, and graphic capabilities of Mathematica, our Rayica and Optica 3 packages are unprecedented in their ability to flexibly model novel and innovative optical systems. For example, our packages enable you to specify symbolic parameters for the various positions, optical properties, and curvatures of system elements. You can also describe the shapes of optical surfaces with your own symbolic equations. In addition, you can directly perform higher-level analysis of your own in Mathematica from the results of Rayica and Optica 3 without switching to a different software environment. Finally, unlike any other product on the market, we openly publish our source code for your inspection and our products work with every major computer operating system, including but not limited to: Windows, Macintosh, and Unix/Linux systems. Such features make our products unlike any other commercial package.

Q: What forms of optimization are supported by Rayica and Optica 3?

A: Rayica and Optica 3 support all of the popular minimization algorithms. These include both constrained and unconstrained methods of minimization. Methods for constrained minimization include: the differential-evolution genetic algorithm, simulated annealing, random search, and the Nelder-Mead simplex algorithm. In addition, Rayica and Optica 3 also support the following unconstrained minimization methods: Newton, Quasi-Newton, Gauss-Newton, and principle axis (also known as Brent's method). In addition to Rayica's ray-trace models of optical systems and numeric optimization, Optica 3 supports symbolic models of optical systems and analytic optimization based on methods of calculus for minimization. In particular, Optica's symbolic modelling abilities enable truely globally optimal solutions to be determined.

With the help of the new dynamic work environment of Mathematica 6, managing your optimization problems in Optica 3 is now easier than ever before.

Q: Does Rayica/Optica 3 use Mathematica and is Rayica/Optica 3 backward-compatible with the original Optica I product ?

A: Rayica/Optica 3 is a direct descendent of Optica I and uses Mathematica in the same way. As such, both Rayica and Optica 3 contain all of Optica's functions and can run all Optica notebooks but many recent functions did not exist in Optica I . However, there have been some minor syntax changes between the default behavior of some functions in Optica 3 and Optica I, but you can easily switch back to the original Optica syntax format if you wish. These changes are well documented at the end of the new Rayica/Optica 3 User Guide which you can view on our website.

Q: What are the differences between Rayica and Optica 3?

A: Rayica does geometric ray-tracing and is a subset of the latest Optica 3 product. Optica 3 does symbolic analysis of optical systems, Gaussian beam propagation, as well as diffractive effects in imaging systems, interference, and wavefront calculations. In addition, Optica 3 offers deeper support of dynamic optical models than Rayica with Mathematica 6. To learn more about the differences between Rayica and Optica 3, please examine our Product Comparison Matrix.

Q: What is the difference between Optica 3 and LensLab?

A: LensLab is an entry-level product that has a similar feature-set to the original Optica I product. Optica 3 is the latest generation professional-grade product with a feature-set that far exceeds LensLab (see our Product Comparison Matrix).

Q: Which versions of Mathematica do you support with your products?

A: We support all versions of Mathematica including version 5.2.

Q: Which computer platforms do you support with your products?

A: We support all platforms that work work with Mathematica. These include: Windows 98/Me/NT 4.0/2000/XP, Mac OS X, Linux, and Unix:Sun/HP/IBM/SGI.

Q: I have previously purchased Optica from Wolfram Research. Is it possible to receive a discount on Rayica/Optica 3 ?

A: Yes! We offer discounts to former Optica I users. Please contact us for further information.

Q: Do you have a special rate for students?

A: Yes! We now offer special rates for students. Please contact us for additional information.

Q: Do you offer an academic discount?

A: Yes! We now offer discounts for educational users. Please contact us for further information.

Q: What are the benefits of your annual support service?

A: Our annual support package entitles the user to: a free-home-use license, the most current version of our products throughout the support service duration, top-priority access to our support team, free computer systems transfers, and one hour of consulting service for each product purchased.

Q: After reading through your on-line documentation, I was unable to locate specific examples of my desired application for your product. Does your documentation presently cover every feature of your software?

A: Unfortunately, the complete coverage of the every aspect of our products capabilities are simply too vast to mention within a single introductory discussion or even within the scope of our basic user manual. In addition, we are constantly developing new features (often in response to our user's needs) that are not always well covered in the basic documentation. It is our expectation that our product's documentation will, by necessity, be an on-going endeavor that is continually updated as a result of feedback from our user community. For this purpose, our web-site will be continuously updated to provide new on-line documentation, additional examples, up-to-date software, and advanced technical support. If you have an application that is not covered in our present documentation, please let us know and we will let you know if that feature is available and, whenever possible, we will add further information about that topic on our site.

Q: You are selling your "add-on" products at a greater price than the "base" Mathematica product. How can you justify this?

A: We do not view our new products to be a simple accessary of Mathematica in the way that electric windows might be an accessary of an automobile. Instead, our products form the "car" itself and Mathematica serves as the "engine". In particular, while Mathematica may be the development environment of our products, the merits of our products stand on their own.

This shows a single ray traced through a diffusely scattered field of partially reflecting and refracting spherical lenses. The color represents the energy present in the scattered rays on a logarithmic scale.

This shows a ray-trace through a user-defined axicon mirror by Rayica.

This shows a ray-trace through a graded-index lens by Rayica.

This shows a two-dimensional illustration generated by Rayica.

This is a compound lens traced by Rayica.

This is a custom light source generated by Rayica.

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