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Using a Notebook Interface

If you use your computer via a purely graphical interface, you will typically double-click the Mathematica icon to start Mathematica. If you use your computer via a textually based operating system, you will typically type the command mathematica to start Mathematica.
use an icon or the Start menugraphical ways to start Mathematica
mathematicathe shell command to start Mathematica
text ending with Shift+Enterinput for Mathematica (Shift+Return on some keyboards)
choose the Exit menu itemexiting Mathematica (Quit on some systems)

Running Mathematica with a notebook interface.

In a "notebook" interface, you interact with Mathematica by creating interactive documents.
The notebook front end includes many menus and graphical tools for creating and reading notebook documents and for sending and receiving material from the Mathematica kernel.
A notebook mixing text, graphics and Mathematica input and output.
When Mathematica starts up, it usually gives you a blank notebook. You can start typing right away. Mathematica by default will interpret your text as input. You enter Mathematica input into the notebook, then type Shift+Enter to make Mathematica process your input. (To type Shift+Enter, hold down the Shift key, then press Enter.) You can use the standard editing features of your graphical interface to prepare your input, which may go on for several lines. Shift+Enter tells Mathematica that you have finished your input. If your keyboard has a numeric keypad, you can use its Enter key instead of Shift+Enter.
After you send Mathematica input from your notebook, Mathematica will label your input with In[n]:=. It labels the corresponding output Out[n]=. Labels are added automatically.
You type 2+2, then end your input with Shift+Enter. Mathematica processes the input, then adds the input label In[1]:=, and gives the output.
The output is placed below the input. By default, input/output pairs are grouped using rectangular cell brackets displayed in the right margin.
In Mathematica documentation, "dialogs" with Mathematica are shown in the following way:
With a notebook interface, you just type in 2+2. Mathematica then adds the label In[1]:=, and prints the result.
Click for copyable input
You should realize that notebooks are part of the "front end" to Mathematica. The Mathematica kernel which actually performs computations may be run either on the same computer as the front end, or on another computer connected via a network. Sometimes, the kernel is not even started until you actually do a calculation with Mathematica.
The built-in Mathematica Documentation Center (HelpDocumentation Center), where you might be reading this documentation, is itself an example of a Mathematica notebook. You can evaluate and modify examples in place, or type your own examples.
In addition to the standard textual input, Mathematica supports the use of generalized, non-textual input such as graphics and user interface controls, freely mixed with textual input.
To exit Mathematica, you typically choose the Exit menu item in the notebook interface.