I've been having this happen to me on a daily basis with the Find & Replace window on OS X:

enter image description here

No text can be typed into the red regions, so all find & replace functionality is gone when this occurs. If you hover over the red regions, you can see the following error message:

An unknown box name ($Aborted) was sent as the BoxForm for the expression. Check the format rules for the expression.

The only solution to this, as far as I can tell, is to restart the kernel, which is fairly annoying. I recall that in previous versions of Mathematica (prior to 7), the Find & Replace window wasn't tied to the kernel at all, and this sort of thing would never occur. I think this is probably just a bug, but perhaps there is something I am doing in my code, perhaps setting a reserved variable that this window depends on, that is leading to the repeated recurrence of the problem.

Just wanted to see if anyone here has had experience with this issue (perhaps it's not just OS X specific), and if they had any tips on how to avoid it, or perhaps some remedies that don't involve a full kernel restart.

Edit: Here's a bit of code I used to stress-test a potential cause of this issue:

For[i = 1, i <= 100, i++,
    pal = CreatePalette[Dynamic@ProgressIndicator[progress]];
    progress = 0; cnt = 0;
    Do[cnt = cnt + 1; progress = cnt/100000, {j, 100000}];
  • $\begingroup$ please do not use the "bugs" tag unless the community has confirmed that it is indeed a bug. In this case, you haven't provided an example that can reproduce this behaviour, so we won't know if it is a bug or not... $\endgroup$
    – rm -rf
    May 17, 2012 at 23:27
  • $\begingroup$ OK, my mistake. I don't really know exactly how to reproduce the issue...it just seems to arise after having used Mathematica for a while. I was hoping someone else had encountered it under more controlled circumstances. $\endgroup$
    – Guillochon
    May 17, 2012 at 23:36
  • $\begingroup$ Just don't do what ever it is that you're doing that's messing with the FE`* symbols. All these application windows (find-replace/preferences/about) are notebooks and anything that you do to mess with the FrontEnd can mess the display here. As a simple example, Unprotect @@ Names["FE`*"]; Clear @@ Names["FE`*"]; will reproduce this and mess up everything until you restart the kernel. Unless we know what exactly it is that you're doing, it's hard to diagnose. $\endgroup$
    – rm -rf
    May 17, 2012 at 23:39
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Just to provide an additional data point. This happens to me quite often too, and I don't do anything stressful or weird - compared with you folks anyway... No error messages or anything. screen cap $\endgroup$
    – cormullion
    May 18, 2012 at 8:02
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ For what it's worth, I have the same issue and I'm also not doing anything too taxing. I find that if I close the borked find window, it works on the second try. I'll be watching this closely as its an annoying problem! $\endgroup$ May 18, 2012 at 14:39

1 Answer 1


From Troubleshooting on Mac OS X:

Front End Preferences

Front end preferences, such as the locations of recently opened and saved files, are stored in a front end initialization file called init.m. This file is located in the directory ~/Library/Mathematica/FrontEnd. If you need to reset the front end preferences to their default values, hold down Shift+Option during startup. This will cause the initialization file to be rebuilt automatically.


Information about your Mathematica system layout, such as the locations of text resource files and help files, is stored in caches. These caches are located in the directory ~/Library/Mathematica/FrontEnd/7.0/Caches.

A corrupted cache may cause the front end to produce an error or quit immediately on startup. The most convenient way to restore the caches to their default values is to hold down Shift+Option during startup. This will cause the Mathematica caches and the initialization file to be rebuilt automatically.

If you want to rebuild your caches but retain your preferences, hold down Shift during startup. This will delete and rebuild the cache without rebuilding your front end initialization file.

Please try clearing cache, and if necessary preferences, and see if the problem persists. In my experience most emergent Mathematica idiosyncrasies are tied to cache or preferences.

  • $\begingroup$ I'll give you the check for now, as it will probably take a few days before I'm sure this has resolved the problem. Hoping for the best! $\endgroup$
    – Guillochon
    May 18, 2012 at 4:11
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Guillochon thanks, but I suggest that you un-accept this answer, as the Accept may keep someone from posting the real solution, if this isn't it. $\endgroup$
    – Mr.Wizard
    May 18, 2012 at 4:46
  • $\begingroup$ @Guillochon did your problem ever return? If not, please again Accept this answer. If it did I'll try to find another solution. $\endgroup$
    – Mr.Wizard
    Jun 4, 2012 at 2:34
  • $\begingroup$ @MrWizard The problem has not returned yet, but I haven't been using Mathematica heavily the past week. I will accept the answer soon once I'm more confident that it resolves the problem. $\endgroup$
    – Guillochon
    Jun 4, 2012 at 17:38

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.