I have restricted the context of my notebooks to each individual notebook. So variables in each notebook are local and are not seen in another notebook.

But in two of my notebooks I have two functions that I want to plot simultaneously with the command Show. Please note that I want variables of each notebook to be local except for those two functions. So I need to define two global variables and then plot that two functions in Show. How can I define global variables in Mathematica?


2 Answers 2


You can explicitly define variables in the global context by prefixing their name with Global`, for example, Global`i = 3 or Global`f[x_]:=x^2. However if you have set the notebook to have private context, you don't have Global` in your $ContextPath (in order to prevent interference from other notebooks with non-private context). Therefore in your notebooks the context Global` isn't really special, you can use any context, like myShared`. Indeed, that's desirable because that way you know that a third notebook will be unlikely to interfere.

So you would write in your first notebook


and then could access that function from the other notebook as

==> 9

Note that you can add your context to the context path by using

AppendTo[$ContextPath, "myShared`"]

This then allows you to refer to the function above without the prefix, e.g.

==> 9

However note that with this, your local symbols may shadow the shared ones (however access as myShared`function still works even then), so you have to make sure that you don't use the unprefixed symbol in any way before the prefixed one was created.

You might consider avoiding the issue by using PrependTo instead of AppendTo, but then you are vulnerable to variable injection (including accidental one) from the other notebook. For example, imagine that you have the definitions

a = 3;
PrependTo[$ContextPath, "myShared`"]

and then you do in your other notebook

function[a_] := a^2
other[a_] := 5

Let's assume the symbol a had not yet been used in that notebook, then it is created, together with the symbols function and other, in the context myShared`, and therefore in your first notebook now hides the local definition of a. That is, if you now evaluate a in your first notebook, the kernel will find myShared`a (without a value) first, and therefore use that instead of the local a; of course it won't evaluate to 3.

Yet another way to access the symbol without prefix would be the definition

function := myShared`function

which however only works in a context with evaluation. Especially it should not be used for shared variables because after

variable := myShared`variable

a subsequent assignment like

variable = 42

does not change the shared variable, but only the local one (which no longer refers to the shared one).

Therefore I think it is a better idea to not do either, but always use the prefixed version.

Note that the PrependTo scenario is also an argument against using Begin["myShared`"]End[] to simplify definitions in this case: It's too easy to accidentally introduce new symbols in that context which were not intended to be there.

Note that another way of sharing functions is to make them into a package and use that package from both notebooks. Ultimately this also boils down to having a shared context, as rcollyer noted in the comments. However a properly written package protects against or at least warns about most problems with hiding. Of course, writing a package might be overkill for your specific situation.

  • $\begingroup$ As written, myShared`function[a_]:=a^2 is not vulnerable as a is localized due to SetDelayed having the HoldAll attribute. $\endgroup$
    – rcollyer
    Commented May 24, 2012 at 14:28
  • $\begingroup$ @rcollyer: No, it is vulnerable because the mere creation of that symbol already hides the local one. And yes, I've actually tested it. After defining the function in notebook 2, a in notebook 1 will no longer evaluate to 3, not because the value of notebook1uniquecontext`a has been overridden (that one still has the value 3 associated with it) but because that definition is hidden by the symbol myShared`a. Yes, that's a non-obvious effect, and exactly for that reason you should avoid it. $\endgroup$
    – celtschk
    Commented May 24, 2012 at 14:34
  • $\begingroup$ Ah, I was executing it the same notebook and wasn't seeing the shadowing for what it was. My apologies. (Incidentally, this is simpler to demonstrate in a single notebook using cell grouping as the default.) That makes for a reasonable argument to 1. be careful with globals, in general, and 2. have the global context be last in $ContextPath to minimize its effects, i.e AppendTo v. PrependTo. I'm disappointed, though, that there isn't a shadowing warning raised. $\endgroup$
    – rcollyer
    Commented May 24, 2012 at 14:43
  • $\begingroup$ @rcollyer: It can't raise a shadowing warning because in that notebook there's no other accessible symbol to be shadowed. If there were, the new symbol wouldn't have been created to begin with. $\endgroup$
    – celtschk
    Commented May 24, 2012 at 14:49
  • $\begingroup$ So, by using PrependTo, you circumvent any checking capability, also. Well, that seals the case, then. Prepend for globals is bad. $\endgroup$
    – rcollyer
    Commented May 24, 2012 at 14:56

Globally define as follows $Assumptions = b >= 0 && c >= 0 && {u11, u13, u14} [Element] Reals then use globally defined variables as follows Simplify[expression with global variables]

  • $\begingroup$ Hello and welcome to mma.se! Please note that the question is a bit more specific than the title suggests. The question would probably be too broad otherwise. The information you share is good to know, but I guess it is not really an answer here. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 2, 2014 at 12:10

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