PTC’s Mathcad Prime 1.0 brings change … lots of it

Mathcad Prime shows PTC’s more ecumenical way of thinking in the Creo era.

PTC’s newest app is Mathcad Prime 1.0, the company’s engineering calculation software. The new application represents a break from the venerable Mathcad program, which PTC got in the acquisition of MathSoft in 2006 for $63 million.  Many users worried about PTC’s commitment to Mathcad. Mathcad 15, released in June, 2010, has been described as a light upgrade to Mathcad 14 and users complained about PTC’s silence around Mathcad. As it turns out PTC was hard at work rewriting Mathcad and this month PTC has introduced version 1.0 of Mathcad Prime. The company has fired up the blogs, and both Mathcad new and old are getting plenty of attention from within and from outside the company.

Mathcad at work
If this is the sort of thing you really want to do, you can do it with Mathcad

There is considerable grumbling. First, there are the Microsoft ribbon haters — they still hate the ribbon and they hate it in Mathcad, complaining that what used to take one click now takes several clicks. More serious are those who find the new version Mathcad Prime does not have critical features they need. PTC says it will take several versions for the new MathCAD to incorporate all the features of the old and suggests users keep Mathcad 15 around. The primary demand is for collapsible calculations to enable users to create complex calculations and then be able to hide all the details. They can then run the calculation for clients or colleagues with bothering them with the horrible details or without revealing the details to protect intellectual property. The new Mathcad Prime is not backward compatible with Mathcad 15, though there is a converter allowing users to convert their old Mathcad worksheets over to the new program.

Other missing features that have been highlighted by users include 3D plots, symbolics, math styles, and animation.

The people who love the new Mathcad Prime highlight its clean new look and interface — they are the people who do not loathe the ribbon and some who even like it. As some have pointed out, Mathcad Prime has been developed to attract new users and it interoperates with Excel and Creo Elements/Pro, which is Pro/Engineer. However, PTC is careful to acknowledge that Mathcad users come from a wide variety of disciplines and areas of study.

The focus of the new program is to get users up and running quickly, so the company highlights features like the task-based interface which helps users figure out how to use functions; it is designed to help users create design documents with complex calculations with standard math notations.

Mathcad Prime 1.0 is available now and the base price (without maintenance) is $1,195. People can also still get Mathcad 15 which sells for $1,270 with PTC eLearning University.

What do we think

Messing with Mathcad was probably a safe enough proposition for PTC. According to user comments, the software isn’t religiously upgraded — math is math, after all. But yeah, people are passionate about their tools and they’ll complain bitterly even if they had no plans to upgrade ever. This is a fine example of PTCs new, more ecumenical way of thinking and Mathcad is the perfect vehicle. The program is a broader math tool used for engineering problems and so it is used by engineers working with a variety of different tools and different CAD and analysis programs. Part of the ambition around the Creo regrouping is to attract users from outside the PTC world who will add PTC’s tools, including Mathcad, to their kit.

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