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Hi everyone. Do any of you experienced structural engineers use PTC MathCAD Express (free version of MathCAD) at work? If so, would you recommend it, and why or why not?
I've used it before for school, but I experienced some limitations with it (for example, the # of rows permitted in a table is limited, whereas on Excel it's not). Compared to Excel, I like how the finished calculations look so clean and polished on MathCAD, as well as how the software takes care of units. However, if Excel is more versatile and better for structural engineering work than the free version of MathCAD, then I'm sticking with Excel. Thank you in advance for your expertise!
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While I would recommend any version of Mathcad over Excel for engineering work, you can't use Mathcad Express (free) for commercial purposes. One of the licence agreements you signed contains the language,
"Please note that Mathcad Express is limited to usage for personal purposes, and may not be used to benefit any business or for any commercial purposes or for any business purposes."
Naturally, I'd recommend getting in touch with a PTC sales rep about the commercial version of Mathcad. If pricing is an issue (though the value Mathcad would bring to your work surpasses the price point), ask about any kind of discounts you be eligible for.
1.Table size.
The number of rows in a table in Excel is limited, it may be limited to a very large number, one that you normally don't reach, but it is limited.
What do you consider a 'table' in Prime? Is it a Matrix?
Here is a matrix of 5 colums and 1 million rows.
Would that suffice? If not, you can make it larger. The viewing size (set to 5 rows in the picture above) can be increased to your liking.
Or is it the input table?
Here is one with 14 rows:
And you can insert additional rows and columns if you like using the buttons for that purpose:
2. Express.
Prime Express comes with a license agreement that you signed. I seem to remember the agreement allows you to evaluate the application, not to use it for (production) work.
Success!
Luc
While I would recommend any version of Mathcad over Excel for engineering work, you can't use Mathcad Express (free) for commercial purposes. One of the licence agreements you signed contains the language,
"Please note that Mathcad Express is limited to usage for personal purposes, and may not be used to benefit any business or for any commercial purposes or for any business purposes."
Naturally, I'd recommend getting in touch with a PTC sales rep about the commercial version of Mathcad. If pricing is an issue (though the value Mathcad would bring to your work surpasses the price point), ask about any kind of discounts you be eligible for.
@MT_10308311 wrote:
Hi everyone. Do any of you experienced structural engineers use PTC MathCAD Express (free version of MathCAD) at work? If so, would you recommend it, and why or why not?
I've used it before for school, but I experienced some limitations with it (for example, the # of rows permitted in a table is limited, whereas on Excel it's not). Compared to Excel, I like how the finished calculations look so clean and polished on MathCAD, as well as how the software takes care of units. However, if Excel is more versatile and better for structural engineering work than the free version of MathCAD, then I'm sticking with Excel. Thank you in advance for your expertise!
Further to Dave's and Luc's answers, I'm not a structural engineer, but I have (successfully!) answered several structural engineering worksheets on this forum and have a reasonable amount of experience using both Excel and Mathcad in a wide variety of engineering fields.
I quite like Excel ... for spreadsheet tasks. Yes, it is possible to markedly enhance the Excel experience using its built-in Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) programming language, and I've written a lot of VBA to get around the limitations of using just a spreadsheet.
However, for the kind of engineering tasks I've undertaken and have seen on this forum, there are few that I would prefer Excel for. Excel's table form is nice for data entry, but the cell formulas are both difficult to thoroughly check and error-prone, in part due to their repetitiveness and copy/paste errors. Mathcad is usually *significantly* easier to read and verify, plus (as you note) it is much easier to layout in a usable form.
One example that stands out is a spreadsheet used by a respected, large, international engineering company to determine which differential equation solver to use for a given process simulation. The eventual choice was usable but not optimal because that choice was made on the basis of significant errors in the Excel workbook. Each potential ODE solver was evaluated using a set of differential equations on its own worksheet. What immediately struck me was that several of the advanced ODE solvers performed worse than a simple Euler solver. A quick check revealed that some of the 'advanced' solutions contained just copies of the Euler cells, and others had what were obviously cut&paste errors that picked up references to the wrong cells. I was surprised that the results got through review because they were so blatantly incorrect. However, this wasn't the first time I'd seen dubious worksheets pass muster because of the difficulties in seeing errors propagating through a system and checking worksheets, plus people tend to become "number blind" after looking at a few large worksheets.
This kind of error is far less likely to occur in a Mathcad worksheet because:
a) all of the results use the *same* set of equations for iteration rather than a cell for each value. Excel can use array formulas, but I've rarely seen them used; perhaps Excel 365's dynamic arrays will see their use increase, but, unless human nature has changed, I'm not going to be holding my breath.
b) the formula is easily viewed for checking, whereas a spreadsheet's formulas are not usually easy to read, and if they use VBA, that's another layer to dig into and plough through.
c) Mathcad's formulas are written in maths notation, making them easier to check against the specification.
Here's another example. Another work colleague was having some problems implementing and tabulating the results from a rather nice integral that he needed for checking an electronic warfare system. It took me precisely 10 minutes to solve his problem with Mathcad by partially symbolically solving the integral (it wasn't fully analytic) and then using numeric integration to tabulate the data. Plus, the worksheet only required a bit more topping & tailing to make it a properly formatted work document. Sadly, his project manager wouldn't let him buy a copy of Mathcad because he had no capital budget left and wouldn't let him use my copy because reasons, and made him spend three weeks writing an Excel spreadsheet to do something equivalent (at least the guy had my worksheet as a starting point). Who knows how robust that worksheet was; it most certainly wasn't anywhere near as easy to write in Mathcad, nor to verify or maintain.
I could bore you with similar stories, but the bottom line is that, once the initial learning phase has been gone through, Mathcad worksheets are generally significantly easier to write, read, verify and maintain than spreadsheet applications for non-spreadsheet purposes.
Having said that, Mathcad lacks many of the data formatting features that Excel has and that have often been requested (explicitly or implicitly) on this forum (and its predecessor). A compromise is to embed an Excel worksheet into Mathcad and use its formatting ... but it is a compromise.
Stuart
Hi Stuart
some information:
My experience with Prime8 during 30 day testing was that Prime8 ("insert excel component") do not work at all - is not compatible with Excel in Office 365 nor Microsoft 365 !
Regards
Owe
@o.svahn wrote:
Hi Stuart
some information:
My experience with Prime8 during 30 day testing was that Prime8 ("insert excel component") do not work at all - is not compatible with Excel in Office 365 nor Microsoft 365 !
Regards
Owe
Hi Owe,
I don't usually work with Excel in Mathcad and when I do, it's normally limited to the WRITE/READEXCEL functions. I deliberately used Mathcad Prime 8 to make sure I was referring to the latest version.
I must have used some "beginner's luck" 🙂, as the example I posted was made with the trial-licenced Prime 8 and Microsoft 365 (family subscription), which contains Excel Version 2204.
Stuart
Stuart
OK I was using Excel 2206 -that can be the culprit !
Owe
Would you mind elaborating on how it doesn't work?
PTC uses Office 365 for our Microsoft apps. (Excel 2108) I provisioned myself a trial licence (and got off the corporate VPN). I used our free Importing Data from Excel to Mathcad tutorial worksheet which features an Excel component.
Everything seems to work fine and as it should? I can open the Excel component and change values and styles and get outputs from that and change the worksheet as expected.
Hi again
do not have Prime installed anymore so I can not reproduce the fault - what I remember though is something like "Excel is busy cant calculate" .
Owe
Ah, then that's a known thing, to the extent this article exists.
https://www.ptc.com/en/support/article/CS245917
@DJNewman wrote:
Ah, then that's a known thing, to the extent this article exists.
https://www.ptc.com/en/support/article/CS245917
Out of idle curiosity, David, what is the "PTC Standard Environment"?
Stuart
I don't know!