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Let the Flames Begin...


Let the Flames Begin...

First, let me put my flak jacket on under my flame retardant suit...


I still have my 5-1/4" disk of Mathcad 1.0 from 1987.  I LOVE Mathcad.  It has served me well my entire career.  For a long time I have been right there with the other Mathcad 15 zealots on this forum.  I had the opportunity for a face-to-face meeting with the Mathcad product managers and developers about 10 years ago in Latham, MA and I told them across the conference table, "Until Prime can provide the basic requirements of a high school 2D plot (Title, labels, legend, readable axis, etc.), Mathcad Prime will be nothing more than a toy!".   There was palpable silence in the room, I can tell you.  Reflecting back, I was seriously angry because I could see that my beloved Mathcad was coming to an end and the only replacement for it was inadequate.


Then I waited.  Ten years.  Nothing.


I teach a corporate Mathcad course to get our engineers to use Mathcad to hep document their work, avoid errors, and be more efficient.  Although I evangelized "real Mathcad", I made Mathcad Prime 3.0 available to our corporate users, and later Prime 4.0, so they could "try it out".  Well, last year, several of my students showed up for class and were seriously disappointed that I was not teaching Prime.  Really?  Monitoring our our license server, I can see that we have 33% of our user base (in the hundreds, closer to a thousand) using Prime.  What!?!?  Time for a paradigm shift.


I made a decision to stop teaching Mathcad 15 and convert all my training material (hands on .xmcd files) to Prime format.  I also made the decision to start using Prime exclusively for my own work.  If I was going to teach it, I needed to immerse, get proficient, find work around solutions to limitations, and provide leadership by example.  It was a risk.  I have not looked back.  I actually enjoy the more modern font presentation and printing.  Was it painful?  Sure!  But I have found work around solutions to just about everything. 


The tipping point for me was the new release of Prime 6.0 with a spell checker, hyperlinks, and enhancements to the new 2D Chart Tool.  I'm now pushing hard for full corporate adoption of Prime so we can stop supporting Mathcad 15.  As an internal corporate trainer, I have successfully converted all my training material to Prime files with only minor issues.  As an open-source developer for the CoolProp materials library, I have no trouble with converting demo worksheets and surprisingly little effort to compile add-ins for Prime instead of Mathcad 15.


Sure, an eBook viewer would be brilliant, but I've found work-around solutions by posting our Prime handbooks on our intranet with html front-ends.  Are there little annoying things that Prime falls short on, sure.  But it's not Mathcad 15; it's something new.  When Microsoft moves their buttons around on every single forced update of Office, we don't go down and picket outside Bill Gates' house.  We adjust and adopt the way we work and eventually get used to it.  Did PTC take too long?  Sure.  Should PTC have worked harder to retain the product experts and developers from MathSoft?  Maybe.  However, to get a new china pattern, you have to break the dishes; otherwise, you're just rearranging the plates.


I've started to notice a few forum users getting annoyed that every single post degrades into a diatribe on the shortcomings of Prime.  I'm tired of it myself.  It's probably why PTC no longer pays attention to this forum anymore and why the enhancements forum is locked down tight (the Creo enhancement forum works just fine).  They are tired of all the negativity and frankly, I don't blame them.


It's time.  Mathcad 15 is not moving forward.  It is only a Windows update away from not running at all.  It's 32-bit, it's old, and it's tired.  Get over it.


Who's with me?

23-Emerald I

Well written, well said.


I discovered Mathcad about the same time as you did.  (I started Mathcad on a Macintosh SE.)  And I used the program as a working engineer until I retired (in 2017.)  I never was a trainer, except when somebody asked directly; there were no Mathcad classes--the person in charge of maintaining the program for the company could never get enough people interested to justify an on-site class.  (All of our new hires came from college with a firm MATLAB foundation; the fact that I was doing in Mathcad with units what they were doing in MATLAB didn't convert them.)  Despite a significant difference in per seat cost, many engineers continued to demand MATLAB while the Mathcad seats were under used.  (My administrator would have been thrilled at a 33%  useage rate.)


I too skipped Prime 1 and 2, not useable for calculations, and supported version 3.  We never installed 3.1 (I don't think) and version 4 was rolled out just as I left; I don't know what they're using now.


Most of the new hires chose to use Prime.  Since I was monitoring, training, and teaching them I was "forced" to learn Prime, although I tended to reach for version 15 for my own calculations, especially if a quick answer was needed, or something special was required.  (Ever do a waterfall plot of an FFT over time?)


I agree with you that Prime is now useable, although my argument that Mathcad can do most of what MATLAB can would suffer badly.  And I agree that Mathcad 15 life span is nearly over.  PTC has really "dragged their feet" in bringing Prime up to where 15 was; there is still a lot missing.  (The ebook I put together for our group's specific needs is nearly useless now since it would require 15 to use it.)


Feels like we're putting down a faithful, trusted, loyal old dog!




I also first used Mathcad when it was a DOS based program. I even did testing on the earlier versions of Prime. While I don't need to use all the in depth math functions, I find Prime fits most of my needs.  Your comments on Prime's pluses and minuses are very similar to mine. As I have done a few e-books using Mathcad it is the one feature I miss the most. What I find inexcusable is the ability to save a Prime document to an earlier version of Mathcad, and to not be able to import xmcd document directly into Prime. 

My biggest problem with Mathcad Prime is the licensing process is a mess. The last two years it took me several weeks and several hours (after I purchased the license) with tech support to get a license that worked. 

Though I have a perpetual license for Mathcad 15, I still pay every year to use Prime because it has become so easy for me to use and I now have 10 years of Prime worksheets.

I have tried Matlab (yuk), Mathematica (to steep a learning curve) and SMath (ok for a tablet) and found them wanting. So JeffH1, I too have settled on Prime and will continue to use it as long as I can justify the cost.


OK, here goes...


Some of you may recall my post a while back about the history of Prime development, and how PTC ignored our technical committee voice for their "Prime" effort. I have used Mathcad since 1991 or so, and have a significant number of files that conduct a very wide variety of calculations - most all of which have been validated. As most of you long-time users know, many of these files cannot be converted without extra effort - some functionality cannot convert at all! This is how PTC's efforts differ from how you characterized it:

"When Microsoft moves their buttons around on every single forced update of Office, we don't go down and picket outside Bill Gates' house."

PTC didn't just move their buttons around, they left-out functionality! What would you think if MS Word removed all lower case characters, or the bullet or number list option from a newer, "more modern" version? What if they left-out paragraph formatting, or margin adjustment, or font choice or page breaks? What if MS took plots away from Excel? That one actually is equivalent to what PTC did with the first few versions of Prime! I could go on...but I won't. Yes, Prime has improved since v1, and you are correct to say it took too long - shamefully too long. I will admit I have not yet given Prime 6 time enough to pass judgement yet, but I will attempt to convert some significant tools I created a number of years ago to see how it works...or doesn't.


There will be a time when I do move on and migrate to Prime - I really do want to. PTC has added some very nice features we never had in Mathcad. But, I find it hard to think I'll need to fix most every file I've created. Admittedly, my dislike of this software does have somewhat to do with PTC's approach - remember, I was part of a very significant customer voice (CAE Technical Committee), which they virtually ignored...and it was a very vocal voice indeed! That's what boiled my blood more than anything - they had the input from very seasoned users to make Prime roll-out and move ahead quickly without much issue. I'll provide a follow-up when I've had enough time to put Prime 6 through its paces. But for now, Windows 10 is still planned to be supported by Microsoft until Oct., 2025, so we have some time left (maybe I'll try to figure out how to retire by then 😀).

All of what you said is true; but that doesn't change the reality that Mathcad 15 is not the future.  Prime is not now and may never be the replacement we hoped and expected it to be.  


I suspect that PTC bought Mathcad intending to integrate it into their modeling software (now Creo?) and did not expect the outcry from those of us who used Mathcad for the engineering/computation engine it was.  That goal has not changed.


The sense of this post, I believe, is that it's time to recognize this: Prime is a different animal than "old" Mathcad.  It can still be used for calculations and presentations but it will never easily interface with the the information and calculations from the previous versions.  It will also always required annual payments for upgrade and will not "save back" to older versions of itself--PTC is in it for the money!


This series of posts is recognizing that: If you can't accept this situation then you need to move on!  (Retirement ain't so bad. . . .)

22-Sapphire II

They had quite forceful comments from others in the wider community as well (anyone recall the Super Users Forum?).  You are right that it did cause some resentment; indeed, it felt like there was a group sitting down and saying, "What do the more experienced and forward-looking users want?  OK, take all their suggestions and put them in File 13.   <You>, find out what would really annoy them and make sure that it's a priority in our development path.". 


However, there was g r a d u a l improvement in Prime and several of us felt a sigh of relief when they dropped static type checking (*), and some aspects of program/data entry are definitely better.  So big ticks, there.


1991?  I feel like a newbie.  I think I only started in 1996 and didn't become active in the Collaboratory until about 2000. 🚼


I shouldn't have said that.  I feel old now and like the world has regressed around me. 🙁



(*)  Nothing against type-checking in principle, but it broke a lot of things and the implementation never properly supported it.  ISTR that Mathcad compiled a worksheet down to an underlying Mathcad symbolic language based on what looked like ML or Haskell.  Whatever it was had proper support for static typing and, IIRC, supported currying as it should be done, thus allowing variable length arguments to functions ... currying is another good idea that got removed because it confused some people.


 Im with you. Totally tired of every post starting with "real Mathcad".  I have been using prime for four years now and have no issues for what I need it for. The quality of final document produced is much better and I much prefer the user interface and modern look. 


We are on windows 10 and all apps should be 64 bit now people.


In addition to the features you mentioned, the new custom margin and footer option is great for making the Mathcad document match any type of existing report template. Also, ability to now automate printing to a PDF through expsoure of the API is huge. I still have to test this....

I have 30% Mathcad and 60% Prime in my new English  book

2⁵ Problems for STEM Education

(10% - Maple, Mathematica & SMath)

There were 50% - 50% on the origin Russian book! 


Привет Валерий, как ты?


I don't blame the developer.  I just have a 'little' difficulty with the way the development program went and the things that were or were not included in that development, and, usually, those things are set higher up. 


How long was it until we could load an image, manipulate and display it, all within the Prime environment in the same way that we could in Mathcad 15?


There is still appears to be no multidimensional array support, not even an empty array to aid in programmatically constructing arrays.


I realize that PTC's priorities have a wider footprint, but these are the kind of things that should have been going on in parallel.


I'm looking forward to giving Prime 6 a go, to see what can be done with it, but I think, from what I've seen, that there is still some way to go before it gets on an equal footing with most of its numerical competitors.






(would Ура be OK as a sign-off instead of счастливо, or is there anything better that means the equivalent of "Cheers" in in Russian?)


Not sure about multi dimensional array support being missing, I use it all the time in prime since ver 3. Able to mix units and types in arrays and multi dimensional arrays with ease too. The api is limited in that you cannot access multi dimensional arrays and can only work with arrays composed of numbers and non mixed units
22-Sapphire II

What do you regard as a multi-dimensional array?



By "multi-dimensional array," (Stuart, excuse me while I step on your favorite gripe) Stuart means an array with more than two indices required to address a single element.  (Not arrays with members with different units, one of the nicer improvements from Prime.)  

21-Topaz I

Hi, I'm afraid that.....



I'm probably one of those old Mathcad guys.  I, too, starting using it in the old DOS days and it has become my primary computational tool.  Like everyone else, I was appalled at the amateur efforts that produced the early versions of Prime.  I have hung on to V15 for the simple reason that it did what I needed and Prime sometimes didn't.


My only reason for avoiding Prime 5 was bad plot formatting.  If it was only me, I would have made do, but I'm a professor and I didn't want to teach students bad habits.  It looks like Prime 6 has finally fixed that, so I'm making the change.  V15 is familiar and I really like it, but it's ancient and needs to go.


Like many of you, I've been baffled by how PTC has acted.  However, I've been communicating with their customer support people and it's been positive.  They truly seem to want to improve customer support.  There's a lot to be done, but the buggy and byzantine web site is now much better.  Also, I have a Webex next week so they can see what the customer experience looks like from my end.  A company that didn't care wouldn't do this.


My only real concern at this point is licensing.  I had been avoiding PTC in favor of one of their outsource vendors, EAC and that pretty much solved the problem.  Still, the goofy, convoluted purchasing process is a hard sell to students who are used to Amazon and NetFlix.


If they have fixed the purchasing process - and I think they are trying to - my complaints will all have been addressed.  Time to move on.





All cool. I have a bunch of live illustrations (a scipted Autocad object, parametrically driven from calculation results). What would be the workaround for me?

Bad news, I'm afraid!


Prime has been very slow at adding scripts and embedded objects,bad news: I'm not sure how far they've actually gotten. 


And the REALLY bad news:  PTC's major product is Creo, 3D modeling software; I doubt they're going to care to have you embed AutoCad objects.  They are very proud that you can embed Mathcad in Creo.

Embedding Autocad illustrations in a Mathcad document is already a workaround, because PTC since the acquisition of Mathsoft, didn't do anything to allow embedding Creo drawings in a document.

Well, actually here's what they did: they killed the SmartSketch functionality. Very funny!



And that's my point!


I didn't use it much, so I never looked; does Prime 6 even allow an embedded object?

Only a static image or Excel with very bad formatting. That's it. Images have to be aligned to the grid, when you change the size of displayed grid- the image moves so it snaps to the new grid. Obviously, this ruins the layout of your page. I can even embed an Autocad drawing inside the Excel spreadsheet embedded inside a Prime document. It's displayed badly, but that's not a problem, that's a feature, Excel object has never been formatted properly inside Prime- circles are not round, squares are not squarish. Aesthetics aside, good luck passing any scripts from Prime to AC this way. Anyone got an idea?

Check out the latest
Mathcad Tip
"PTC Mathcad 15 / Prime 1-6 Update."