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Should my Students Use Prime 3.0 or MCAD 15?

Gravel

Should my Students Use Prime 3.0 or MCAD 15?

I teach university classes that require lots of calculations. I make sure to introduce the students to Mathcad, but I get lots of questions about Mathcad 15 vs. Mathcad Prime 3.0. The university computer system doesn't have Prime 3.0, so our default is MCAD 15. I tell them that either program will work and they can use whichever one they like. They almost never choose Prime 3.0, though that might be because they see MCAD 15 in class. Two students this semester out of 85 have gone for Prime 3.0.

I've had to explain to them that they need to buy Prime 3.0 in order to downgrade to MCAD 15. I use the analogy that it's kind of like having to buy Windows 8 in order to downgrade to Windows 7. It's not a great way to start the conversation about why using Mathcad is a good thing.

Here's my choice: I can try to introduce them to Prime 3.0 on the assumption that it's what will be available in the future or I can stick with MCAD 15 because it's by far the most popular of the two right now.

My question: Do you in the user community recommend that I stick with MCAD 15 until Prime catches up? And how long with that take? Or, should I just rip the band-aid off and deal with Prime 3.0 on the assumption that it will get better? Which one do you think better serves my studetns?

Thanks for your help, folks.

P.S. I've been a MCAD user since version 1.1.

20 REPLIES 20

Re: Should my Students Use Prime 3.0 or MCAD 15?

So you are a longterm Mathcad user and you seem to be pretty well aware of Primes drawbacks.

As your university does not provide Prime and "only" Mathcad15 is used in classes it should be obvious that your students should use that very version on their computers, too. While an experienced Mathcad user should not have that much handling problems switching from MC to P and back but for new users it can be quite a hurdle to have to work with different user interfaces in class at university and at home. As an additional benefit, with MC15 they can use the more advanced and faster version, too, but I agree that thats something which is hard to explain. As announced the next maintainance relaease to MC15 should provide compatibility to the current Windows operating systems and so we can hope that the problems with installing MC under Win8.1 and the inability to use 3D plots in Win8 which some users report are gone then.

But I think that he main question is, if you really think that Prime will ever catch up and if it is fair and warrantable to expose future engineers to Prime (and Mathcad is to be discontinued). Don't let me be misunderstood - I am a longterm Mathcad user myself and I love this program and so I really hate to be forced to write that. But maybe its the better (only) option to search for an alternative (and use MC15 in the meanwhile).

P.S.: I suspect that you and your students will have to use so called advanced features of Mathcad/Prime. Otherwise it would be evident to use the free Prime Express ;-)

Re: Should my Students Use Prime 3.0 or MCAD 15?

Thanks for your help Werner. I just got back from my grad class. I asked them outright which version they preferred. I don't think I ever voiced an opinion in class one way or the other, so I think their response was untarnished. Every single one of them preferred MCAD 15. In fact, the universal response was "Prime sucks". Wow. I have to say that I didn't expect that. I guess it's MCAD 15 for us as long as that's possible.

Re: Should my Students Use Prime 3.0 or MCAD 15?

Does Prime 3.0 do everything that's required for the course? I assume is does, or you would not tell them that they can use it. If that is the case, you should tell them to use Prime 3.0. Mathcad 15 is a much better piece of software, with a lot more capability, but it has no future. So if they learn Prime then they are learning something they may be able to use in the future. If they use Prime and decide it is not adequate for their future needs, and probably never will be, they can switch to an alternative (Mathematica, Maple, Matlab, whatever), and they have not lost anything more than if they had used Mathcad 15. If, on the other hand, they decide that Prime does meet enough of their needs to be useful, then they have learned something valuable.

Basically, it's not about which piece of software is better. They are students, and there not much benefit to a student in learning a piece of software that has no real future.

Re: Should my Students Use Prime 3.0 or MCAD 15?

I just got back from my grad class. I asked them outright which version they preferred. I don't think I ever voiced an opinion in class one way or the other, so I think their response was untarnished. Every single one of them preferred MCAD 15. In fact, the universal response was "Prime *****".

Interesting, especially as I made a different experience in teaching students and given them a free choice over Prime or Mathcad. At the time I did the current Prime version was Prime 2 - a really unusual unusable piece of software. Nevertheless a rather greast part of the students had chosen Prime as "their" version at first. While forbidding and repellent to most long term users, the new interface seems to appeal new users. But over the time of the course all but a few (I think there were just two at the end) switched over to good all Mathcad. The drawbacks, limitations and especially the fussiness of the interface show up after some time of usage.

I agree with Richard that it does not make much sense to expose your students to a dying software, but as long as your university does not povide access to Prime I still think its the best solution to stick to MC15, as switching from Prime in class/university computer lab to MC on the personal computer and back is something you should not expose your students to. But I see MC15 as an interim solution and you should look for an alternative as quick as possible and not use MC15 as long as possible as it has no future. PTC owns Mathcad for about eight years and judging upon what they did so far in this long time I see no future for Prime either.

Re: Should my Students Use Prime 3.0 or MCAD 15?

So if I understand your point (as well as Werner's), you're just saying there is no future for Mathcad at all, whether it is the old or the prime version, and that student should stop using it at all, am I right ?

Not that it is any different from my own conclusion, but I just want to make sure I understand you point correctly...

Re: Should my Students Use Prime 3.0 or MCAD 15?

There is no long term future for Mathcad 15. I have my doubts that Mathcad Prime will ever be as capable as Mathcad 15. At least, at the current rate of development that point is so far in the future that it's not worth considering. That doesn't mean Prime is useless though. It is still likely to be the most capable (other than MC 15) math software with a true whiteboard interface for the foreseeable future.

Re: Should my Students Use Prime 3.0 or MCAD 15?

Richard Jackson wrote:

It is still likely to be the most capable (other than MC 15) math software with a true whiteboard interface for the foreseeable future.

I wouldn't be as assertive as you are. Maple seems to have made a lot of efforts in this direction (at least, since the version I tried in university 12 years ago, which probably wasn't the latest version at that time either). I would really like to give it a try at some point. It is really quite disappointing they don't do trial versions for individual licenses (and intellectual honesty prevents me from faking an interest from the company in order to try it for myself).

Re: Should my Students Use Prime 3.0 or MCAD 15?

Hi Folks,

Thanks again for sharing your thoughts. You've been a big help.

Here's what I think I know now about the future of Prime vs MCAD15 and of how they might be used in the classroom:

- Prime development will continue in the foreseeable future, but much of the additional capability will focus on connection with Creo and web stuff. I don't know of anyone at my university who uses Creo. Also, I'm doing number crunching, not web apps, so I'll probably never use most of the new features.

- MCAD is probably gone in two years. I suspect PTC would kill it faster if they thought they could.

- My students mostly don't like the current UI on Prime. In fact, a large majority really dislike it.

- They like being able to get Prime for free, but the free license only lasts about four weeks and a semester is 16 weeks long. Those who have purchased an academic license have all downgraded to MCAD15.

- PTC is going to write the code they want to write, not what we want them to write. We can complain all we want, but it won't matter.

- I'm not willing to spend class time trying to explain why Prime 3.0 is missing basic features when MCAD 15 works well.

- Prime 4.0 and Prime 5.0 may include some of the features that Prime 3.0 now lacks, though it is very unlikely that they UI will have all the features I like in MCAD 15. Still, it might be enough.

- Someone familiar with MCAD 15 can probably transition to Prime 4.0 or Prime 5.0 without too much trouble.

- Over the next two years, other options may become available. The Ti N-Spire calculator aspires to be Mathcad in a box. It certainly isn't there yet, but a couple new releases from now, it may be enough for student use. Maple may also further develop. However, there will probably be no direct replacement for MCAD15.

- If my university doesn't adopt Prime (and nobody seems too interested in it), it's a moot point anyway. I'll pretty much have to use something else or I can bring my own laptop to class to show them Prime, to which they will have only limited access. I don't think that's going to work.

I wish things were different, but it's an off-the-rack world. Since they already like MCAD15, I think the best way I can serve my students is to stick with it until either support for it stops or Prime gets some of the features it's missing. I'm not a power user, so some simple improvements would probably do the trick. In the next year or two, I'll probably either go to Prime or find another solution. If PTC fixes some of the UI problems, future releases may be OK.

Re: Should my Students Use Prime 3.0 or MCAD 15?

It's not the whiteboard interface of Mathcad, but it's close enough that maybe it will be a better option than switching to Prime. I guess at some point I'll have to evaluate it, but I don't need to do that for a while. I think the key tipping point may be when Windows 10 becomes the main Windows OS. If MC 15 doesn't run under Windows 10, then it will be time to start looking for alternatives.