The other day I came across a blog post by Robert Mote titled: The battle between Excel and MathCAD. In it, Robert discusses the use of Mathcad vs. Excel for standardized engineering calculations. He relates this to his field of structural engineering, ultimately giving Excel the nod as the tool of choice for an engineer.
Now as I’m sure you might guess, I have a slightly different take on the subject. But I suppose I may be just a little bit biased given my relationship to Mathcad. After all, Mathcad is more readable than Excel, easier to use (natural math notation), self-documenting, units aware, integrates directly with many CAD tools, supports native calculus and programming, etc. etc. right? Clearly most engineers would prefer an application designed for engineering calculations rather than one designed for business and finance, no?
Not Mathcad OR Excel, Mathcad AND Excel
The point of my post here is not to tout all of Mathcad’s strengths, while pushing those that Excel brings to the table under the rug. This would be a disservice not only to Excel (it’s a great app after all), but to our users as well. In my opinion the real value to an engineer is in utilizing and drawing on the strengths of both tools.
Clearly there are certain applications where Excel, or any other spreadsheet application, shines. Spreadsheets allow you to organize large blocks of data effectively, produce basic charts and graphs, and nearly everyone has Excel and has used it at some point. Mathcad benefits from using natural math notation, self documents… and well all that other good stuff I described above. We are fortunate to have a strong relationship with Microsoft and have worked with them over the years to integrate Excel into Mathcad, as well as Mathcad into Excel. We support reading from and writing to Excel files from within Mathcad (.csv too), native Excel containers within Mathcad, we even supply a free add-in to put Mathcad inside your Excel if you want!
With my short tenure I’ve heard about and seen numerous customer examples detailing the power that Mathcad and Excel provide as a team. Just the other day a customer from a multinational engineering firm was showing me how they used Mathcad throughout their entire design calculation, verification, and validation process. In many of these steps Mathcad was interfacing with Excel (and other tools) as the calculation engine and/or documentation interface. They utilized many applications for their specialized features and functions, but always came back to Mathcad as the ‘glue’ that sticks everything together.
What’s your take?
I’d love to show you some specific examples and screen shots, but I think that is another post for another day (in the near future). Stay tuned for some interesting use cases, tips/tricks, and developments regarding Mathcad and Excel. In the meantime, leave me some feedback in the comments. How do you use Mathcad and Excel in your day-to-day design? How have these apps provided value to your development processes? What do you like or would like to see added to our current Excel integration? We’d love your feedback.
Disclaimer: No animals were harmed in the making of this blog post.