To Err is Human, to Work Around, Divine

symbol-unicode-character-code

**Guest Post by John Sheehan and Magnus Eklund**

So Mathcad Prime 3 is amazing, but it’s still missing a few of the comforts of Mathcad 15. An obvious crowd favorite is superscripts and subscripts in text. Of course you can do superscripts and subscripts in a math region, and math regions can be embedded into text. But really, is that a work around? Not one that I’m brave enough to suggest. So, if we’re talking about subscripts or superscripts, the work around here is to find the special made character. They can be found using the tool, Character Map and you can just copy and paste them into text regions in Prime, giving the text a cleaner look.

If we stopped here this would be too short to make up a blog post! So, why not try to explain what Unicode is, and how we can make use of the hundreds of practical symbols in both math and text regions in Mathcad.

Pythagorean Theorem equation

So, what is Unicode? According to http://www.unicode.org, Unicode provides a unique number for every character, no matter what the platform, no matter what the program, no matter what the language. Being able to display characters the same way across systems, country borders and languages has always plagued computers. In the US, we had it a little easier with ASCII, but even that was limited as an 8-bit standard. As a 16-bit standard, Unicode handles all the characters from all the languages and disciplines.

Unicode was quickly hailed as a standard worldwide. It made browsers compatible with global sites, ensured integrity to data sets, and made it easy for applications to be offered in multiple languages.

Mathcad 14 first introduced Unicode compliance (http://www.ptc.com/products/mathcad/mathcad14-whats-new.htm).

Keyboards have always been a problem for Mathcad users, due to their limitations . When building pedagogical Mathcad documents we want access to many more symbols than we can find on keyboards (We have access to 95 different characters on a US keyboard and 109 on a Swedish.). Making things more difficult, a lot of them can’t be entered in math regions because they are shortcuts for operators. In Prime we have the Math/Symbols palette with (86) more useful characters. But, there are a lot more if we make use of the specially made, and automatically installed font called, “Mathcad UniMath”. Of course we can’t access every symbol included in Unicode – there are millions! But there are a lot of great characters – almost 2000 when I did a quick count – which you’re free to use. The link in the Mathcad 15 QuickSheet “Extra Math Symbols” is still working and shows you the characters included in the font: http://www.appliedsymbols.com/MathcadUniMath.pdf. If you look at other fonts, you may find more interesting symbols to use.

The “double quotes” technique allows you to enter characters on your keyboard that are shortcuts to the operators (In Mathcad 15 you use Ctrl-Shift-K to toggle between shortcut mode). Simply type a double quote then type the character in between the double quotes. Now click to the right of the first double quote and hit backspace to remove the double quotes. Voila, you have a math region!

Double Quotes technique_2nd page Mathcad blog

You can also use this technique to be able to paste characters in math regions.

An easy way to access all symbols is by using the Windows tool “Character Map”. It has some features that make it easier to find the symbol you are looking for. You can group by “Unicode subrange” so that you can filter and find the exact character. The picture below shows how to find the subcripted and superscripted numbers mentioned here.

Character Map Mathcad

If you’re a person who likes to memorize things, you can also use another technique. The first 255 characters have an Alt key method. You can use the Alt key and the number pad to type in a numeric sequence for your favorite symbol. A popular symbol is the degree sign. You can get that one by using Alt 0176. Just remember to start with a zero, or else the symbol will be different.

Character Map Mathcad Prime 3.0

If you’re using a small laptop keyboard you’ll have to figure out how to use the numeric keypad if there is one.

*Keys that are shortcuts for operators and therefore trickier to use in math regions:

Prime:                   + ! ” / ( ) = { [ ] } \ ^ * < > | , – : %

15 and older:      + ! ” / ( ) = { [ ] } \ ^ * < > | , – : # & ? @ $ ~ ‘;

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4 Responses to To Err is Human, to Work Around, Divine

  1. Mark Buckton says:

    The problem is that with Mathcad Prime 1,2 and 3 PTC have Erred too many times and in too many ways. Bear in mind that we are talking about a corporation specialising in technical engineering software and although it is easy for one human to Err you would not expect this from a team of professional scientist, engineers and programmers and highly specialised beta testers. If Mathcad prime was supposed to be a bridge between Mathcad 15 and the future then if experience counts and if a majority view is democratic, one can only conclude that Mathcad Prime is a “bridge” that not many traditional mathcad users are willing to cross due to dodgy engineering and fears of collapse.

    • Andrew McGough says:

      Mark,

      Thank you for your feedback, we always appreciate constructive criticism and use it in our content planning process. I will reach out to you directly to discuss your specific issues.

      Regards,

      Andrew McGough
      Product Manager, PTC Mathcad

  2. Kyle Nguyen says:

    Thank you for this neat trick. From looking at the character map screenshot, it seems that only numbers are available as subscripts and superscripts. Any chance of getting a letter (or a string of letters) as a subscript or superscript

    Also, I found that the Alt+xxxx does not work with laptops where there are no numeric keypad (and the top number row does not work). Therefore, I would have to click on the desired character in Character Map, click “Select”, then “Copy”, then paste it into Mathcad.

    Another way of entering SUBSCRIPT in text field I’ve used is to select the text you want to be the subscript and decrease its font size. This has the advantage of making a whole string of numbers/letters the subscript.

  3. Raiko Milanovic says:

    Thank you for this tutorial. It helps. I hope that a more comfortable method will be itroduced in MathCad to insert Unicode characters.
    I wonder why it isn’t already implemented. PTC prides itself with a software that emphasizes engineering over programing. It should have been introduced long since.

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