PTC Mathcad Prime: Past, Present, Future

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**Guest Post by Andrew McGough**

PTC Mathcad Prime was created to address the need to improve the interface and usability of the ageing legacy version of PTC Mathcad. That software had been developed over many years and though extremely powerful, it had become difficult to continue to add to the code base with the improvements that were needed and that our customers were asking for. PTC Mathcad Prime utilizes the same core math engine that PTC Mathcad has always had, but everything else is brand new, using modern coding techniques based on current Microsoft technology. PTC Mathcad Prime’s equation editor allows users to effortlessly enter new calculations or edit existing ones, in natural math notation. Our continuing efforts are focused on maintaining that ease of use while reintroducing functionality with which existing PTC Mathcad users are familiar and have built into their engineering workflow. New users to PTC Mathcad Prime love the user experience and functionality list but long-time users have expectations for what they can do with the product. Through constant contact with customers, we log these expectations and use them to prioritize the functionality list of each new release.

TemplateUp to this point there have been three major releases of PTC Mathcad Prime. The functionality list for each of those releases was determined through conversations with users about what they needed to see in the product as their highest priority functionality areas. Symbolics, 3D plotting, the Excel component, collapsible Areas – these rated highly on users lists for essential functionality so we made sure to implement that functionality first. As we move forward, we continue to discuss with customers what their prioritized lists are and as we plan each release we do so using that information. Currently, we’re hard at work on some aspects of and finalizing the plans for our PTC Mathcad Prime 4.0 release and beginning to map out the subsequent Prime 5.0 release. But before those are released, we’ll be launching PTC Mathcad Prime 3.1.

Ptc Creo and PTC mathcad integrationPTC Mathcad Prime 3.1, due early in calendar 2015, is an intermediate release. While we are developing some of the larger components of Prime 4.0 we are releasing capabilities that allow PTC Creo users to better access and leverage the benefits of PTC Mathcad in their existing workflow, which the PTC Creo community has been asking about for some time. There are features in PTC Creo that enable users to calculate parameters but PTC Mathcad is specifically designed to do that job. PTC Creo users want to take advantage of the benefits of PTC Mathcad to calculate and, just as importantly, document the reasoning behind those calculations within the PTC Creo framework. PTC Mathcad Prime 3.1 will introduce a powerful new integration that will allow PTC Creo users access to the features of PTC Mathcad that they’ve been asking for directly within PTC Creo, embedded within their existing workflow. We talked about that integration in a previous blog and will discuss more aspects of it in future entries.

APIPTC Mathcad Prime 3.1 will also include a completely rewritten API. The API is used to integrate and automate PTC Mathcad with other tools and in many different company processes. The API in PTC Mathcad Prime 3.1 has been re-written from scratch to be more efficient and easier to use. It also adds important new features like the ability to get and set data in different units and an event handler. We’re developing an extensive SDK with documentation and a number of worked examples to make designing your own integrations as easy as possible.

We have also been hard at work releasing content for PTC Mathcad Prime 3.0. We have converted and created hundreds of worksheets covering many different real world examples and design problems across all engineering disciplines. These are all available from the PTC Mathcad website for download and use as the basis for your own work, to assist in understanding your specific engineering issues or simply as examples of how PTC Mathcad can be structured and used. We are committed to providing excellent worksheet resources and this is a process that will be continued in parallel with our other development tasks.

82044910_blogSo what’s next? We’re in the final stages of prioritization planning for PTC Mathcad 4.0 and our development team is actively working on the larger projects. We’ve been using our customer feedback to identify those functionality areas that are most important to address. The prioritization process candidates we are selecting from include worksheet protection, Area protection, Area locking, copy/paste multiple regions to Word (or other external applications), the ability to save a worksheet as a Word document, the ability to save a worksheet in PDF format, plot improvements such as title, grid lines and 2nd Y-axis, ability to wrap long equations, and general PTC Mathcad areas of usability improvements. As well as this, we’re in early discussions on how to reintroduce calculation server functionality that would serve the same use cases as it did back in PTC Mathcad 13.0 while utilizing the power of modern computing infrastructure.

After the prioritization phase for PTC Mathcad Prime 4.0 is complete we’ll tackle PTC Mathcad Prime 5.0; and though it’s in the early stages of that release one item that is on top of the list is Input Controls. This is a large project that we’ve been discussing specifications for at length. As we continue to populate our enhancement database the picture of customer prioritized items will become more apparent but we already have a good idea of what people are asking for. Text styles, hyperlinks, program debugging, redefinition warnings and scripted components are popular items and will be considered side by side with other areas of functionality that we have feedback on and will continue to receive as we talk to customers in the field.

PTC Mathcad Prime 3.0 includes a lot of functionality that longtime PTC Mathcad users have requested but we recognize we have more to accomplish in transitioning everything customers ask for into PTC Mathcad Prime. Re-writing a software product from scratch is a large undertaking but the PTC Mathcad team is focused on a roadmap that will continue to support PTC Mathcad 15.0 and its users while concurrently maturing the PTC Mathcad Prime product until the rest of our users can migrate. That is our primary goal and as we move deeper into the development phase of PTC Mathcad Prime 4.0 we’ll continue to have discussions with you, our users, about what should go into each new release.

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12 thoughts on “PTC Mathcad Prime: Past, Present, Future”

  1. Philip Oakley CEng MIET says:

    While the step toward Creo integration is no doubt useful for pure Creo institutions, until one can reversibly save Prime worksheets as the current V15 format it’s not going to fly at locations which have well established, but separate, Mathcad and Pro/e / Creo groups.

    Certainly I won’t be able to recommend the introduction of Prime until that level of interoperability is available.

  2. So, to sum up, your plan is, somehere in a far far future, to eventually have in Prime 5.0 some features (text styles, redefinition warnings, scriptable components) that were available ten years ago in legacy Mathcad versions? Wow. I’ve been using Mathcad since it fitted into three 1.44Mb floppy discs, and really I cannot understand how could you hope to move professional users to a release so bugged and incomplete.
    Incomplete: i.e up to today Mathcad Prime 3.0 does not support plot axis labels, and the user shall gracefully use textboxes instead. I have dozens of xmcd worksheets in my organization and I see no reason in the universe to assign one of my engineers just to convert it into something less feautured just to make you people happy.
    Bugged: I noticed that in my italian keyboard the exponentiation shortcut “^” doesn’t work and generates an “if” statement instead. I filed a bug request to support, thinking that this could be easily solved in a short time, and to my big surprise I found that this bug has been filed TWO YEARS AGO, and you are still “evaluating” it. Well, you go very into deep in your evaluations.
    How could you hope to make users comfortable with this kind of support? Having to use the ribbon bar instead of a shortcut in writing a complex equation is simply a no-go, and I don’t think you would need so much time to fix this bug. By the way, since you also provide the Italian version of Prime, one could expect you support italian keyboard layout as well. It this the “maintenance” support we pay for? Impressive, but not in the way you would hope.

    Mathcad was a wonderful product in the old days, nowadays the 15.0 is usable but lacking long time awaited features, especially in the wordprocessing side: automatic numbering of chapters and equations, automatic table of contents, gridlines to align objects and equations and so on. Also nesting collapsable areas doesn’t seem to be rocket science but would help a lot readability of complex worksheets.

    Really, I’d be curious to know how many professional users (mathcad is a working tool) have currently moved their legacy calculation to Mathcad Prime.

  3. Scott Milligan says:

    Ouch! A year ago was told ALL MathCad15 functionality would be restored by V4.0 release; now things I care about most like scripted controls and picture controls are put off until AT LEAST v5.0 and even that date is uncertain.

    I wonder whether anyone at PTC has asked themselves whether or not “Prime” will ever catch up with “Pre-Prime” before “the power of modern computing infrastructure” once again evolves to obsolete itself?

    Neither Maple nor Mathematica, nor Matlab disable existing functionality while modernizing the product; why can’t PTC follow suit?

    Very disappointing read this.

    Scott Milligan

  4. Raiko Milanovic says:

    I find it intriguing that PTC appears only recently to have come up with something of a development plan. The article above describes development and engineering tasks one expected years ago when MC Prime was announced. We’ll have to see what the future holds and until then it is still MathCad 15.

  5. Byron Smith says:

    Andrew,

    Thank you for your explanation of PTC’s plans for future Prime development, and your discussion of some of the issues and rationale involved. I do appreciate PTC’s commitment to a dialog with users. And, I understand some of the challenges of maintaining a complex code base and associated development constraints, and that PTC is diligently trying to offer the most valuable product it can to its customers. I even accept that long-time users are only a subset of your customer base.

    However, your explanation doesn’t directly address the largest concern of the long-time user community:

    Does PTC intend to provide the capability to seamlessly import and execute M15 worksheets?
    If yes, how does that capability fit into the Prime development roadmap?

    I, and I believe every other long-time user, would appreciate whatever insight you can offer on these points. Many others in various forums have explained why this is such a concern, so I won’t reiterate that here.

    With best regards,
    Byron

  6. Philip Oakley says:

    Bryon,

    As I understand it, we will need to use V15 M040 (once released), or maybe just M030, to save the worksheet in the latest/last ‘old mathcad’ .xmcd format, and that is the only format that Prime will import.

    The implication of their statement (above) is that Prime 5.x will be able to do a full conversion of all features present in V15 (Let’s hope it’s painless;-).

    I still think that they will also need a reversible conversion mechanism so folks can get used to the new format, new differences, and new capabilities of Prime. Without the backward compatability conversion folk will be retiscent to even try the change. I have folk still happily using V11.2a. They aren’t happy about the shift to V15 without being told about the ability to use SaveAs V11 (.mcd).

    1. Byron Smith says:

      “(Let’s hope it’s painless;-).”

      Thank you, Philip. Your parenthetical comment captures my concern. While PTC has stated their goal is to eventually offer M15 functionality in Prime, what I haven’t seen stated is that they also have a goal to make this migration painless. With an extensive rewrite of the code and changes in appearances, painless conversion may not be possible unless PTC has taken that capability as a requirement guiding their Prime development efforts.

      My hope in posting my original query was that PTC could confirm their intent, to offer something more than hope and speculation for long-time users to base our expectations on.

      –Byron

    2. rauckr says:

      This is exactly the critical issue. Two way file conversion is essential in order for many users to consider MathCAD Prime. How can we develop Prime analysis files when we cannot provide output to customers who have not upgraded to Prime? Clients want to be able to adjust the analysis data and observe results so an Adobe Acrobat dumb output is not acceptable. If the product is only used internally within a company, the decision to upgrade can be synchronized. That is not true of the rest of us.

      1. Philip Oakley CEng MIET says:

        That is true. That sentiment has been expressed rather vociferously at the technical committee discussions as well.

        If I had to guess, a partial two way converter may be made available once the last time buy has happened for the older version so that /existing/ customers (possibly needing a maintenance licence) can do their final checks.

        Once the Prime style sheet has become well defined, it may be relatively easy to create (internal to PTC) an XLST converter That would be available to paying maintenance customers with a time/node locked licence just to give leverage.

  7. Andrew says:

    Struggling with Prime again. All the promisses; effortless equation entry etc. The more I learn how to use prime the more obvious it is that this interface is a large step backwards. When you check the blogs seems lots of old users agree. Prime is simply not as capable as older versions.

    Its like the development team didn’t use the product. It is just so frustrating to see a great tool so hobbled.

    Promisses move farther to the future. PTC, maybe its time to cut bait.

  8. Alexander says:

    What I miss the most in Prime 3, and what was available in earlier versions, is to calculate images/bitmaps and beeing able to display them, what is not possible now. A clean way to export graphics in a vector format and to show grid lines in them would be a lot more important for me than even more support for shiny 3D-animated diagrams. I miss a lot the function to read a value from graphs.

  9. Tom says:

    Our company has stayed with 15.0. While I have *great* sympathy for any outfit undertaking a “clean sheet” re-write of such a complicated and comprehensive program, still, it’s been a lo-o-ong time. Like one of the others up there, I’ve been using Mathcad since MS-DOS days, and am reasonably happy with 15 – for many of the garden variety, day to day things,it does wonderfully. It’s our go-to program, and I still recommend it to people. I’m really pulling for your coders, I know it’s a demanding and thankless job, but please – we need to know this code has a future and it’s not just the red-headed stepchild at PTC. These long delays make one think that few resources are being directed to the program.

    I’ve fiddled with Prime 3.0, as has our electrical engineer, and found it to be wanting in speed at least; and the ribbon interface quite honestly needs to go. It was idiotic when Microsoft came up with it and it remains idiotic, and will never not be idiotic. There’s no chance of being rid of the thing, I know, but really, our reading order is vertical, and the more vertical space I have the less I scroll (and yes I know how to use collapsing areas). In 15, all my toolbars are vertically on each edge of the window and I have whatever I need (& haven’t already memorized keyboard shortcuts for) a click away.

    One nice thing that used to work, stopped working in 14 or somewhere, and got fixed in Prime 3 is functions with a variable exponent not working with units. I’m doing my best to implement beam singularity functions with a reasonable similarity to the angle brackets notation (i.e. ^n only evaluated if x>a), and so will look forward to future versions of Prime with the infix, prefix and postfix operators, at least.

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