MathCAD Prime 1.0 released to mixed reception

January 13th, 2011 | Categories: math software, mathcad | Tags:

A man I have a lot of time for is Joel Spolsky, author, software developer and previously a program manager for Microsoft Excel.  Way back in the year 2000 he wrote an article called Things You Should Never Do, Part 1 where his main point was “The single worst strategic mistake that any software company can make is to rewrite your code from scratch.”  He exemplified this principle using products such as Quattro Pro and Netscape 6.0.

Not everyone agrees with Joel’s thesis and it seems that the managers at PTC, the owners of Mathcad, are among them.  The last major update of Mathcad was version 14.0 which was released back in 2007 (the recent Mathcad 15.0 was a relatively minor update despite the .0 version number).  To  some outsiders it appeared that PTC were doing very little with the product until it transpired that what they were actually doing was an almost complete rewrite from the ground up.

That rewrite has now been released in the form of Mathcad Prime 1.0.  I don’t have my hands on a copy yet so I have been scouring the web to try and determine exactly what this new version does right and what it does wrong.  Here’s what I’ve found so far.

  • Mathcad Prime 1.0 does not have everything that Mathcad 15 has.  Jackov Kucan, Director of development at PTC, has publicly stated that it won’t be until Prime 3.0 that users will be able to retire Mathcad 15 and migrate to Prime.
  • Relating to the above point,there is a thread over at the PTC Forums where several users are calling Mathcad Prime a big step backwards. Not everyone agrees though.
  • Another useful discussion thread is one started by PTC where they ask What new features do you want to see in Mathcad Prime?
  • According to one of the discussion threads above, Mathcad Prime doesn’t include several pieces of functionality (symbolics, 3d graphs and animation) that are considered bog standard by competitors such as Maple and Mathematica.  I haven’t confirmed this yet. (confirmed by email from a PTC employee)
  • At the time of writing, all purchasers of Mathcad Prime 1.0 will also receive Mathcad 15. Mathcad Prime 1.0 can be installed side by side with any previous versions of Mathcad. (source)
  • In the UK, Mathcad Prime currently costs £810 for a personal license. (source)

Here’s a nice demo of the new version by Jackov Kucan. The user interface looks great in my opinion although I confess to not being a fan of the Microsoft-like ribbon interface.

How about you?  Have you used MathCAD prime yet?  If so then what do you think of it?  If not then do you think you will try it?

Update (16th February 2011): I was recently contacted by an employee of PTC who told me ‘The internal engine has not been totally rewritten .  It’s the user interface, which includes the equation editor and plots that we rebuilt from scratch.’  Thanks for the clarification.

If you like this post then you may also be interested in the following:

  1. Thank you for the review of Mathcad Prime 1.0. We are very excited about the present and the future of Mathcad. We have taken a big first step into the future with the release of Prime 1.0 while continuing to support our users with Mathcad 15.0. We are also investing heavily in our Academic Program to ensure that our customers will have have many generations of Mathcad Prime users available to them in the workforce in coming years.
    If you have not yet explored Mathcad Prime 1.0, here is a link to download free trial:
    Chris Hartmann
    Academic Program Manager, Mathcad

  2. January 14th, 2011 at 15:00
    Reply | Quote | #2

    Thanks for your comment Chris. Have you considered making Mathcad Prime available to all UK Universities for free? I imagine that adoption would go through the roof and in a few years time you’d have a lot more people asking their employers to supply Mathcad.


  3. Well Mike, an idea worth considering, but one that would put me out of a job I’m afraid. I’ve got a family to support after all.

    We are trying our best to offer Mathcad at a price that is affordable for students and to develop programs that help universities and students make the most of every dollar that they spend on Mathcad. If we were to give Mathcad away, but offer no programs to support its use, then it might be of less value to students than if we charge them a student rate that helps PTC afford program managers (like me) who work with universities, departments, professors, authors,… to make sure that Mathcad is being used widely and in ways that make the most of its capabilities.

    We know that Universities in the UK are feeling a budget crunch these days. We also know that they sometimes spend a great deal on site licenses for some of our competitors products. In almost every case, we are a more affordable solution with an easier learning curve. We would be happy to talk to anyone about whether or not Mathcad offers a way to control cost without hurting program quality.

    If any University Professors or Administrators are interested in considering a switch to Mathcad, I am offering a webinar this Thursday January 20th at 2 pm EST. The title of the webinar is “5 Good Reasons to Teach with Mathcad”. Here’s the link to sign up for the webinar:


  4. January 18th, 2011 at 14:02
    Reply | Quote | #4

    Hi Chris

    Thanks for getting back to me. Manchester University (my employer) already has a site license for Mathcad along with MATLAB, Mathematica, Labview, NAG etc. In an ideal world I’d like to see us have licenses for all the big M’s (so Magma and Maple too) along with stuff like IDL etc. One way of doing this would be for all vendors to waive license fees.

    That way software will be selected for teaching/research programs solely on the basis of quality and not cost.

    The seminar looks great but unfortunately I’ll not be able to watch it live. Will it be recorded?