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Primed for the future

17 February 2011

Just before the launch of Mathcad Prime 1.0 we had a question-and-answer session with the product development team at PTC. Here’s a summary; you can get the full interview here. It’s the inside scoop on this latest incarnation of the must-have engineering tool - different in look and feel to anything we or traditional Mathcad users have experienced before.

Question: How important is Mathcad to PTC?
Answer: Mathcad is an essential element of PTC’s product strategy. It supports and improves the concept, design and validation phases of the product development process, and works with several other PTC products to provide customers with an integrated design solution. Mathcad has its own dedicated business unit to enable sharper focus on the unique needs of the software’s market and user base.
Question: What's the future vision for Mathcad going forward?
Answer: We want Mathcad to become a de facto standard for engineering calculations. To achieve this, we are developing Mathcad with three objectives in mind:
 Mathcad as a best in class, easy to use and powerful personal productivity tool to solve any engineering calculation.
 Mathcad as a collaboration tool supporting easy sharing of knowledge.
 Mathcad as an integral part of PTC’s Product Development System (PDS) supporting best practices and improving customers’ processes.
Question: Why was it necessary to re-engineer Mathcad?
Answer: There were several reasons:
 We needed a user interface (UI) overhaul to meet the expectations of a new generation of users with much higher standards for ease of use and software design. Mathcad needs to keep up with advances in UI technology, so Mathcad Prime 1.0 took a leap forward leveraging the new technology (Microsoft .NET 3.5) to do so.
 To meet the next set of challenges (better integration into PDS, development of the calculation server, etc.) we needed a more modular design and a better architecture to build on.
Question: How did you go about tackling such a mammoth task?
Answer: This is indeed a huge undertaking. We started with the most difficult part of Mathcad – the equation editor. Mathcad Prime 1.0 started as a small research project to learn the technology and gain experience on how to best leverage it. Then we expanded the effort. Through regular usability tests, as well as a number of alpha programs throughout the release cycle, we are able to correct the design, focus on the user experience and keep the product developing in the right direction. We also decided to release the product in increments rather than wait for everything to be ‘baked’.
Question: What are the key new features in Mathcad Prime 1.0?
Answer: In Mathcad Prime 1.0 we doubled-down on Mathcad’s biggest strengths. The biggest new feature is the easy-to-use interface; a well-known differentiator for Mathcad and even more intuitive in the upcoming release. We’re improving unit support and adding dynamic units checking to make unit handling more flexible while maintaining the rigour – another trademark differentiator for Mathcad.
Question: How do you see people transitioning to Mathcad Prime 1.0?
Answer: Because of the radical changes in Mathcad Prime 1.0, we planned for transition over the next few releases. Some users will find Mathcad Prime 1.0 compelling to upgrade to immediately. We’ll provide a worksheet conversion tool that will convert any worksheet since version 7. Other users will find that Mathcad Prime 1.0 does not support certain features that are critical to their work. They might choose to upgrade later or run their earlier version and Mathcad Prime 1.0 in tandem. By version 3.0, we feel that most users should be able to move smoothly to the Mathcad Prime generation. In the meantime, our users can count on full support of Mathcad 15 with regular maintenance releases.

This is just a summary of the full interview. If you’d like to read the unabridged version, you can download it here.

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