Alternate software to Mathcad

QUESTION

Can anyone suggest an alternate software to Mathcad?

REPLIES

JoshPlumSE
I tend to use Excel and SMath. I see little to no reason using Mathcad and dealing with all the frustrations that come from dealing with that company.

SOURCE
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From what I’ve been searching, the most similar looks-wise is SMath, but it makes me a bit uncomfortable that there’s no real support from a company, but it’s not open source either.

But Maple (Maplesoft) would be, so far, the tool that would be more similar to WYSIWYG and having the support of a company behind it.

I’ve given both Smath and Maple a try, too. My experience is similar - Smath should probably not be trusted to calculations you will need to refer to years from now (the developer may move on to other things) and Maple is more of a mathematician/student’s tool than an engineering utility.

If you normally use Mathcad for simple isolated calculations, just for the sake of getting a clear answer, perhaps with units perhaps not, then you can probably transition to Maple or Mathematica rather easily.

If instead you normally write elaborate reports in Mathcad with things like formatted plots, tables, and program blocks, then you’ll have a much harder time. You won’t be able to just switch over everything you normally do into the other software without having to leave some of the functions you use behind.

There are, of course, other capabilities and workflows in these other programs that have their uses. You may be prefer one over another. In my case Maple and Mathematica don’t offer the simple clean output that looks like the algebra/calculus that I would prefer to put in a report, and insert loads of other code that isn’t relevant to the subject of the report. And in my case Smath doesn’t have the stability or product support for me to seriously rely on it for professional work with a variety of coworkers.

That said, if I had a problem that was very mathematically intricate, such as a spring-mass-damper system needing ODE’s I might prefer to start with Mathematica, given what I’ve seen in the demos and tutorials about setting up the problem. I’ve done it in Mathcad already but in comparison it seems easier to do in Mathematica.

I have never used Mathcad or Smath professionally. I’ve had a look at them but it seemed like they could never replace Excel properly as there’s always a lot of simultaneous combinations to handle, so the spreadsheet format always seemed more natural to me. Additionally, I have used VBA extensively for creating additional tools (moment-curvature analysis, laterally loaded piles, SAP2000 interfaces, etc) so I was never ready to really jump ship to any of those tools. The unit handling capabilities of Mathcad were really never of any interest either (SI units user! :slight_smile: )

That said, the lack of adequate proofreading in Excel is what bothers me the most. It’s so easy to make a mistake and have it trickle down the design pipeline that sometimes I wake at night just to check if I haven’t made a mistake…

I have been looking at Python and Julia lately, combined with Jupyter notebooks and some additional libraries (plotting, pdf export, LaTeX, data frames, mesh creation, FEM analysis, etc). The free and open source nature of these languages is also very appealing, even for a common Windows user like me. It will probably be 2021’s learning project.

The work I do typically falls into the “spreadsheet” or “algebra” categories with little overlap, so having Excel and Mathcad on the ready suits me well. Perhaps better than some.

Considering what you say you’re looking at now, take a look at GNU Octave. It operates like Matlab, and that means you would have access to a lot of examples, tutorials, and university-level stuff to refer to (eg. MIT open courses). I spent some time trying it out this week, in fact. Spurred on by all the other math software related questions and as a comparison while giving Maple a test-drive, too.

After my recent Octave test-drive, I can say I wish I had done that a few years ago, when I had a heavy analysis problem to work for a few months. Neither Excel nor Mathcad were very suitable for the job - though I forced it upon them anyway. If I had tried out Octave instead I may have spent a lot less time troubleshooting my work.