This page is about Mathcad Plus 6.0. Mathcad is technical software primarily for scientists and engineers. It is developed by Mathsoft, Inc. of Cambridge, MA.

I have been beta-testing the product since August, and the software has been a mix of good and bad features. Basically, the good part is that it has a capable and robust math engine, with a good degree of compatibility with their Windows version. The bad part is that the good part is hindered by numerous interface and usability problems.

It is a port, which is a four-letter word to many Macintosh users who expect their software to adhere to standard Mac conventions, with special emphasis on user interface and interoperability with other applications. Potential users of Mathcad probably have computers running on 68040 or PowerPC CPUs, and thus expect a certain minimum performance from their systems.

I will be the first to applaud the math engine - I've constructed heat transfer, dynamics , numerical integration, matrix/vector math, and symbolic math (using the licensed Maple library) worksheets, with no errors whatsoever. The problem is not the math, but the interface. I believe that Mathsoft has not understood the difference between Mac and Windows users. The former tends to use multiple applications and transfers data between them all the time, while the latter usually works with one application at a time, from conception to final output (with power users taking advantage of OLE).

A good interface and learning curve is necessary to attract customers and those using competing software. I fear that Mathsoft will not see this – if sales and MacWEEK reviews are bad, they may join the popular press and blame a shrinking Mac market, and withdraw yet another time. I believe that there is a good-size market for Mathcad, but one that can only be won over by releasing a program that is Macintosh from the ground up.

In summary, I recommend Mathcad to those who:

  • Have older Mathcad data files
  • Use Mathcad as their only application
  • Want to use Mathcad's worksheet metaphor
  • Have a PowerPC CPU
Based on the current version, I cannot recommend Mathcad for those who:
  • Are not familiar with Mathcad
  • Expect a Mac-like program
  • Work with multiple applications
  • Do not have a PowerPC CPU

More Information

  1. Mathcad basics
  2. My experience with Mathcad
  3. My 1995 emails about Mathcad with Mathsoft's CTO
  4. Beta questionnaire and Bug Reports
  5. Mathcad at Macworld
  6. The Official Mathcad MacFAQ
  7. Reviews and News
    • MacWEEK review - Mathcad was given a 4-star rating (out of 5). I disagree with that rating, and would have given Mathcad at most 3 stars. I feel that the MacWEEK rating misleads potential buyers who expect a Mac-like program.
    • Macworld review (April 1997, page 78) - Mathcad was given a 3-star rating (out of 5). This is an accurate and fair review written by Charles Seiter. He (rightfully) focuses on Mathsoft's decision to port instead of writing a real Mac program.
    • Mac The Knife - Given that Mathcad is a bad port from the PC version, the above rumor may signify Mathsoft's second withdrawal from the Mac software market.
  8. Pricing - $349 MSRP, $149 Upgrades, $129 Academic

The above pages are only the opinion of one beta tester - others may have differing viewpoints. I welcome reasoned discussions via email (remove NOSPAM to reply). Please put "Mathcad" in the subject line.

Thank you,

Alex Morando