PTC Mathcad Hacks – Shortcuts that will make your life easier: Part I

keyboard shortcuts 1**Guest post by Luke Westbrook**

If you spend any appreciable amount of time on the Internet, you’re probably familiar with an influx of interest in “Life Hacks”—simple, cheap methods that just make life easier. Some Life Hacks really aren’t that great, but others are actually quite useful. For example, next time you have to get up in the middle of the night, keep one eye closed when you have to turn on any lights. When you return to your dark room, open that eye, which will still be adjusted to the darkness, to help you navigate back to bed. There’s also one I’ve used while traveling:

And the cheap way to get more sound out of your iPhone (yes, it does work!):

hack blog 2

So it seems to me that we tend to appreciate finding shortcuts and “cheats” for doing simple, common things. Operating on that concept, I wanted to write a blog that would offer PTC Mathcad users some valuable “Mathcad Hacks” that might make your life easier. Not to be confused with actual computer hacking, these are keyboard shortcuts that are not very well known, and one or two that aren’t even found in documentation at all! I’ve got about a dozen shortcuts to share with you, so I’m going to break this into a two-part blog. And be aware, I’m saving the best for last! So make sure to follow up next week!

hacks keyboard shortcuts 2Before I get started, you should know a couple things about keyboard shortcuts in PTC Mathcad Prime. First, if you navigate to the Getting Started tab, you can press Keyboard Shortcuts, which will open a PDF file that lists most of the shortcuts available in Prime. I intentionally say most because these blogs will discuss a couple shortcuts that aren’t listed in that PDF. Second, you can also hover your mouse cursor over an operator or some other bit of functionality in the Ribbon to see the relevant tooltip. In most cases, if a keyboard shortcut exists for that functionality, the tooltip will tell you. Okay, we’re ready. Here we go.

F1 – Context Sensitive Opening of Help Center

I know, I know, this one is pretty well known. If your cursor is on a built-in function or your mouse is hovering over a piece of functionality in the Ribbon revealing a tooltip, and you press F1, Help Center will launch and take you directly to the pertinent page. Hopefully you know about this, but I really wanted to make sure everyone is taking advantage of it! But here’s something you may not have noticed: when you press F1 to learn more about a particular feature, in the top panel, there are context sensitive suggestions for eLearning tutorials and even our Knowledge Base articles to give you even more insight into a particular piece of functionality. So if you’re not using F1, you should.

Ctrl+F1 – Maximize/Minimize the Ribbon

Okay, this is probably not extraordinarily useful, but maybe some of you folks will appreciate it. I like to have the Ribbon always visible while I’m working, but if you prefer to maximize your workspace by minimizing the Ribbon, you can either double-click on one of the tabs or just press Ctrl+F1. Nothing earthshattering, I know, but I didn’t know there was a keyboard shortcut for that before I started doing a bit of research for this post, so I thought I’d include it.

F2 – Open Functions List

I’m a big fan of this one. Sometimes, you need to use a built-in function, but can’t remember what it’s actually called. So you need to search the Functions list. First, you have to click on the Functions tab and then click All Functions. It’s not terribly tedious, but if you’re like me, you prefer to use the mouse as little as possible. It breaks the flow by having to alternate between mouse and keyboard. Moreover, it requires two clicks. I mean, come on! Two clicks! Okay, really, it’s not bad, and if you happen to be already in the Functions tab, it’s only one click. Nevertheless, F2 makes it that much easier to pull open the Functions list. Unfortunately, it’s not a toggle, so pressing F2 only opens the list; it doesn’t close it as well. Still, I have found it to be very useful.

Ctrl+Enter – Page Break/Toggle Region Selection

Depending on the situation, this shortcut does different things. If my cursor is in white space (not in a region), Ctrl+Enter creates a Page Break. Helpful, but nothing new. That can be found easily enough by looking at the tooltip, just like anything else. However, if your cursor is within a region, pressing Ctrl+Enter toggles the selection of that region. What this means is that, if I have my cursor within the region so that the region is outlined with that dashed box, I can press Ctrl+Enter to select the entire region (when the region becomes highlighted in blue) and again to go back to the dashed box. Normally, in order to highlight a region, I have to use my mouse to click the dashed box or, what I usually do, I have to click and drag the mouse to highlight my desired region. The former takes more time because I have to click a very specific location; the latter sometimes highlights multiple regions when I’m just trying to highlight the one. Pressing Ctrl+Enter solves both dilemmas. On the other hand, sometimes I will move a region to a new location with my mouse, then return to my keyboard to edit the region, only to realize that the region is still highlighted in blue, so I have to go back to my mouse, click inside the region to get to the dashed box, and then edit from the keyboard. Lots of back and forth to/from the keyboard. Undesirable. But pressing Ctrl+Enter allows me to stay at the keyboard. This shortcut is listed in the Keyboard Shortcuts PDF, but I never really knew it was even possible until perusing that file for shortcuts I didn’t know about.

Well, I hope some of those shortcuts were helpful and new for you. But truthfully, while some of the shortcuts above definitely add some convenience, a few of the shortcuts I’ll cover next week almost revolutionized my use of PTC Mathcad. I know that sounds really dramatic, but seriously…next week’s post may blow your mind.

Try out our free for life version PTC Mathcad Express and test out the shortcuts today.