# PTC Mathcad Rookie? Try These Pro Tips for Getting Started

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**Guest post by Mike Gayette **

Formula One cars are built for one purpose: winning races. Their singular goal requires complex engineering and the highest levels of craftsmanship. That includes a steering wheel designed for much more than pointing the car where the driver wants to go. If you slide into the seat of an F1 racer, you’re faced with a dizzying array of buttons, knobs, and a digital readout. It looks more like a computer from old sci-fi movies. The layout makes sense, though, because you don’t want to take your hands off the wheel while driving through hairpin turns at high speed.

Image: Early 2000s Ferrari dashboard. By jtstewart

When you’re new to software like PTC Mathcad, you might feel the same way. You don’t know which toolbars and widgets are useful to the project at hand. That’s okay. We’re here to help (with the software, not winning at Monaco).

Units, Conversions, Compatibility.

If you read our blog, you’ll notice units are a frequent topic. Engineers are well acquainted with units, but mistakes still happen. PTC Mathcad helps out by understanding common units, conversions, and compatibility.

If your formula is calculating in meters (m), you can change the unit to millimeters (mm) and PTC Mathcad handles the conversions and simplifications behind the scenes. Or if you need calculations to convert units of mass, pressure, and voltage, PTC Mathcad handles those, too. And if you try to calculate incompatible units, PTC Mathcad flags the formula so you can correct it. This background conversion and checking is handy if you regularly deal with companies that use different systems, like metric and imperial.

If you’d like to see more about units in PTC Mathcad, check out our dedicated page to engineering unit conversion.

Global Definitions.

Not sure what a PTC Mathcad Global Definition Operator is? Let’s start from the beginning. PTC Mathcad has always used Definition Operators. If you define a name and give it a value, like X:=15, you put that in your worksheet and it can be evaluated by formulas to the right or below the definitions on that same page, as well as subsequent pages. In PTC Mathcad Prime 3.1, you can define that same variable globally, allowing it to be evaluated on any page in the worksheet. If your variable isn’t defined until page 5, but you now need to evaluate it with a formula on page 3, PTC Mathcad does it.

Global Definition Operators give you flexibility to design worksheets to your needs, without worrying about whether your variables are defined in a specific order.

Keyboard Shortcuts.

Modern technology relies heavily on mice and touch screens. Still, find a piece of useful software and the old pros will steer you to the keyboard. A handful of memorized key combinations speeds up the process of worksheet building when you need to insert a solve block (shown below), text box, table, or Excel component. Just let the mouse pointer hover over the icon and a dialog box pops up showing the shortcut keys and an explanation of the tool.

If you want to see all the shortcuts in one place, go to the Resources tab and click on the Keyboard Shortcuts button. It loads a PDF document for easy reference while you’re working.

Green Flag.

Like an F1 racecar, PTC Mathcad is elegant, expertly engineered, and sometimes a little intimidating. It’s okay if you feel like a rookie. For now, keep those keyboard shortcut references close. Let PTC Mathcad help you with unit conversions. Take advantage of global definitions. And keep an eye on our blog for future tips.

If you haven’t tried PTC Mathcad yet, head over to our download page to get your free-for-life evaluation version and see why it’s the most powerful and adaptable engineering notebook. (Remember, you don’t need every gizmo on the steering wheel to run your first practice laps.)