Thursday, August 11, 2011

Free MATLAB Alternatives You Should Know

Undoubtedly, MATLAB is the best and most popular software tool for high end mathematical computations. However, there are many other good alternatives to MATLAB which are sufficient for academic/educational purpose. The reason why alternatives to MATLAB are considered is that it is too costly for an individual to buy MATLAB. Although the student version is available, it also costs more than ₹50,000. Other reasons are that there are some special features in other softwares that MATLAB doesn't.

Here is the list and a short review of a few recommended MATLAB alternatives.
There are many softwares that can be used for high end computing instead of MATLAB. But here I am listing softwares that have code compatibility with MATLAB, keeping students in mind as many university syllabi prefers MATLAB and also do have courses based on it.

  1. Octave

         Octave is a free and open source software which is largely compatible with MATLAB. About 95% of its syntax is the same as that of MATLABs and it can even process MATLAB's m files too.
        Octave can be considered as a clone of MATLAB, although it is not a bug-to-bug clone and has many features that MATLAB doesn’t. It achieves graphical capabilities using Gnu-plot and other softwares. It was originally written for the Linux environment, but is now ported to Windows and Macs also.
        It is basically uses a command line interface, which is easy and comfortable to use. But in case you are interested in having a graphical user interface (GUI), there are many over there like QtOctave (Linux), XOctave (Linux and Windows), GUI-Octave (Windows). I personally use QtOctave on Ubuntu(Linux) which can be easily installed through Synaptic Package Manager.
        I am using Octave from quite a long time. Although people say that there are still some MATLAB functions that Octave cannot handle, i personally did not encounter any problems yet.
        You can install Octave and QtOctave in Linux (esp Debian/Ubuntu, Fedora based) conveniently through Synaptic Package Manager or Software Center. If you are using any other Linux distro, try to get a suitable package or else, download the tar file, compile it yourself and install. Windows users can download the binaries and install Octave.

  2. Scilab

        Scilab is another free alternative to MATLAB. It is syntactically similar but not the same as MATLAB or Octave. Scilab has a large collection of engineering oriented packages covering signal processing, linear algebra, filtering, sound file handling, and a number of statistics functions. Scilab comes complete with a pretty handy GUI interface in Linux and in Windows.
        Scilab has a very robust integrated graphics package, supporting the making of all manner of line plots, contours, color contours, and surface maps. It also comes optionally with SCICOS, a symbolic programming interface.
        Although Scilab is a good programming tool by itself, it inherently does not have the ability to process MATLAB code as it is syntactically different. However, Scilab has an inbuilt utility to convert MATLAB files (m-files) to Scilab files (sci-files). matfile2sci() is one of the Scilab functions that converts an MATLAB files to Scilab format (m files to sci files).
        Most Linux users can install it conveniently through Synaptic Package Manager. Windows users can download the binaries and install.

There are many more better alternatives to MATLAB, of which I have listed only the ones which have better code compatibility with MATLAB. The other alternatives to MATLAB are:

1 comment:

  1. I've been using Octave for the past several weeks on OS X. Works great for everything I need it for. It uses GNUplot for graphs and I've noticed I can do line styles like I could in Matlab (although the docs say you can). Otherwise it's been great