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Matlab replacement


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My lost brother!


I have used both.


Before I begin, I must say that I have never encountered a scientific language that is 100% Matlab compatible. First of all, Matlab is not always consistent with itself. Between releases you can find minor syntax differences (like between R2006b and R2007a) or major ones (like between 5.3, 6.0 and 6.5). Furthermore, I do not believe you will find a free program that is compatible to even one of the releases. And third, the details in certain components are just too different between the environments (like the properties of axes and figures - if they exist in open programs, their names will be different).


Octave is closer to Matlab when it comes to syntax computability. They really made an effort. The down-side is that it has no IDE (besides one which is old and not supported for a few years now. It does have a plug-in for Xemcs, haven't tried this one). For graphics it uses gnuplot, which has a few disadvantages, in my opinion (for example it has no tool bar for zooming and rotating the graphs). It is capable of reading mat files quite well. It has quite a good documentation, but I haven't found yet a good community/forum around it.


Scilab is not so similar to Matlab, IMO. The syntax in many commands is quite different. Furthermore, if I understood correctly, Scilab was written in Fortran, and it forced the developers to make some substantial differences in the concept of operation of the enviornment. For example, the concept of paths definition does not exist in Scilab; one needs to load manually the function into the workspace before calling it, and the function itself is an object, just like a variable. Also, not all types of variables are supprted (e.g cells). So for someone who is very used to Matlab, the programming itself is not so fluent. Another example is that although it supports reading mat files, the syntax itself is C-like (fopen, fread and so on). On the other hand, it has a full IDE (command line and a text editor with a debugger built-in - a big advantage), and the figures are much more well supported (zooming, 3-D rotation, File-Edit-Help menu and all that jazz). Anther big plus for Scilab which is not relevant for everyone - it has a tool called Scicos, which is the equivalent to Simulink (graphical programming and automatic time-axis generation though of course no compatibility whatsoever to Simulink). My impression is that the documentation was not as good as Octave's.


To conclude - it depends what your needs are and what you are going to do with it. If the compatibility to Matlab is crucial for you, I think Octave will be more suitable. But if you just need to create some variables and plot some nice graphs quickly, the IDE and menus in Scilab are reacher. And in any case, I highlight again that 100% compatibility is not patr of the deal, no matter which you choose.


Of course you can also look at the documentation at both sites and get an impression about the pros and cons of each.


If you know what you need it for and I can help in any way, don't hesitate to ask my advice.

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Haven't. I guess you referred to Octave, or am I wrong? What is the benefit?


Sorry, i meant Matlab. I wander if i can run it smoothly on my linux desktop on wine. See, i need it for my study and the reason i want it to be 100% compatible is because everyone (my fellow students) use it and thus we'll be able to share some scripts. The university lab also uses matlab on XP PCs and i need my scripts to work on it.

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So why using wine? Wait, just to make sure, because I'm no expert in those things, wine means you are going to run virtualized Windows program, right?


There is Matlab version for Linux also. A friend of mine (from the Hebrew University) uses Mac. His lab bought a general license for Matlab, so he asked the system administrator to get him a Mac version. As far as I know, it's the same version as for Linux.

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I don't know if it's still relevant, but I've started using qtoctave together with easyplot. Together they offer almost full IDE for Octave. Both of them are available in RPM, and I had no problem installing them.

qtoctave's web page:




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