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MATLAB is not the only product that makes it easy to perform matrix calculations or visualize data. Consider some alternatives:

Maple is a mathematical problem-solving and visualization system for the manipulation of symbolic expressions, arbitrary-precision numerics, two- and three-dimensional graphics, and programming. See http://www.maplesoft.com/products/maple/ for vendor-provided descriptions of the product.


Mathematica integrates a numeric and symbolic computational engine, graphics system, programming language, documentation system, and advanced connectivity to other applications. Mathematica is available to NU affiliates under a campus-wide license. For the vendor's description of the product, see http://www.wolfram.com/products/mathematica/index.html.

To obtain Mathematica at NU: http://www.it.northwestern.edu/software/mathematica-fac/index.html


R is a language and environment for statistical computing and graphics. R is similar to the award-winning S system, which was developed at Bell Laboratories by John Chambers et al. It provides a wide variety of statistical and graphical techniques. R is free of charge, has an extensive set of capabilities, and is undergoing active development. See http://www.r-project.org/.


GNU Octave is a high-level language, primarily intended for numerical computations, with a command line interface for solving linear and nonlinear problems numerically. It offers a small subset of the capabilities found in the basic MATLAB. See http://www.gnu.org/software/octave/.


Ox is an object-oriented matrix language with a comprehensive mathematical and statistical function library. Matrices can be used directly in expressions. The syntax of Ox is similar to the C, C++ and Java languages. This similarity is most clear in the syntax of items such as loops, functions, arrays and classes. Ox Console is free. Ox Professional will cost you some money. For more information, start at http://www.doornik.com/products.html and choose the Ox links in the left margin.


The GAUSS Mathematical and Statistical System is also based on a matrix programming language. Its features are oriented toward econometrics and statistics, with many optional applications available, such as Maximum Likelihood, Constrained Optimization, and Loglinear Analysis. See http://www.aptech.com.


Fortran 90 and Fortran 95 require more detailed programming specifications, but, as a result of your efforts, will run jobs one or two orders of magnitude faster than interpreters such as MATLAB. Fortran 90 includes vector and matrix support making it easy to code matrix calculations of the form (for example) Y=A+B. No looping is involved. See Introduction to Object-Oriented Concepts using Fortran 90 by Viktor K. Decyk, Charles D. Norton and Boleslaw K. Szymanski.


Sage is a comprehensive open source alternative to Magma, Maple, Mathematica and Matlab. See http://www.sagemath.org/.


Scilab is a free scientific software package for numerical computation oriented toward engineering and scientific applications. See http://www.scilab.org/.


IDL, the Interactive Data Language, performs data analysis, visualization and cross-platform application development. See http://www.exelisvis.com/ProductServices/IDL.aspx.


GiNaC is designed to allow the creation of integrated systems that embed symbolic manipulations together with more established areas of computer science, like computation-intense numeric applications, graphical interfaces, etc., under one roof. It is free. See http://www.ginac.de/.

Last Updated: 28 August 2014

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