Matlab Alternatives

Matlab is a very powerful numerical computing environment which enables the user to perform complex mathematical and scientific function with relative ease. One of the biggest issues with Matlab is the price of it. Students can purchase an un-upgradable version for less than $100 (~£50), however this is only available for students and may only be used during the course of their studies. Commercial licenses are considerably more running into thousand of dollars/pounds depending on how many license-seats are required and what toolbox add-ons are ordered.

There are two free alternatives that I can recommend:

1. Octave (see

Designed with Matlab compatibility in mind, Octave provides a simple command-line focused UI that implements many of the functions of Matlab's M-language. A lot of Matlab M-code will run directly within Octave, although there are incompatibilities, see

2. FreeMat (see

FreeMat is a full numerical computing environment in the same mould as Matlab. It has some Matlab M-code compatibility (apparently 95% code compatibility). Actually FreeMat goes beyond the capabilities of Matlab by providing a codeless interface to other programming languages such as C, C++, and Fortran and some IDL functionality. Windows, OSX and Linux platforms are supported (see the FreeMat site for details of versions).


A third free Matlab alternative that has been recommended on the forums was Scilab (see

Scilab is a full numerical computing environment similar to Matlab, and although functioning with similar syntax is not fully Matlab compatible (from my initial musing less so that Octave and FreeMat). However, Scilab contains a useful Matlab > Scilab converter to port Matlab M-code into Scilab's own code. Scilab is available for Windows, UNIX and Linux.

Thanks to Caveman for pointing this one out.

EDIT (2):

A fourth Matlab alternative that has been recommended on the forums was R (see Note, R is not a direct Matlab alternative like Octave and Scilab (i.e. M-code is not interchangeable between these applications).

R is a free numerical computing software environment for statistical analysis and graphics running on Windows, a wide variety of UNIX platforms, and MacOS.

Thanks to Papabravo for pointing this one out.


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