AMS Calls for open source mathematical software


An editorial in the current Notices of the American Mathematical Society calls for only open source mathematical software to be used.

I think we need a symbolic standard to make
computer manipulations easier to document
and verify. And with all due respect to the free
market, perhaps we should not be dependent
on commercial software here. An open source
project could, perhaps, find better answers
to the obvious problems such as availability,
bugs, backward compatibility, platform independence,
standard libraries, etc. One can
learn from the success of TEX and more specialized
software like Macaulay2. I do hope
that funding agencies are looking into this.

Andrei Okounkov, 2006 Fields medalist.


The French have SciLab which is a freeware MatLab-like software. there is also R, an open source clone of the S-Plus statistical language.

A better clone of MatLab is certainly welcome.



Don't you like Octave?


Octave is good too!!!




But doesn't it qualify as "a better clone of MATLAB"?


I don't know for sure. Has anyone used Octave and can give a first-hand testimony?



I've used Octave, but I've never used MATLAB, so I can't offer a comparison. The Octave web site says that it is mostly compatible, and describes the areas in which Octave differs from MATLAB. It has some features MATLAB doesn't, but is also missing some MATLAB features.


I had repeatedly attempted to use Octave (a couple years ago), but it was missing some very key features, such as having two plots open simultaneously. I contacted the author, who indicated that it could be fixed, but he did not yet have time to dedicate to the fix.


Depending on what you need to do, Pylab may be a good alternative. Python's syntax is close enough to Matlab, and it has a number of scientific libraries. I can't comment too much on that part, as I'm using mostly the plotting libraries.

-- alain.

Edited: 25 Oct 2007, 11:17 p.m.


I use both Matlab and Octave (just take care to use a recent version of the 2.9.x branch), through not as an advanced user. They are very similar, even for graphic commands. The Octave I tested can open two plots simultaneously.

Actually, I even find Octave better, e.g. the sinc command is already available in the default distribution of Octave, whereas you have to rewrite it when using Matlab (to avoid the issue of sinc(x)=sin(pi.x)/(pi.x) when x=0).


Here is a link to a list of numerical analysis software.


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