Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

A Mathematica/Maple/(Matlab?) replacement

  1. Apr 28, 2005 #1


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Lately, I've been looking around for a free CAS, possibly open source that has close to the capabilities of Mathematica, Maple, etc. A worthy replacement would include the ability to evaluate integrals symbolically (and do it well), differentiation, matrix operations on matrices that may contain variables, expansions using series (power, Taylor, etc.), symbolic and numerical ODE solver, 1 variable 2d plots, 2 variable 3d plots, parametric 2d plots, parametric 3d plots, etc., etc. Pretty much everything you'd expect from a commercial CAS like Mathematica.

    If any of you have taken a look at the open source math software market, you've seen packages like Octave and Scilab, for instance, While these may be somewhat decent Matlab replacements, they are not a CAS. They can do all the numerical operations you throw at them, but look through the documentation and see if they can evaluate an integral symbolically - they can't.

    So, for the last year I've been searching for an open source CAS, and putting up with Octave and Scilab, while using Mathematica only when I need to. Fortunately, I've been able to come across Maxima, which is based off MIT's Macsyma, a CAS that was (beginning to) be developed sometime in the 60s using LISP. From my understanding, Mathematica and Maple, were based on (not based on by using Macsyma code, but conceptually) from MIT's Macsyma. While Macsyma died in the 80s, some developer had kept the code and was quietly working on his version, which in the late 90s he was able to get it under a GPL license and distributed - thus Maxima was born.

    Regardless, Maxima is an awesome CAS. You can tell the syntax is somewhat a mix between Maple and Mathematica. As for the installation procedure, pretty much just download it from http://maxima.sf.net . If you're running Linux or Windows, installation is fairly easy - they're supplying binary packages. You will also (possibly) need a LISP package. There's quite a few you can use; I've been using CLISP from http://clisp.cons.org (in fact, I'm hosting the Solaris binary packages as you can see on the home page). You might not, but if you build from source, you'll definitely need a LISP package. Normally (without modifications), Maxima will display it's symbolic output using ASCII, and it's quite hard to read. If you happen to have some sort of TeX distribution installed, you can read up, and either use Emacs/AucTeX or TeXmacs to have Maxima call LaTeX, render it, and have it displayed in your Emacs or TeXmacs window! Very awesome stuff.

    I happen to have some screenshots for those that are interested (be sure to check out the screenshots on the Maxima website):

    http://riemann.solnetworks.net/~dlewis/images/screenshots/solmaxima1.jpg [Broken]
    http://riemann.solnetworks.net/~dlewis/images/screenshots/solmaxima2.jpg [Broken]
    http://riemann.solnetworks.net/~dlewis/images/screenshots/solmaxima3.jpg [Broken]
    http://riemann.solnetworks.net/~dlewis/images/screenshots/solmaxima4.jpg [Broken]
    http://riemann.solnetworks.net/~dlewis/images/screenshots/solmaxima5.jpg [Broken]
    http://riemann.solnetworks.net/~dlewis/images/screenshots/solmaxima6.jpg [Broken]
    http://riemann.solnetworks.net/~dlewis/images/screenshots/solmaxima7.jpg [Broken]

    In the first few images I'm using the GUI that comes with Maxima called xmaxima. Like Mathematica and Maple, Maxima is really a CLI program with a GUI strapped on it. This is actually a rather good thing, because you can use Emacs and TeXmacs like I did in the later screenshots. Also note in the first screenshot that Maxima uses GNUplot to plot stuff.

    I've been using Maxima for a week or so now and I'm very impressed. While there's a few features that are missing from Maxima that are present in Mathematica (haven't really found much that it's missing compared with Maple), it's still an all-around nice package. For most CAS tasks, Maxima should suffice.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 28, 2005 #2
    That looks like a great find; I'll definitely try it out when I have some time to spare. Thanks for posting it.

    Incidentally, if you're using Clisp for anything other than Maxima, take a look at SLIME,
    which lets you use emacs as an IDE for Clisp.
  4. Apr 28, 2005 #3


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I spent about a day or so getting Maxima working with Emacs/AucTeX for LaTeX output. It's not terribly bad, you just have to know your way around Emacs (sort of). You'll also need a 3rd party package called imaxima, that you load with Emacs. It's definitely worth the work, though. I haven't had a chance to play around with TeXmacs and Maxima, but I assume getting LaTeX output is easier.

    I'm actually just getting into LISP programming and I've been looking around for a decent IDE. Thanks for the recommendation.
  5. Apr 28, 2005 #4


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Here's the link for the package (imaxima) for LaTeX output in Emacs/xemacs:

    http://www.ifa.au.dk/~harder/imaxima.html [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
  6. Apr 28, 2005 #5


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    It looks like TeXmacs is indeed the simplest method in order to get LaTeX output from Maxima. Pretty much just install TeXmacs and start a Maxima session with it. No loading .el files or anything of the such.

    Here's the (simple) procedure:

    http://www.aims.ac.za/resources/tutorials/maxima/texmacs.php [Broken]

    Edit: There are binary packages of TeXmacs for Linux and Windows at http://www.texmacs.org .

    Unfortunately for myself, I was unable to locate TeXmacs binary packages for Solaris or build it. So, I chose Emacs/AucTeX
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
  7. Apr 29, 2005 #6


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    It's ashamed not many people have taken a look at this thread. Let me spell it out:

    Maxima is a free, open source, CAS that can act as a replacement for commerical CAS such as Mathematica and Maple
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2005
  8. Jan 22, 2006 #7
    Thanks for the info. I have just installed Maxima and run it from texmacs on my linux machine.
    However I have no idea why it would not give me any answer for this function integrate(arcsec(sqrt(x)),x); All it does is just prints out exactly the same what I give it to integrate. Any thoughts? It works fine for simpler integrals like int(sin(x)*cos(x),x).
  9. Jan 22, 2006 #8
    It would be "asec" not "arcsec."
  10. Jan 22, 2006 #9


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    How have I managed to miss this thread :cry: .... thanks for the bump guys, must give it a try!
  11. Jan 22, 2006 #10
    Thanks, I figured it out already. And for some unknow reason log(x) really is ln(x). :)
  12. Jan 22, 2006 #11

    Very cool, I'll have to take a look at it.
  13. Jan 24, 2006 #12


    User Avatar

    If i want to get it to work on OS X would it build in SBCL 0.9.7 ?
  14. Jan 31, 2006 #13


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Perhaps because every mathematician on earth uses the symbol "log" for the natural log, and the symbol "log10" for the base-ten logarithm. The "ln" symbol is a bastardization that I've never actually seen used anywhere but on calculators.

    - Warren
  15. Feb 10, 2006 #14
    I posted this elsewhere but figure it may get slightly more exposure here...

    I managed to lay my grubby mitts on Maxima about a month ago (fantastic program), but having no prior knowledge of CAS software or programming I am stuggling trying to figure out how to draw piecewise defined functions( ie: f(x) = x^2 if[-2<x<2], and = 3x if [x>2]) either through maxima its self or the GNUplot command line window (I prefer the latter for graphing)...I know that I can just graph two functions together and make a mental note of where one stops and the other starts, but what I want to do is just limit their domains, and nowhere in the help files I have can I find even a vague mention of this. can anyone help?
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2006
  16. Aug 30, 2009 #15
    Its really too bad octave doesn't have more packages to bring it up to par with Matlab...
  17. Mar 25, 2011 #16
    You can do something like this in maxima:
    Code (Text):
    f(x) := if -2<x and x<2 then x^2
            elseif x>2 then 3*x$
    wxplot2d([f(x)], [x,0,4])$
  18. Mar 25, 2011 #17
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  19. Jul 24, 2011 #18
    Server not found

    http://riemann.solnetworks.net/~dlew...solmaxima2.jpg [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook