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Alternative to matlab

  1. Sep 28, 2008 #1
    I'm currently taking a college algebra course. I have been using matlab to check answers to problems not given in the back of the book. Although I respect the power and flexibility of the program, I've found the interface to be time consuming and error-prone. Can anyone recommend a program capable of symbolic math with an easier to use interface?

    Difficulty: must run on *nix and be open-source or easily thievable.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 29, 2008 #2
    Mathematica is perfect but it is VERY expensive.
  4. Sep 29, 2008 #3
    Maple rules!!

    Actually, I have to say that, as my job involves Maple development. But actually, it's a great program - find a copy, even Maple 11 is fine - go to the classic worksheet. Then at the prompt you can read about the commands by typing a ? with a topic or command name, i.e.
    > ?DifferentialGeometry
    and it will bring up the help files. The commands might seem crazy at first, but if you go through the tutorial, you'll have it all in your head in no time. It took me 2 months to become proficient enough not just to use Maple, but to write code for new Maple commands. :) And I think it is a far more powerful tool for symbolic features, while Matlab tends to do well with very large sets of data that need number crunching.

    Let's see, for college algebra, Maple can factor and find roots of polynomials, simplify expressions, you can check if lhs of equation = rhs, the list just goes on and on!
  5. Sep 29, 2008 #4
    I forgot to add: your university might have a copy that you can use. Our open-access computer labs all have Maple, and our CS department has a Maple disk that they'll loan for you to take home and put on your personal computer. So as long as you're a student, you can use the software for free, at some universities.
  6. Sep 29, 2008 #5
    Thank you both. maple seems to be perfectly suited to my needs. I'll go see if my computer lab has a copy tomorrow.
  7. Sep 29, 2008 #6


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    That said, if you need *free* alternatives, there are matlab-like free suites, like Scilab (I like it), or Octave for numerical work, and there are free CAS systems like maxima if you need symbolic manipulation. They are not as user-friendly and powerful as matlab, mathematica or maple, but they are free, and run as well under linux as windows and mac.
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