1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Math Software questions

  1. Aug 8, 2008 #1
    a couple of questions:

    1) Do you know of a shareware/freeware version of something similar to Mathcad or Mathematica?

    (if not)
    2) If a person was going to buy a mathematics software package, which do you recommend?

  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 8, 2008 #2


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    There's a free "clone" of Mathematica called Maxima, but it's obviously not as powerful.

    There's a free "clone" of MATLAB called Octave, but it's obviously not as powerful.

    The decision of which package to buy depends on a hundred different factors. How on Earth do you think we could just tell you which one to buy, with no knowledge of what you want to do with it?

    - Warren
  4. Aug 8, 2008 #3
    Octave is intended as a true clone of matlab, and it is fairly compatible with existing matlab code, but maxima is just a feature clone of Mathematica, in the sense that it aims to duplicate its functionality but not its form.

    For physics I recommend Mathematica, for applied research I recommend matlab, and for pure math I recommend Mathematica, although Maple is worth checking out depending on what you intend to use it for.
  5. Aug 8, 2008 #4
    Try Scilab and R, both are GPL licensed. I agree with chroot. If you say what you need it for you might get a bit more help.
  6. Aug 8, 2008 #5
    As far as what I need and want it for - nothing major more a hobby I guess - probably more than anything to do integration at least that's when I've wished I had something

    For example -
    I'm an electrical engineer

    I spend some spare time playing with a little math / physics. I've gotten some problems set up and the integration might be too difficult and I put it aside.

    I recall when in graduate school a professor saying that he would set a problem up in MathCad or some other package (I forget which one) - since I didn't have the package I did it the long way

    It's always been something I thought I would like to have.

    I guess to do more math than physics but I suspect the stuff I would put any package through would be rather basic.

    I have tutored some math (no further than beginning calculus) and physics (algebra based up till now) and it would be neat to be able to set up some examples, check my work and do some cool plots. Does this point to package or rule any out?

    I know if I had something I might find more uses for it.

  7. Aug 8, 2008 #6


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    I would start with Maxima. I use it pretty much exclusively these days. Especially since you described this a 'hobby'. I used to be a Mathematica addict but decided to kick that expensive habit. This is dead free. It handles basic calculus, differential equations, algebra and lots of other stuff quite well. I've also used it for tensor manipulations in general relativity. So it's not in any way limited, you can always write your own extensions. The only real drawback is, compared with the commercial packages, there is less polish and consistancy and it's harder to find accessible tutorials. So it's much more do-it-yourself and has a learning curve. But try it before you dump big cash on the competition. If you don't like it, it didn't cost you anything. And you may find it's all you really need.
  8. Aug 8, 2008 #7
    There is a web interface to a small number of Mathematica functions (including integration), here: http://www.quickmath.com/
  9. Aug 10, 2008 #8
    Octave is very good. Where it differs from Matlab is probably no big deal.
  10. Aug 10, 2008 #9
    what about sage? it's open source you need a virtual machine player to run it.
  11. Aug 11, 2008 #10
    Thank you all for the suggestions, I will try these and see how they do.
  12. Aug 11, 2008 #11
    Axiom is pretty sweet too.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook