Mathcad vs MATLAB vs Maple vs Mathematica (1 Viewer)

Users Who Are Viewing This Thread (Users: 0, Guests: 1)

What are the advantages and disadvantages of MATHCAD, MATLAB, maple and mathematica?

Which one do you use, and why?
I like Matlab best and it has a student version for $50 that does everything most people need. The syntax is similiar to C so if you know C it is easy to program. The documentation is not so good but I find Matlab easier to use than Mathcad. Most people learn it by modifying other peoples files.

Experts swear by Mathematica but novices swear at it. I am told it can do things that Matlab cannot but I have not yet discovered what that might be (twelve years use so far).

I have zero experience with maple but it is popular at some universities.
Having tried Maple and Mathcad, I much prefer maple. I found it easier to manipulate equations etc.
Originally posted by mmwave
I like Matlab best and it has a student version for $50 that does everything most people need. The syntax is similiar to C so if you know C it is easy to program. The documentation is not so good but I find Matlab easier to use than Mathcad.
I'm a MatLab fan myself too. And mmwave says it just right. I tryed MathCad before that and I found it a bit difficult.
MatLab has a very good communications library and cool image processing functions.
I also heard good things about Maple....


Aerospace Engineer
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
I use Matlab almost exclusively for my assignments. It has enormous capabilities, and is very simple to figure out the basics.

The only other software package which you listed that I have seen was Maple. I didn't get very deep into it... the hyperstringent syntax requirements really put me off to it.


Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
Matlab actually uses Maple as its 'Symbolic Toolbox.'

I used to prefer Matlab for numerical computation, and Maple for symbolic computation. Mathematica has, IMO, very unusual and sometimes very cumbersome syntax, but does everything Matlab and Maple do all in one place.

Mathematica is also generally regarded as having the best graphical capability, and being the fastest numerical program available.

Overall, I prefer Mathematica, but end up spending a lot of time in help files trying to remember the right syntax for rarely used functions.

Another oddity is that all of the computer algebra programs are prone to occassionally producing bad equations that, well, look right! We often end up running the same caclulations on Matlab and Mathematica side-by-side to see if the two packages agree on the solution. The ODE solver was almost always the culprit. Mathematica version 5 (hot off the press) is supposed to have a totally redesigned and reimplemented ODE solver, so perhaps it will behave better.

- Warren
I use MAPLE and MATLAB, and love them both like my children.

I use MAPLE as an expensive calculator, usually when I want to check things I've worked out. I use MATLAB for project work. I like MAPLE since it's easy just to type something up and see what pops out. Not used any of the others listed.
What are any advantages and disadvantages of this other software compared to MATHCAD?

I have been a MATHCAD user for years. I have been thinking about expanding my horizons.
I am a user of mathematica and I can imagine why novices/matlab find the syntaxes a bit of a letdown. Heres what i do all the time.

1) No need to remember function names
All mathematica functions start with capital letters, so you always know that if you want to integrate you need to begin with the letter "I". Next hold down the control key and press "k" (ctrl + k). All the functions starting with I appear right under your fingers! Keep typing (e.g: integr...) and you will see that the list keeps on filtering. Or you can just select the function from the drop down list you were looking for and hit enter. You dont even need to type the name of the function yourself.

2) No need to remember syntaxes
After completing the the name of the function press "shift+control+K". The whole syntax will pop up! As a bonus dummy parameters are in place too! :surprise:

Also, you can always type ?FunctionName to get help on a function (right inside your notebook).

I don't remember when I last left a Mathematica notebook on which I am working to open the help and look for syntaxes (literally). Everything is presented to you under your cursor.

Take care
Last edited:


Gold Member
umm.. you dont need any of that stupidity in Matlab.

in matlab you just press int and click tab twice, and it will give you all possible functions

and if you dont know how to use it, type 'help int' and it will give you the syntax with examples.

matlab's beauty is in simple, yet very powerful set of tools.

ive tried maple and mathematica and i must say they both suck just for those reason - they are overly complex

go with matlab - you wont regret it
My school strictly uses Mathmatica, and, as you said, the students swear at it. I, on the other hand, don't have much of a problem with it. I've thought about buying it but haven't decided if it's worth shelling out $135 for it.


Gold Member
It's also from my experience that Mathematica doesn't have standard syntax. Often when loading an external package, such as Graphics`, you'll find that it's rather difficult to plot vectors compared to plotting vector fields because of the syntax issues.

Another Mathematica gripe is the way it treats matrices. Matrices are treated as lists, and in order to get a list to look like a matrix you must add an annoying "MatrixForm."
matlab is the industry standard. Maple is what engineers and physic individuals use, cause its easier. then when they get to gradschool, they got to use something stronger. I dont know a single person who uses mathcad, I dont even know if it really exist. Mathematica is simply and faster then matlab when you are doing simply things. Programing is like C.


Science Advisor
Gold Member
I can see people feeling mathematica to be a bit complex syntax wise ... probably its greatest weakness is to get started. Of these 4 I've used Maple the least primarily because Mathematica does all that it does, and I've found it to be numerically a bit more efficient in my appls. Mathcad IMO is an extended scientific calculator ... the other 3 are meant for real scientific stuff and in such respect superior, but in simpler cases can be overly complex. I prefer Matlab in numerical number crunching tasks over Mathematica, but everything else I do pretty much with Mathematica.
There's a very good article in the January/February issue of [Broken] that looks at the origins and target users of Matlab, Maple and Mathematica. I imagine most university libraries ought to have a subscription to it. The issue isn't online just yet though.

I've used Mathematica and Octave (Matlab clone) and each has their strength and weaknesses and is geared toward a particular type of user and application.

I think Mathematica tends to be better at doing symbolic things, which Matlab doesn't do. But Matlab does do matrix things extremely well. Deciding which one is better will depend on what you want to do with it.
Last edited by a moderator:
I've got a question about extracting a subset of an array within Mathcad. For instance, I've got two arrays - X, Y. I want to plot only the portion of Y where X is such that X > x1 and X < x2. How do I do that?


Travelling Sales Person

Does anyone have any websites to recommend on how to start matlab programming for Travelling Sales Person(tsp) problem?
I know that Maple can export graphs as .dxf files only if they are 3D, which sucks! Can Mathematica do that also with 2D graphs?
TSN79 said:
I know that Maple can export graphs as .dxf files only if they are 3D, which sucks! Can Mathematica do that also with 2D graphs?
".dxf" are 3D files... why would you want to export a 2D graph into a 3D file?
Because .dxf is the only export format that AutoCAD can read...but I don't want a 3D graph, I only need 2D. But I solved this problem long ago, never mind.

The Physics Forums Way

We Value Quality
• Topics based on mainstream science
• Proper English grammar and spelling
We Value Civility
• Positive and compassionate attitudes
• Patience while debating
We Value Productivity
• Disciplined to remain on-topic
• Recognition of own weaknesses
• Solo and co-op problem solving