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MATLAB Matlab toolboxes essential for every physicist

  1. Sep 16, 2018 #1

    Wrichik Basu

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    I was looking forward to buy Matlab student license sometime this year. Anyone who has already bought a license knows that a number of toolboxes are available. Here is the site.

    I am not buying Simulink at this moment. So, please leave out anything related to Simulink.

    Other than the basic software, what are the toolboxes that an experimental/theoretical physicist requires in day to day work?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 16, 2018 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    At our lab, folks just don’t use the toolboxes as the core is sufficient for must applications. Also the physicists here don’t like the fact that toolbox algorithms are proprietary to MATLAB and as such you can’t see how they really work and that’s important for efficiency, limitations and for accuracy.

    There’s a free alternative to Matlab called freemat that works quite well and of course it’s free. Matlab gives away cheap licenses to students in the hope that they will insist that their future employers must buy the full product for work and it’s much more than the student pays. Many engineers use Matlab all the time in their work.

    Also, have you checked out Julia? It’s has a flavor of Matlab but the ide interface isn’t there yet. However, the Jupiter notebooks, and Jupiterlab gives you a similar experience. There’s also Juliapro which is the atom-Juno editor packaged configured and packaged with Julia. Julia has an impressive speed advantage over other languages except for C code and can interoperate with other popular data science languages such as python, java, r, fortran and c.

    Many physics problems focus on solving differential equations and partial differential equations numerically and plotting the results and much of that capability is already present in the core.
  4. Sep 16, 2018 #3

    Wrichik Basu

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    Actually, when I first read about matlab a couple of years back, I found that they have an app for Android mobile. While for the desktop app one needs a license to do anything, for the mobile app, one gets access to a number of functions. I have been using them until now. I felt that I should buy the license to explore the software further.

    However, recently I had the feeling that matlab has some shortcomings, though I against complaining about that. Having used java for nearly four years now, I find a lack of proper modularity, something that java supports to a great extent.

    I will happily try out the softwares that you have recommended. Just help me out a bit:

    JupyterLab: https://jupyterlab.readthedocs.io/en/stable/

    Jupyter Notebook: http://jupyter.org

    Julia Pro: https://juliacomputing.com/products/juliapro.html

    Are these websites correct?

    Which of these would you prefer the most? Which one do you use mostly for computations?

    Also, I found people writing about SciLab. Do you have any opinions regarding that?
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2018
  5. Sep 16, 2018 #4


    Staff: Mentor

    I’ve heard the Matlab clones are slower than Matlab. The clones are scilab and octave. I don’t know if freemat is slower but I imagine it is. I’ve used freemat when I needed to do some quick plots or calculations.

    For Julia the Jupyter notebook seems to be the most effective ide. Jupiter lab looks good too. It’s based on the Jupyter notebook which is in fact an interactive web page. I’m playing with juliapro right now but feel it’s a bit slow. Juliapro is based on Juno which is a custom version of the atom webbased editor utility and is also sluggish. Some folks use vim and Julia directly. I feel things will change as the Julia community demands better tools.

    Julia too is slow initially as it needs to build its environment but once that’s done it runs much faster.
  6. Sep 17, 2018 #5
    And GNU Octave, of course.
  7. Sep 17, 2018 #6


    Staff: Mentor

    Yes, I mentioned that in my prior post #4
  8. Sep 17, 2018 #7
    I was answering #2 and saw #4 after I posted . . . ;)
  9. Sep 18, 2018 #8
    I use and have used MATLAB for work in universities and national labs, both in physics in engineering. The toolboxes I use most are image processing, image acquisition, control, signal processing, and data acquisition. I think almost all of those are included in the student license.
  10. Sep 18, 2018 #9

    Dr Transport

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    The only other one that I use that is not in the student version is the curve fitting toolbox.
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