In a research paper on free alternative numerical-computational packages, Matthew W. Brewster points out that both FreeMat and Scilab exhibited some incompatibility with MATLAB and some performance problems in their tests.
Neeraj Sharma and Matthias K. Gobbert, in their research paper titled A Comparative Evaluation of MATLAB, Octave, FreeMat and Scilab for Research and Teaching, find that all packages gave identical numerical results, though Scilab exhibited a limitation in the size of the linear system it could solve in the complex test problem, and FreeMat was hampered by the lack of a conjugate gradient function. The available graphical functions differ in functionality but give equivalent plots, though FreeMat has limited three-dimensional graphics capabilities at present. GNU Octave is the most compatible with MATLAB due to its numerical abilities and similarity of syntax. Another reason to consider Octave is that free parallel-computing extensions are available that are known to work with this package, conclude these researchers.
What users think about Octave
Users, especially beginners, feel that Octave is an incredibly good tool. In their opinion, it even outplays MATLAB in a Linux environment.
“It never ceases to amaze me that developers write such incredible software and put it out there for free. With this software you can plot sigmoid functions and calculate the transpose of any matrix easily. It is essentially a free version of MATLAB. So, I cannot imagine any business not utilising this priceless software. I am deeply grateful to Octave developers because it means that I can watch a linear algebra video, actually test it and make it work on my computer. The complexity of maths that Octave can handle is amazing. And, all of this for free. Thank you just does not seem to mean enough,” says a user on apps.ubundu.com
A user writes in mathworks.com, “The language is almost identical to basic MATLAB. The discriminating difference is that Octave is open source and free. For my robotics-modelling applications, it is more than adequate. I will likely stop spending money on MATLAB, especially if the Octave organisation develops a basic Simulink-like capability.”
A very useful tool
From the above discussions, we can easily conclude that Octave is an excellent alternative to MATLAB for complex numerical computations. It outplays most of its competent open source software in its usability and performance. The graphical interface, which is a recently added functionality, makes this tool more user-friendly.
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The author worked at EFY till recently