Matlab handles numerical calculations and high-quality graphics, provides a convenient interface to built-in state-of-the-art subroutine libraries, and incorporates a high-level programming language.

Program Functionality: Excellent

Breadth of Functionality: Excellent

Matlab has been called "the lingua franca for the exchange of software and algorithms," rapidly displacing Fortran from that position due to its interactive interface, reliable algorithmic foundation, fully extensible environment, and computational speed.

In addition to the basic Matlab package, UCS has licensed the Simulink package for simulating dynamical systems with a graphical interface/ block diagram scheme, and the following "Toolboxes" [collections of additional specialized functions]:

	Signal Processing
	Image Processing
	Control Theory
	Neural Networks
	Partial Differential Equations

Reliability and Robustness: Excellent

Matlab is a computer program for people doing numerical computation. It began as a "MATrix LABoratory" program, intended to provide interactive access to the famous LINPACK and EISPACK libraries of state-of-the-art numerical routines. These are carefully tested, high-quality general-use packages for solving linear equations and eigenvalue problems. The goal of Matlab was to enable scientists to use matrix-based techniques to solve problems, without having to write programs in traditional languages like C and Fortran. More capabilities have been added as time has passed, in particular outstanding graphics support for X windows.

Matlab is quite robust [it doesn't crash], and its functions do as well as any *numerical* routines can -- for information on the limitations, as well as the advantages, of the numerical approach, see a mathematics or computer science professor.

State of the Art: Excellent
Matlab was created to provide easy access to state-of-the-art numerical algorithms, and has added significant graphical and interface features over the years. The code is highly optimized, and it is entirely reasonable to argue that Matlab may be treated as the "lingua franca" of numerical analysis.

User Friendliness: Fair
Matlab's command-line interface requires some investment in training before the program can be easily used. It should be regarded as a programming language, rather than an application, and compared to C or Fortran; with that standard, it is very friendly, indeed [it does have a help system].

Electronic Help Resources: Excellent

Network-based help: Excellent

The UCS Knowledge Base (KB), maintained by the UCS Support Center on the WWW, has answers to several frequently asked Matlab questions. This KB may be searched using keywords (e.g., matlab).

You can also use your web browser to access a *huge* archive of Matlab FAQs -- follow the connections from the Stat/Math Web server's Matlab at IU page.

Program Help System: Excellent

A well-organized Mosaic-based help system is available for the Xwindows version, which make it easier to discover new commands. It offers the same information as the regular help system, in an html format, with additional graphical examples.

Matlab Help is as follows:

>> help plot

PLOT   Plot vectors or matrices.

PLOT(X,Y) plots vector X versus vector Y. If X or Y is a matrix,
        then the vector is plotted versus the rows or columns of the matrix,
        whichever line up.

        PLOT(Y) plots the columns of Y versus their index.
        If Y is complex, PLOT(Y) is equivalent to PLOT(real(Y),imag(Y)).
        In all other uses of PLOT, the imaginary part is ignored.

        Various line types, plot symbols and colors may be obtained with
        PLOT(X,Y,S) where S is a 1, 2 or 3 character string made from
        the following characters:

               y     yellow        .     point
               m     magenta       o     circle
               c     cyan          x     x-mark
               r     red           +     plus
               g     green         -     solid
               b     blue          *     star
               w     white         :     dotted
               k     black         -.    dashdot
                                   --    dashed

        For example, PLOT(X,Y,'c+') plots a cyan plus at each data point.

        PLOT(X1,Y1,S1,X2,Y2,S2,X3,Y3,S3,...) combines the plots defined by
        the (X,Y,S) triples, where the X's and Y's are vectors or matrices
        and the S's are strings.

        For example, PLOT(X,Y,'y-',X,Y,'go') plots the data twice, with a
        solid yellow line interpolating green circles at the data points.

        The PLOT command, if no color is specified, makes automatic use of
        the colors specified by the axes ColorOrder property.  The default
        ColorOrder is listed in the table above for color systems where the
        default is yellow for one line, and for multiple lines, to cycle
        through the first six colors in the table.  For monochrome systems,
        PLOT cycles over the axes LineStyleOrder property.

        PLOT returns a column vector of handles to LINE objects, one
        handle per line.

        The X,Y pairs, or X,Y,S triples, can be followed by
        parameter/value pairs to specify additional properties
        of the lines.


Local Availability: Good

Matlab is classified by UCS as General Purpose software on Unix systems; it is not presently offered on other platforms at IUB. UCS has a license providing for 50 simultaneous users. Matlab is available on Nickel, Copper, Chrome and Cygnus, as well as the UNIX workstations of the Ships and Fine Arts clusters; see the Software Availability Matrix for additional details.

Our license permits persons associated with IUB to obtain Matlab for their departmental workstations at greatly reduced prices; see the Stat/Math Software Buyer's Guide [local access only] for more information.

Local Support & Training: Excellent

Document Availability: Excellent

The document Getting Started With Matlab is available online and at the IU Stat/Math Center, 618 E 3rd St. (email; phone 855-4724).

UCS makes basic manuals available in document racks in the UCS Public Computing Facilities. Full documentation is available for reference and short term loan from Swain Hall and Business-SPEA libraries. Documents are also available for reference at the UCS Stat/Math Center.

Training Availability: Excellent

UCS offers Jumpstart classes for Getting Started With MATLAB free of charge to IUB students. Instructors may request a specially arranged class for introducing their students to MATLAB by contacting UCS Education Group (855- 3499).

User Goup: None

Matlab has an active international newsgroup, comp.soft-sys.matlab. Users can always subscribe to and post their questions there. Matlab users can also turn to their colleagues who are familiar with Matlab software for help, or post inquiries to the newsgroup iu.statmath.

UCS Consulting Support: Full Support

Consulting support is available from UCS Stat/Math Center from 9 am to 5 pm (M-F) via email, phone, and for walkins [an appointment is recommended for walkin consulting]. The UCS HelpDesk and PCF consultants may also provide some very basic support.

Other Consulting Support: Good

To subscribe to The MathWorks Newsletter (quarterly publication) and The MATLAB News Digest (distributed via email, approximately monthly), send e-mail to including your name, university, address, phone number, email address, and license or serial number (obtained by entering "ver" at the Matlab prompt) .

Users of UCS's Matlab licenses should contact the Stat/Math Center for Support. Registered Matlab license owners can contact the vendor directly with the number provided with their license agreement: phone 508-653-2452 or send e-mail to

You can also use your WWW browser to access a *huge* archive of Matlab FAQs -- follow the connections from the Stat/Math Web server, or connect directly to URL; an anonymous ftp site is also maintained, at

IU Matlab Page
Math Software Information Page

Send comments or suggestions to

Last Updated: 12 March 1996
Copyright 1995, The Trustees of Indiana University.
Standard disclaimers apply.