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MATLAB and Scilab Comparison. Jill Ziegler Hamilton High West Hamilton, NJ. MATLAB code:. Program Structure, Functions, and Syntax. Very closely paralleled most structure and functions identical xlabel and ylabel functions in this example are identical

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matlab and scilab comparison

MATLAB and Scilab Comparison

Jill Ziegler

Hamilton High West

Hamilton, NJ

program structure functions and syntax

MATLAB code:

Program Structure, Functions, and Syntax

Very closely paralleled

most structure and functions identical

xlabel and ylabel functions in this example are identical

some functions with same name but different results

the axis function shown in the MATLAB code will produce in Scilab, if proper arguments are provided, draw an axis in the output window independent of the rest of the figure

some functions with identical results but different name or syntax

note the difference in comment lines

hist and histplot are notable in the examples shown

Scilab code:

layout and workspaces
Layout and Workspaces

Very functionally similar

MATLAB has a layout more like the most recent versions of MS Office (icons with explanatory text beneath) while Scilab has the icons alone with explanatory text available by hovering the mouse

Same subwindows

file browser

command window

variable workspace

command history

Both can dock and undock all subwindows in the main window

editor window toolbars
Editor Window Toolbars

Differences and similarities parallel from the main workspaces

icons with text as opposed to icons with hover text

Toolbar design different in style, but provides similar functionality

MATLAB has functionality available through different tabs in the toolbar

Scilab has more of the functionality available through drop-down menus

graphing function plots
Graphing: function plots

MATLAB function plot

While syntax is slightly different between MATLAB and Scilab, function plots that are essentially the same can be produced

Significant difference:

MATLAB will clear the plot if another plot command is given

multiple functions on the same axis must be done in the same statement or the hold plot function must be used

allows easy, smooth animation of plots: simply use another plot statement to create the next “frame”

Scilab plots do not clear unless a clear command is given

multiple functions on the same axis are easy

smooth animation is harder and has so far remained elusive

Scilab function plot

graphing histograms

MATLAB Histogram

Graphing: Histograms

Note: differences in the profile of the two histograms results from the fact that they are both generated from a random process and any two histograms from the same program would look a bit different

code producing these plots is the code shown in an earlier slide

Differences in appearance that don’t affect functionality

color and tick marks

Functions in each program are significantly different

MATLAB hist function puts the data first in the statement, followed by the number of bins

Scilab histplot function puts the number of bins first, followed by the data

Scilab also defaults to a normalized histogram

If a non-normalized histogram is desired, an argument must be provided in the histplot function to specify this

Scilab Histogram

major differences
Major Differences
  • Cost and accessibility:
    • MATLAB is paid software with proprietary code
    • Scilab is free and open source
      • more accessible
      • may be less support, especially for add-on modules
  • Plot clearing:
    • MATLAB clears one plot automatically when another one is plotted
    • Scilab leaves all plots on the same axis unless cleared
  • GUIs
    • MATLAB comes standard with a GUI builder, GUIDE, built in
    • Scilab does not
      • at least 4 GUI building modules are available for download (none tried as of this writing)
help and documentation
Help and Documentation



extensive help available through built-in library

more help available on-line (main website at

several pdf user tutorials at various levels, including for “very beginners” available at

texts available for high school use in math and engineering, currently only in French

limited videos, but has YouTube Channel (user ScilabChannel)

  • extensive help available through built-in library
  • more help available on-line, including videos
    • most help available through Mathworks website
  • Good textbook available for individual or class use that we’ve used:
    • Lent, Craig S.: Learning to Program with MATLAB: Building GUI Tools
concluding thoughts
Concluding Thoughts
  • Either MATLAB or Scilab will do the kinds of graphing and analysis we’re looking for
  • Either program can be used to learn mathematical programming using matrices
  • Programs in one language can be adapted rather easily to run in the other
  • GUI capability of MATLAB is proven, Scilab is not
    • Seems to be available