A great list for students or others looking for open-source alternatives to MATLAB’s proprietary limitations, rounded up by Jason Baker for opensource.com.
For many students in mathematics, physical sciences, engineering, economics, and other fields with a heavy numeric component, MATLAB is their first introduction to programming or scientific computing in general.
It can be a good tool for learning, although in my experience many of the things that students and researchers alike use MATLAB for are not particularly demanding calculations that easily could be conducted with any number of basic scripting tools, with or without statistical or math-oriented packages. However, it does have a near ubiquity in many academic settings, bringing with it a large community of users familiar with the the language, plugins, and capabilities in general.
But MATLAB is a proprietary tool. Without access to its source code, you are limited in how you can truly understand how it works, and how you can modify it. It is also prohibitively expensive for many people outside of an academic setting, where license fees for a single copy can reach into the thousands of dollars.
Fortunately, there are many great open source alternatives. Depending on exactly what your objective is, you may find one or another to more aptly fit your specific needs.
Stop breadboarding and soldering – start making immediately! Adafruit’s Circuit Playground is jam-packed with LEDs, sensors, buttons, alligator clip pads and more. Build projects with Circuit Playground in a few minutes with the drag-and-drop MakeCode programming site, learn computer science using the CS Discoveries class on code.org, jump into CircuitPython to learn Python and hardware together, TinyGO, or even use the Arduino IDE. Circuit Playground Express is the newest and best Circuit Playground board, with support for CircuitPython, MakeCode, and Arduino. It has a powerful processor, 10 NeoPixels, mini speaker, InfraRed receive and transmit, two buttons, a switch, 14 alligator clip pads, and lots of sensors: capacitive touch, IR proximity, temperature, light, motion and sound. A whole wide world of electronics and coding is waiting for you, and it fits in the palm of your hand.