MATLAB vs. Python

Which programming language better suits your needs?

Python vs Matlab
The ability to write code has become an essential skill for engineering students. MATLAB is a multi-paradigm numerical computing environment and programming platform that provides the ability to analyze data, create models, develop algorithms, and create applications. Python is a high-level programming language with dynamic semantics and a simple, easy-to-learn syntax designed with general-purpose programming.

Which language is better for you?

Extensive library for data processing and plotting Extensive standard library
Professionally developed and tested toolboxes Community-authored toolboxes
Costs moneyFree
Closed and proprietary algorithms Open-source algorithms
Restrictions on portability Very portable/easily shared
Simulink has no good alternative Code tends to be more compact and readable

Python vs Matlab Ecosystem
Python vs Matlab Ecosystem


MATLAB’s library is more advanced than python because it includes matrix algebra and an extensive library for data processing and plotting, but it does not have as much generic programming functionality as Python.

Python’s library is geared towards programming in general, containing modules for threading, networking, databases, etc.


MATLAB’s toolboxes are professionally developed and tested for scientific and engineering applications. The toolboxes in MATLAB are updated together to prevent struggling with incompatible library versions.

Python’s toolboxes are community-authored, and each toolbox has stand-alone documentation.


Python is free.

The cost of MATLAB varies depending on what type of your purchase. There are four categories to select from standard, education, home, and student. License prices range from $49-$2,150. Depending on the license you get, some of the add-ons are included in the cost. However, the add-ons typically are an additional cost.


MATLAB has closed, and proprietary algorithms, meaning it is not possible to see how some codes are implemented.

Python has open-source algorithms (a reason to why it is a free program). In an open-source algorithm, the code is released under a license allowing anyone who is a copyright holder the right to study, change, and distribute the code to anyone or anywhere.


Python is easily shared and is portable. The code can run on any computer because it is a free program. Python works on Windows, Linux, and OS X.

On the contrary, because MATLAB costs money, it creates some restrictions with portability. The MATLAB file can only be run on another platform if it either has MATLAB or the MATLAB Component Runtime (MCR). The MCR is free to download. A new version is made every six months which can cause some inconvenience because the installed MCR must match the version on the application.

Simulink, an add-on feature to MATLAB, is a block-diagram environment for developing algorithms, modeling, simulating, and analyzing dynamic systems. Currently, there are no alternatives to Simulink. Simulink does have an additional cost, but depending on what license was purchased, Simulink might already be included in the cost.

The code on Python tends to be more compact and readable. Such as, Python uses end statements as closures. Python uses square brackets for indexing and parenthesis for function and method calls, while MATLAB uses parenthesis for both indexing and function/method calls.

Open-oriented programming (OOP) provides a way of structuring programs, so the properties and behaviors are bundled into individual objects. Python’s OOP is known to be simple and elegant looking, while still having the power and flexibility comparable to C++.

The OOP in MATLAB is more advanced and complex, which to some can be more confusing. That being said, MATLAB is generally a more advanced language while Python is more of a beginner’s language. Therefore, just because MATLAB may be more complex and confusing at first, with practice, it will become easier to grasp.

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