MATLAB Alternative Scilab is Free for Modelling and Simulation
Researchers, engineers, scientists and teachers use system modelling and simulation software for their work. You can choose from many commercial and open source modelling and simulation tools. The well-known commercial option is MATLAB from Mathworks. MATLAB is used for algorithmic and mathematical modelling. Mathworks also has Simulink for simulation development. Another commercial option is via Wolfram products, e.g., Mathematica. However, we are in an age where open science and free access to tools and data are increasingly required by academia and research funders. This is where open source software has value.
Open source tools and data enable everyone to benefit from research, with results, models and simulations being freely available. However, it is acknowledged there will be times when commercial control over research or innovation needs to be maintained. There are freely available software packages that can be used for model-based engineering and simulation. These include:
- Scilab is used for modelling, algorithms, and data analysis. It is a free MATLAB alternative and comes with the complementary program Xcos for simulation. This is an alternative to Simulink.
- GNU Octave is billed as a scientific programming language and supporting compatibility with much MATLAB code.
- OpenModelica, is a modelling and simulation environment using the Modelica language.
- Computer languages designed for mathematical models include R, i.e., The R Project for Statistical Computing, the Julia programming language, and Python-based options like SciPy, algorithms for science in Python, NumPy, a Python package for science computing, and SageMath, which is based on several Python and other packages.
Installing Scilab on Windows
Scilab can be installed on a Windows-based PC for free. Plus, it supports macOS and Linux options. Go to the Scilab download page. Click the Windows 64 bits option. Note: For security only download from the Scilab site.
How to Check if you have 32 or 64 Bit Windows
Newer versions of Windows are only 64-bit. If you are unsure whether you are running 32-bit or 64-bit Windows use the System option in Windows to find the System type:
- Windows 10/11 - Type About in the search box (access search on the Start screen, via the Windows key or taskbar icon). Open the About your PC app. Alternatively, select the Settings icon or menu option, then System, and select About. Then read the System type line.
- Windows 8.1 - System type can be accessed via PC info from the settings icon on the charm bar.
- Other versions of Windows - Via System and Security from Control Panel, under Basic Information.
Run the Scilab Installation Program
The great thing about the Scilab installation program is that it can run on a Windows machine that has not got access to the administrator account. However, if you are a standard user running the installer it cannot add a shortcut to the Scilab program and, therefore, a shortcut will need to be created manually. Run the Scilab Windows install click Next on the prompts until the final Install button is reached. You will need to accept a license:
Change the install location if you are not happy with the chosen default. There should be no need to change the default selected components initially:
The Scilab program files are copied to the selected install location. You may see an error message if the installer was run on a normal user account instead of a machine administrator account. The installer can then run Scilab. Use the context menu on the Scilab icon in the taskbar to pin it for easy access to the WScilex.exe program at a later date:
You will now be ready to enter commands in the Scilab console, open up the SciNotes editor to create and save files, use the Xcos tool to develop simulations, investigate the toolboxes available under the ATOMS module manager, and try out the examples. Take a look at Scilab for beginners to learn more. Likewise, the Xcos for beginners document to understand the process for building simulations. There a lots of resources on the Scilab website.
Author:Daniel S. Fowler Published: