Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Review of Maple comparison against Mathematica, MathCAD and Matlab

I got sent an interesting document which appears to have been produced by Maplesoft (it uses their graphic design and asserts Maplesoft copyright). It is a bullet point list of Maple 10 compared to Mathematica 5.2, MathCAD 12 and Matlab R14.

Such documents are always interesting, not because of the conclusion, which of course is pre-determined, but because it reveals what the author considers important and where the author believes his product has an advantage.

The document contains 46 items across the following catagories: Ease of use, Interactive Document, Mathematical Power, Connectivity, Testing and Assessment, Add-on Products and Platform support.

My first impression was that its emphasis was centered far away from the core features of the products. The largest section, over a quarter, was on connectivity (but with no reference to many important areas of connectivity: code linking, SQL, web services, I/O board reading or import of any file formats. Their concept of connectivity was just file export and code generation).

Conversely, important areas were reduced to one bullet: "Full programming language", "2D plotting with interactive scaling", "Symbolic and Algebraic solving". Odd given the title of the document "Mathematical analysis software comparison chart".

There were several rather trivial items "Handwriting recognition", "Graphing Calculator Interface" which, I suspect are not supported by the other suppliers by choice.

There were several instances of misleadingly carefully chosen words. e.g Under Platforms Linux gets listed as 32bit and 64bit (Maple supports both), but Windows does not get split into 32 and 64bit support (Maple supports only 32bit, while Matlab and Mathematica support both). [[Correction 20-Apr-06: Matlab was not Windows 64 compatible when this comparison was written, but is now]] "Integrated math dictionary" scores a point for Maple and a half point for Mathematica. mathworld.wolfram.com provides orders of magnitude more than the Maple dictionary, but it is not "integrated". Likewise "2D plotting with interactive scaling" scores a point for Maple and none for Mathematica, MathCAD or Matlab, as they lack the "interactive scaling".

But the most unreasonable part of this document are the inaccuracies. As far as I can tell they are all related to Mathematica. "Support of units and conversions", "High performance industry standard libraries (Lapack, Atlas, Blas)", are given as "no" and "Non-linear optimization" as a chargeable extra. I wasn't sure if this was ignorance or mis-representation, but I did find that entering into google "Mathematica unit conversion" or "Mathematica Lapack", and "Mathematica nonlinear optimization" each gave links revealing the fact that Mathematica supported these features within the first 4 hits. Hardly taxing research.

Overall a rather unconvincing and slightly sleazy document.


BeauPaisley said...

The original document you reference in your review is illegibly compressed. Please post a legible version of the original.

Scientific Computing said...

I wanted to stay within "fair use" for a copyright document. But you can currently see the contents reproduced by a MapleSoft reseller at