Difference between MATLAB and Python

Difference between MATLAB and Python

Generally, people get confused about different programming languages and their uses. Students often face a dilemma when deciding the most suitable coding language between MATLAB and Python. Some fail to know what is Python or MATLAB, and others are searching for reasons why they’re different and their functions. Indeed, programming languages are different but also share some similar features. Yet, one of the trending debates in the computing community is which option is better, MATLAB or Python. You’ll hear some developers talking about transitioning from MATLAB to Python. If you want to discover more about the two software and their differences, we’re here to guide you. Read on!

MATLAB vs. Python: What are they?


MATLAB is an abbreviation that stands for matrix laboratory. It is both a programming language and a commercial numerical computing environment. The development of MATLAB began in the late 1970s. Today, it’s mainly used for engineering and scientific applications such as matrix manipulation, signal and image processing, implementing algorithms, data analysis, robotics, wireless communication, and control systems.

One of the main advantages of MATLAB is that it offers a multi-paradigm numerical computing environment that combines a desktop environment tuned for iterative analysis and design processes. Unlike Python, MATLAB is proprietary, so it’s owned and licensed by someone else for money. Although the program was developed to aid in numerical calculations, MATLAB uses its MuPAD generator for symbolic mathematical computation.


Python is a popular programming language with many applications, including enterprise application development, web development, and data science. It’s an open-source, high-level programming language developed in 1991 by Guido van Rossum. Developers using Python apply the OOP approach to write logical and precise code for large and small projects.

Notable resources developed using Python include Reddit, Dropbox, and the original Google algorithm. Also, the Django framework that’s based on Python is what runs Instagram and many other websites. Major companies, such as Netflix, use Python in data analytics. Most companies prefer to use Python for web development, scientific computing, data science, computer science, and artificial intelligence. Developers are creating more and more functionalities and libraries.

Uses and features of each


MATLAB automates the collection and preparation of data for better analysis, increasing accuracy and decreasing the time used in data analysis. If you’re still wondering what is MATLAB and the key features of the program, check the list below:

  • Reduces costs, saves time, and saves lives by supporting simulation
  • Image processing
  • It works as a programming language and a programming interface.
  • It’s possible to expand MATLAB’s functionality using additional toolboxes.


The primary uses of Python include Rapid prototyping, web scripting, XML processing, and GUI applications. Here are some key features of Python:

  • It’s easy to learn because it has a clear and clean syntax
  • The program is free and extensible
  • Highly portable with high-end servers and workstations almost anywhere.
  • Uses white space to delimit the blocks

Online sources to learn Python and MATLAB

If you’re curious about MATLAB and Python and would like to master them, it’s easy to do so. Nowadays, you can easily access resources that can guide you to learn a programming language online. A good number of experts in the two languages did not attend in-class training and have no diplomas or degrees. Instead, many MATLAB and Python specialists take online courses and look up tutorials from reliable online platforms.

You can start by taking a course that teaches the fundamentals of each and then proceed to work on advanced functions and projects. Mastering one of these programming languages will also qualify you for job opportunities in top companies.

Some reliable places where students can learn MATLAB and/or Python are:

  • Coursera
  • Udemy
  • Codecademy
  • Mathworks

You can also get valuable information from blogs, YouTube tutorials, websites, and eBooks. Still, if you find yourself stuck with the MATLAB vs. Python debate or need help with MATLAB assignment, seek the assistance of real experts online.

Key differences between MATLAB and Python


MATLAB is a closed-source software, meaning that it’s a proprietary commercial product that you must purchase to use. Also, the base is limited since MATLAB was specifically created for MathWorks. If MathWorks was to go out of business, MATLAB would lose its industrial value.

In contrast, Python is an open-source programming language. You only need to download it and alter the source code to suit your needs. Unlike MATLAB, Python has an expansive user community with thousands of developers actively contributing to its continuous development.


Cost is always a concern in programming. Most programmers look for open-source programming languages. One of the top advantages of Python is that it’s a free and open-source programming language, so there is no cost involved. Newbies and experts prefer Python because you can get started without spending any money.

However, MATLAB is one of the costliest programming software. You must pay a large amount of money to use it. Still, MathWorks offers a less expensive student version.


Programming languages usually have specialized tools that support different user requirements. MATLAB has a few tools in its library, with the stands library having an integrated toolkit for complex computational and scientific challenges. The toolkits are designed only by professionals and hence as reliable.

Python has many useful modules for different programming needs and frameworks. Some popular libraries include Keras, SciPy, NumPy, and Matplotlib. Python offers freedom to developers to design software tools to extend the capabilities of the language.


MATLAB has an integrated development environment (IDE) with a very clean interface and console for writing commands. The variable explores lies on the right, while the directory listing is on the left.

However, if you shift from MATLAB to Python, you will not find a default development environment. You would need to select an IDE that fits the requirements. For example, Anaconda has two IDEs- JupyterLab and Spyder that work efficiently.

Ease of learning

Ease of learning depends on features such as syntax, learning resources, and programming structures. Python is one of the most user-friendly programming languages and has a simple syntax. You only need a basic understanding of programming to work on Python.

In contrast, MATLAB is based on toolboxes. You need basic knowledge of the language if you want to get started on a task with MATLAB. You will also find learning resources on their official website.


A notable difference between MATLAB and Python is their syntax. While MATLAB treats everything as an array, Python treats them as general objects. For example, strings can be arrays of characters or arrays of strings, but Python denotes both using a unique object “str”. Similarly, MATLAB considers a comment to be anything that starts after the percentage sign (%), while comments typically follow the hash symbol in Python.


The popularity of programming languages depends on how much developers prefer the language. Python is more popular compared to MATLAB. This is mainly due to the simplicity of the program, ease of access, and ease of learning Python. On the other hand, MATLAB is costly and has limited features. These qualities make it less popular compared to Python.

Both MATLAB and Python have interesting features that let you perform a variety of functions. Python seems to win the MATLAB vs. Python debate based on its popularity and features. Still, consider using the two programs together to take advantage of the best capabilities of each.

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