Python vs Matlab – What are the Similarities & Differences?

First of all, we should clarify what both Python and Matlab are and why would someone need to use them. Let’s start with Python:

Basically, Python is a programming language. It was first released in the late 1980s. It got its name after Monty Python (fun fact). But what is it used for? To put it simply, for pretty much anything (related to programming of course).

For example, developers use Python to create web applications, desktop apps, to test different kinds of hardware (microchips for example). It is even used to power Instagram. Another area where you can use Python is to design video games.

There are other territories where Python can be used, but the idea is that this language is a versatile tool to create and maintain all types of software.

What about Matlab? Matlab is a whole numerical computing environment together with a programming language. It includes an IDE as well (Integrated Development Environment). The standard package of Matlab doesn’t come with traditional programming possibilities.

The main part includes matrix algebra and a huge library of data processing, hence the name of Matlab. To be able to use Matlab as a traditional programming environment/language, you need to add additional toolkits to the standard software.

There’s a big difference between Python and Matlab. Python is an open-source programming language, but Matlab is a commercial tool, so it comes for a price (which isn’t cheap at all). What are some of the differences here?

For instance, an open-source tool means that you get access to the source code behind that certain tool, in our case Python. Does this matter? Yes, it does. One of the pros is the fact that any open-source tool is free of cost.

You don’t have to pay for it. Besides this fact, Python being open-source, can be tweaked to the highest level by accessing the source code of the language and changing it to what your needs are. This is the case with any open-source tool.

Python also comes with a huge community behind it. This is also thanks to being open-source. Why is a community important? Well, just think about it. First of all, you can be a part of it as well.

You just have to sign up on a forum where people talk about Python and you’re good to go. And once you have your account finished, you can search for answers if any problems arise. There’s a high chance that someone else has already dealt with a specific issue that you might have, so just look around in the community for a solution.

If Python is open-source, does that mean that Matlab, being a commercial product, is not good enough. No, that’s not the case. I mentioned that Matlab is quite expensive, but it does come with many great features. Let’s list some of them here:

  • Data analyzation
  • Development of algorithms
  • The creation of models and applications
  • Multiple built-in apps and functions

If you need even more features, Matlab comes with the possibility to extend its capabilities by adding new features using pre-built toolkits. The only issue to be notice here, is that you have to pay for all the toolkits you install additionally to the standard package.

Now that you know Python and Matlab is, we should move on and see why should you use either of them. We’ll start off with Python:


As I already mentioned, Python is an open-source programming language developed many years ago. What is the main function of a programming language?

That’s right, to write code that is turned into a final product: a new software, web application, website or something else. Since Python can be used to create almost any type of software, let’s see why it’s good to check it out and use it:

  • A new language you learn has to be one that stand the test of time. What I mean is, that Python has to work well and efficiently even years from now. You don’t want to take precious time and put into learning something new that will eventually (maybe too soon) go out of service. Luckily Python isn’t a language that will be dumped any time soon. It’s becoming more and more popular thanks to many things (we’ll touch on some later). So, if you choose to learn this language, you’re set to a good start.
  • This is really important for any programmer who’s looking for a tool to develop new software. Any new product that you create has to be efficient and achieve the goals it needs to. Python is a versatile language that can be used to design any kind of program, no matter its subject or capabilities. Because of the fact that Python is a dynamic language (differently from many others), it heavily relies on fluidity and experimentation in code. This can give you a much more adaptable coding style.
  • If you want to develop a new software, you can do it quicker and better if there are already built up libraries to help you out with the task. Python is a good example in this case. Since the language is pretty old (not in a bad way), there’s a lot of code stacked up in many online databases. If you do a quick search on Google, you’ll easily find the one that will give much needed help.

Are there any disadvantages with using this language? One that seems to make some noise is that Python is a dynamic language. But I already said that this is a pro?! Yes, that’s true. But it also comes with a negative side.

Because of this, Python will only output the errors in the code, when the application was tested. Other languages won’t let the code run until you fixed all the errors. In this situation, Python isn’t the best candidate.


Now that we’ve seen what are the advantages/disadvantage for using Python, let’s move on and see how does Matlab stack up against it. First, we’ll see some pros with using this software.

  • User friendly. Just like Python’s syntax, Matlab’s user interface is easy to grasp by new users. Since you’ll try a new software, it’s best if that program is easy to learn and Matlab is exactly that. The flow of commands and inputs almost never freezes making it a good choice for a productive programmer.
  • This is something that makes Matlab great among other tools. It uses graphs that work in both 2D and 3D models. You can make impressions using the created program and the calculation you made along with the exact graphs that represent the data output. Differently from Python that is only a programming language, Matlab lets you visualize what you create by using real-time representations.
  • I think this is quite obvious why it’s a pro with Matlab. The multitude of functions and graphs can work combined with matrixes and other built-in mathematical concepts. Because of this huge variety of possibilities, you can create very detailed control systems that are used in the engineering area. Matlab was originally created to help out engineers and scientists in industry and academic backgrounds. Matlab can also be used for image and video processing, machine learning, deep learning, control systems, finances and even biology.

I think we’re clear that Matlab can do a lot of things thanks to its mathematical background. The power to represent what you’re developing at the moment makes it a great choice for new programmers looking for a better way to create and design what they set out to do.

But does it have any drawbacks? Well, I already mentioned that the price can be a big issue. The standard version, without any added bonuses costs 119 euros ($136 approximately). This is the bare minimum you can get. For any new toolkit, you must pay 35 euros ($40).

Another disadvantage with the use of Matlab is that it’s very hard to convert Matlab code to other programming languages. If you don’t know the software well enough (really well), it will be very difficult.


What can we say in conclusion? Is Python or Matlab better? If you expect a specific answer, you’ll be disappointed (maybe). The right answer is: It depends. On what? On your certain needs. It depends on what you want to develop, more precisely.

If your goal is to create a new software or a web application that works well on all kinds of platforms (iOS, Android and Desktop), the best choice would be to learn Python and develop the program using that.

Also, if you’re looking to learn a new programming language that will resist in time and is still gaining in popularity, Python is still a great choice.

But, if you want to create something that’s more related to mathematics and engineering, then use Matlab. It is also very good if your goal is to create complex control and financial systems.

Another situation in which Matlab could come in handy over Python, is if you’re a scientist looking for a software that can do it all. Also, choose Matlab, if you’re comfortable with paying the price they ask for it.

In the end, it really depends on your own situation. Now, you know how to make a choice that will affect your career in a positive manner.

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