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Re: st: Mata versus Matlab

From   Michael Manti <>
Subject   Re: st: Mata versus Matlab
Date   Mon, 7 Jul 2008 21:29:20 -0400

Excellent point about the proprietary-software-with-freeware- extensions similarity, Nick.

With regard to graphics, I was thinking principally of some of the idiosyncracies of --graph combine--. The interactions among the various areas, labels, etc. are sometimes hard to predict-- particularly with regard to lining up elements across constituent graphs. My recollection was that this is more predictable in MATLAB. I wish I had an example at hand of a graph that was easier to produce in Stata than MATLAB to illustrate my meaning. The fault may well lie with me rather than with Stata.

Another minor advantage that MATLAB graphics have over Stata's is that MATLAB supports a limited subset of TeX in text elements of graphics. Last I checked, this is not the case for Stata. I suspect that a workaround for PostScript graphics may be the LaTeX psfrag package.

Michael Manti

On Jul 7, 2008, at 1:30 PM, Nick Cox wrote:

This seems a very fair summary from what I know. I'd add that Stata and
MATLAB have a major similarity as proprietary software but with many
user-written extras available freely and publicly.

I'd be interested to know more details of how "it is sometimes easier to
trick MATLAB than Stata into producing unsupported graph types". That
would be a challenge either for Stata graphics programmers to show how
such types can be supported or as agenda items for StataCorp. I
specifically exclude 3-D graphics where -- to my great regret -- it is
clear that MATLAB is currently superior to Stata.


Michael Manti


I've used both Stata and MATLAB reasonably extensively. Stata is my
main tool for statistical work. I've used MATLAB to do statistical
work, but I've used it mostly for financial simulations. I much prefer
Stata over MATLAB for statistical work.

For my purposes, the biggest disadvantage of MATLAB over Stata/Mata is
cost. If you want to use MATLAB as your main tool for statistical
work, you need to pay up for the Statistics and Optimization (and
perhaps other) toolkits. All MATLAB toolkits are sold separately,
whereas Stata bundles many procedures, and many more are downloadable.
Even then, my guess is that you're much more likely to find a given
statistical procedure implemented in Stata (or R) than you are in

Stata is much better than MATLAB for managing data, logging research,
and producing tables. For statistical graphics, I generally prefer
Stata's defaults over MATLAB's--tick marks that poke into the plot
area, ugh!--but it is sometimes easier to trick MATLAB than Stata into
producing unsupported graph types.

I suspect that more numerical routines are available in MATLAB than in
Mata. MATLAB the language also supports some nice programming
abstractions--higher-order functions, lexical scoping, arrays of
higher dimension than 2, etc.--that Mata lacks. Mata's pointers only
partially make up for these omissions. However, I really appreciate
Mata's optional type declarations, which have saved me from boneheaded
errors on occasion.

Rajesh Tharyan

Does anyone have any extensive experience of using both of these? If
so what
are the advantages of Mata over Matlab or vice versa? Or is there a
reference on comparison of capabilities?
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