# WHAT ARE THE LIMITS OF MATLAB?

LIMITATIONS OF MATLAB

1.)MATLAB is a proprietary product of The MathWorks, so users are subject to vendor lock-in. Some other source languages, however, are partially compatible and provide a migration path.

2.)The language has a mixed heritage with a sometimes erratic syntax. For example, MATLAB uses parentheses, e.g. y = f(x), for both indexing into an array and calling a function. Although this ambiguous syntax can facilitate a switch between a procedure and a lookup table, both of which correspond to mathematical functions, a careful reading of the code may be required to establish the intent.

3.)MATLAB has no namespace resolution system like the system found in more modern languages such as Java and Python, where classes are located inside packages which can be unambiguously resolved and provide order, e.g. Java’s System.out.println() makes it clear to user precisely which function is being called. In MATLAB, all functions share the global namespace, and precedence of functions with the same name is determined by the order in which they appear in the user’s MATLAB path environment variable (unless the function in question is the method of a class). Functions are usually not prefixed or otherwise organized logically. As such, two users may experience different results when executing what otherwise appears to be the same code.

4.)Many functions have a different behavior with matrix and vector arguments. Since vectors are matrices of one row or one column, this can give unexpected results. For instance, function sum(A) where A is a matrix gives a row vector containing the sum of each column of A, and sum(v) where v is a column or row vector gives the sum of its elements; hence the programmer must be careful if the matrix argument of sum can degenerate into a single-row array. While sum and many similar functions accept an optional argument to specify a direction, others, like plot, do not, and require additional checks. There are other cases where MATLAB’s interpretation of code may not be consistently what the user intended (e.g. how spaces are handled inside brackets as separators where it makes sense but not where it doesn’t, or backslash escape sequences which are interpreted by some functions like fprintf but not directly by the language parser because it wouldn’t be convenient for Windows directories). What might be considered as a convenience for commands typed interactively where the user can check that MATLAB does what the user wants may be less supportive of the need to construct reusable code.

5.)Though other datatypes are available, the default is a matrix of doubles. This array type does not include a way to attach attributes such as engineering units or sampling rates. Although time and date markers were added in R14SP3 with the time series object, sample rate is still lacking. Such attributes can be managed by the user via structures or other methods.

6.)Array indexing is one-based which is the common convention for matrices in mathematics, but does not accommodate the indexing convention of sequences that have zero or negative indices. For instance, in MATLAB the DFT (or FFT) is defined with the DC component at index 1 instead of index 0, which is not consistent with the standard definition of the DFT. This one-based indexing convention is hard coded into MATLAB, making it difficult for a user to define their own zero-based or negative indexed arrays to concisely model an idea having non-positive indices.

7.)MATLAB doesn’t support references, which makes it difficult to implement data structures that contain indirections, such as open hash tables, linked lists, trees, and various other common computer science data structures. In addition, the language consistently passes function arguments by value, so any values that change must be returned from the function and re-assigned by the caller. 