MLAB Software Reviews

The complete text of each review listed below is available. Please take a look at whatever you wish from the selections offered below.

(MLAB has been under continuous development from 1970 to today (2013). We have not solicited reviews since 1996 due to resource constraints. If you would like to review MLAB please contact

Macworld (April 1995) [Excerpt:] Excellent facilities for producing differential-equation models of systems; special accommodations of nonlinear dynamical systems.

IEEE Spectrum (August 1994) [Excerpt:] MLAB's special strengths reflect its origins in the scientific community. Its built-in statistical, equation-solving, and curve-fitting functions are to my knowledge unprecedented in scope and sophistication in commercial math packages. The documentation includes lengthy application, reference, and graphics manuals, as well as a tutorial manual.

Where MLAB really shines is in the support it gives scientists and engineers in analyzing data and fitting it to equations, which may include sets of coupled differential equations. This allows the user to develop models of physical systems in terms of differential equations. MLAB can calculate derivatives of functions symbolically, a feature that increases the speed and reliability of its curve-fitting routines.

Society for Mathematical Biology (March 1995) [Excerpt:] The main reasons to use MLAB as opposed to other integrated numerical and mathematical analysis packages are (1) the curve fitting program which adjusts parameters to a model by minimizing the weighted sums of the pth powers of the absolute errors and (2) its very good and robust differential equation integrator. Most modeling projects involve solving sets of algebraic end differential equations and comparing the computed results to some set of experimental data. There are generally many "free" parameters in the models in that the user has only a ballpark idea of what they are. Optimizing the parameter set is tedious and at best an inexact science using traditional methods of changing the parameter and looking at the solutions. MLAB eliminates much of this uncertainty by allowing you to define a set of parameters that you want to vary.

MLAB has an enormous variety of statistical and mathematical functions (more statistical analysis than any of the other general mathematics programs that are available, such as Maple, Mathematica, and Matlab.) It is clearly built around modelling rather then exploring mathematics in general. For this reason, I recommend it highly.

Notices of the American Mathematical Society (Feb. 1993) [Excerpt:] The software under review, MLAB, is a marvel in this regard. The company is called "Civilized Software", and they mean it! It appears the software was originally written for a mainframe at NIH and subsequently ported to the PC. Although it is a general purpose tool with its own programming language and "camera-ready" graphical displays, it has a very large number of "one liners" like Mathematica, Derive, or Macsyma, providing everything from the inverse non-central students's t distribution to the singular value decomposition of matrices. In this regard I must say it has some of the best matrix handing routines I have ever seen. Like Alice's Restaurant you can get "anything you want" and without having to turn yourself into a pretzel. The program is interpretive, as is probably already clear, and thus provides instant feedback.

Anyone learning a new computer system knows that two things are vital to easing the initial agony - a really good reference manual and a collection of thoughtfully selected examples. MLAB has both.

Now MLAB reflects its origins. It has superb facility for fitting models to data. If you think your data are described by a system of differential equations, this software will provide a least squares fit. It's not that you couldn't do this with some other system, you wouldn't want to suffer the time and effort to pull it off. MLAB has it packaged to go. MLAB has good facilities for keeping a log of your commands as you progress and for permanently saving sessions and graphs for future use. Lastly, you do not have to learn the entire system to make effective use of the piece you need.

Clinical Chemistry (1995) [Excerpt:] MLAB provides many other examples of biochemical and biological problems. Ultracentrifuge analysis depends on parameters in exponential equations. Second-order binding involves the interaction of two chemical species to form one bound product, as used in enzyme kinetics. Linear and nonlinear models may be used, but the linear transformations result in biased values for the equilibrium or saturation constants. MLAB allows the use of nonlinear models to find more accurate values for these constants. The nonlinear model becomes more important as one investigates more sophisticated problems, such as those with cooperative binding or step-wise multiple-site binding. MLAB can also deal with complex physiological models, such as the Hodgkin-Huxley nerve axon model, as well as compartmental-pharmacological models with delays.

MLAB provides the ability to produce many different types of graphs, from x-y pairs with several different curves appearing simultaneously to contour plots and vector fields, from polar graphs to dendrogram (tree) plots. MLAB allows one to control point size and shape as well as fonts. The graphs can be saved in PostScript format, allowing one to place them in other programs.

MLAB is a mathematical and statistical modeling program offering a broad range of functions and tools. It has been designed especially to deal with biochemical, physiological, pharmacological, and other biomedical problems. Its emphasis on biological problems makes it unique among mathematical and statistically oriented programs. One can learn much about biological modeling from the numerous examples offered with the program. Its long development (over 25 years) and use at the National Institutes of Health has helped make its use both smooth and easy.

It is available in several formats: Windows, DOS, Intel-NeXT, Motorola NeXT, Macintosh, and Unix. I ran it under the DOS format on a 486 IBM-clone, 66Hz, with 16 MB of RAM, and found the program to run fast (results appeared almost instantly). Furthermore, the program occupies less than 2.5 MB on the hard disk. It is a great asset for any biological or medical worker dealing with mathematical or statistical modeling, whether curve-fitting or performing differential equations. It is especially good for dealing with immunoassay or receptor assays.

Mathematical Biosciences (1996) [Excerpt:] Its greatest strength is parametric modeling in general and estimating parameters in differential equations in particular.

MLAB's use of analytic derivatives is one feature that is both unique and very helpful. Some of the built-in statistical functions, such as the fitting utility, automatically calculate and use analytic derivatives. This relieves the user from the tedious work of programming derivative calculations for these utilities. It also makes the interface to these built-in functions simpler. The stiff differential equation solver is another utility that makes good use of this feature. It is therefore both easy to use and fast.

The American Statistician (November 1996)
[Excerpt:] This review considers MLAB, MATLAB, PCNONLIN, SCIENTIST, and S-PLUS in terms of their capabilities to estimate such [kinetic] models. (Due to the length of this review, you will need to consult your issue of The American Statistician directly for the complete text.)

MLAB has many good features for modeling, using conventional and familiar notations.

The authors clearly understand the difficulties of kinetic and nonlinear modeling.

MLAB is probably the easiest and most flexible of the packages for users who do not wish to invest a lot of time learning the software to solve problems of the class considered.

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