Minitab and Matlab are statistical and mathematical analysis packages that allow the manipulation and visualization of data. They are similar programs, and many of their features overlap -- both can perform the basic range of statistical procedures common to all such programs. However, they are aimed for use in slightly different areas, and as such each has its own advantages and disadvantages relative to the other.
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Minitab, created by Minitab Inc., is the easier program to use for the beginner and is useful as a statistics training program. It has a point-and-click graphical user interface, in addition to an optional command line from where its macro language can be programmed.
Matlab, a product of MathWorks, is aimed at engineers and scientists and runs primarily through a command line interface. It requires the user to learn the language of the program to perform all but the most basic of tests. This involves a steep learning curve, particularly for complex procedures or when managing large data files.
Both Minitab and Matlab can perform a wide range of statistical procedures, including descriptive statistics, the general linear model, and multivariate procedures like multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) and principal components analysis. Minitab has the edge in statistics, offering a wider range of techniques. However, Matlab is primarily intended to be a mathematical tool and has the edge in that area, with far superior ability to deal with mathematical functions and large matrices.
Minitab is a lightweight program that takes up only around 160 MB of hard disk space when fully installed. Matlab is a much larger program, with the full version taking up to 4 GB of hard disk space. Matlab requires a faster machine, ideally with 2 GB of RAM compared to the 512MB to 1 + GB of RAM required by Minitab. Matlab also has versions available for Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems, while Minitab is available only for Windows.
Minitab's ease of use and graphical user interface make it ideal for teaching. The lack of need to learn a script language means there is less to distract students from learning statistics. However, despite its statistical advantages over Matlab it still has too few in-built procedures to be considered as a sole tool for applied research. Matlab is used more in pure and applied mathematics, where its ability to handle matrices is invaluable.