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Revision as of 21:38, 18 January 2016 by Eca (talk | contribs) (Troubleshooting section and undecodable token workaround)
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From the official website:

GNU Octave is a high-level interpreted language, primarily intended for numerical computations. It provides capabilities for the numerical solution of linear and nonlinear problems, and for performing other numerical experiments. It also provides extensive graphics capabilities for data visualization and manipulation. Octave is normally used through its interactive command line interface, but it can also be used to write non-interactive programs. The Octave language is quite similar to Matlab so that most programs are easily portable.


Octave can be installed with the package octave, available in the official repositories.

Note: By default the octave command provided by this package attempts to run the gui and fails if you haven't installed qscintilla, which is needed for the gui. To start the command line interface run the octave-cli command instead.


Octave provides a set of packages, similar to Matlab's Toolboxes, through Octave-Forge. The complete list of packages is here.

Packages can be installed directly in Octave, or from the AUR. See below.

Using Octave's installer

Packages can be managed using Octave's installer. They are installed to ~/octave, or in a system directory with the -global option. To install a package:

octave:1> pkg install -forge packagename
Note: Some Octave's packages, like control, need the gcc-fortran ArchLinux's package in order to compile and install.

To uninstall a package:

octave:3> pkg uninstall packagename

Some packages get loaded automatically by Octave, for those which do not:

octave:4> pkg load packagename


octave:5> pkg load all

To see which packages have been loaded use pkg list, the packages with an asterisk are the ones that are already loaded.

A way to make sure that all packages gets loaded at Octave startup:

## System-wide startup file for Octave.
## This file should contain any commands that should be executed each
## time Octave starts for every user at this site. 
 pkg load all

Using the AUR

Some packages may be found in the AUR (search packages). New Octave-forge packages for Arch can be created semi-automatically using the Octave-forge helper scripts for Archlinux.


Octave has two official plotting backends:

  • Gnuplot — A classic Linux plotting utility.
http://www.gnuplot.info/ || gnuplot
  • FLTK Backend — A new experimental OpenGL backend based on the FLTK GUI toolkit.
http://www.gnu.org/software/octave/ || octave
Note: To enable the FLTK backend, you need to install the fltk package. This package now comes as a dependency of octave.

FLTK is now the default plotting utility, but due to some serious problems with the experimental interface, you may want to re-enable gnuplot.

octave:1> graphics_toolkit("gnuplot");

To make this change permanent add it to your ~/.octaverc file.

Graphical interfaces

Since Octave 3.8, Octave has its own (experimental) GUI based on Qt. Since the 4.0.0 release, it is enabled by default. To start the GUI, just run octave.

The following GUIs are unofficial.

  • Cantor — A graphical user interface that delegates its mathematical operations to one of several back ends (Scilab, Maxima, Octave and others).
http://edu.kde.org/cantor/ || cantor
  • QtOctave — A Qt frontend for Octave.
https://forja.rediris.es/projects/csl-qtoctave/ || qtoctaveAUR

Bug in Documentation tab

As of Octave version 3.8.1, clinking a link in the Documentation tab of the official GUI causes the GUI to freeze. According to bug report #38305, this is caused by a signal handler conflict between Octave and Qt.

One workaround is to unzip the Octave Info files located at /usr/share/info/octave.info* with the command:

# gunzip /usr/share/info/octave.info*

Another option is to ignore the Documentation tab and use a different Info reader.

Reading Microsoft Excel Spreadsheets

There are several ways to read Microsoft Excel files with Octave.

Converting to an open format

The easiest way to use .xls files in Octave would be to convert them to .csv or .ods using Calc (limited to 1024 columns) from LibreOffice or Sheets(limited to 32768 columns) from the the Calligra Suite.

After the conversion is complete you can use the build-in Octave function csvread for .csv files:

octave:1> csvread('myfile.csv');

For .ods files the octave-ioAUR package is necessary which contains the odsread function:

octave:1> odsread('myfile.ods');

For .xlsx files you can use the xlsx2csvAUR[broken link: archived in aur-mirror] package from AUR:

 xlsx2csv -t /path/to/save/location -x /path/to/myfile.xlsx 

Reading xls files directly from Octave

If you must work with XLS files and you cannot convert them to CSV or ODS, for whatever reason, you can use the xlsread function from the octave-ioAUR package.

Since octave-ioAUR version 1.2.5., an interface called 'OCT' was added, which perform reading .xlsx (not .xls!), ods and .gnumeric without any dependencies. However, the Java-based interface still exist (special for reading .xls files and writing those file formats).

Steps necessary to make Java Interface available

Tango-view-refresh-red.pngThis article or section is out of date.Tango-view-refresh-red.png

Reason: The package octave-java is now included in octave, and no longer available from AUR. (Discuss in Talk:Octave#)

The steps necessary to make it work are:

1. Install jdk7-openjdk, available in the official repositories.
Note: A common problem is that Octave cannot find the JDK path. To fix this execute the following commands in your shell:
$ export JAVA_HOME=/usr/lib/jvm/java-7-openjdk
You may also want to add this to your ~/.bashrc and append it to your PATH.
2. Install a Java XLS library for xlsread. There are more such libraries available, a comparison can be found at here. The recommended library is apache-poiAUR[broken link: archived in aur-mirror], available in the AUR.

To check if Java is working correctly in Octave, see the output of:

 octave:1> javaclasspath 
     - empty -
     - empty -

To load the selected library in Octave, check if it is in the Java path. If not:

 octave:1> javaaddpath path/to/file.jar

In the case you chose apache-poiAUR[broken link: archived in aur-mirror], the relevant JAR files can be found in /usr/share/java/apache-poi/poi-3.x.jar and /usr/share/java/apache-poi/poi-ooxml-3.x.jar.

To check if it works

 octave:1> chk_spreadsheet_support 

The output should be > 0:

                   0 No spreadsheet I/O support found
                 ---------- XLS (Excel) interfaces: ----------
                   1 = COM (ActiveX / Excel)
                   2 = POI (Java / Apache POI)
                   4 = POI+OOXML (Java / Apache POI)
                   8 = JXL (Java / JExcelAPI)
                  16 = OXS (Java / OpenXLS)
                 --- ODS (OpenOffice.org Calc) interfaces ----
                  32 = OTK (Java/ ODF Toolkit)
                  64 = JOD (Java / jOpenDocument)
                 ----------------- XLS & ODS: ----------------
                 128 = UNO (Java / UNO bridge - OpenOffice.org)

To make this permanent add the javaaddpath commands to your ~/.octaverc file.


Zsh Undecodable Token

If you get error

undecodable token: b(hex)[23m

when printing, install grml-zsh-config and relogin.