February 21, 2009

How to install Scilab-5.1 on Ubuntu LInux

Filed under: Education,FOSS & Mathematical Science,Ubuntu — Bigbrovar @ 8:57 am

Scilab is a scientific software package for numerical computations providing a powerful open computing environment for engineering and scientific applications.

Scilab is an open source software.

Since 1994 it has been distributed freely along with the source code via the Internet. It is currently used in educational and industrial environments around the world.

Scilab is a very good alternative to very expensive and proprietary programs like Matlab. It is used Extensively in the school where I work.

Free Beer + Speech

Scilab is can be downloaded and used free of charge, and although it is not released under the GPL, its License allows you to modify and/or redistribute the software.

The world just got better

I remembered the last time i had to install a 5.x version of scilab on ubuntu (hardy heron) it was a hellish experience because there was no installable binary package and i had to download and compile from source which was just a PITA because most of the dependencies needed were not available in the Hady Heron Repo. what made things worse is after compiling, The package was very buggy and kept crashing especially when i try the translation tool from the application menu. Rather than witch and whine about this, in true Free software Culture i filled a bug which thankfully as been fixed in the latest version 5.1.

Another good thing about scilab 5.1 is this time around installation is quite easy and straight forward, No more compiling or downloading some strange dependencies. There is Binary package available for Linux that comes bundled with all the dependencies that scilab needs to work


To install Scilab goto their download page and download the Scilab 5.1 binary file version for Linux (available for both 32 and 64 bit) you can grab a copy here

Once Downloaded save the file to your desktop and extract (in gnome/Kde right click and choose extract here) or via Terminal (Application/Accessories/Terminal) cd $HOME/Desktop/ ; tar xzvf scilab-5.1.bin.linux-i686.tar.gz

Now you can run the program from the scilab directory that was extracted. just go to /scilab-5.1/bin and double click on the file named scilab, but you will have to agree with me that this is a less than ideal situation. To do a proper installation we can either move the scilab directory to your /home
or better still /opt in your root directory (which is the directory meant for 3rd party Applications)
This guide is based on the latter

With the scilab Package that we extracted earlier still saved on your desktop we mv it to /opt. To do this Open Terminal and copy and paste the following command then press enter.

sudo mv scilab-5.1/ /opt/

Now we need to be able to launch it from our application menu. To go this we would have to create a menu item for it. Thankfully this is dead easy under gnome (and KDE to but this guide was written in gnome)

To create a menu item right click on the Application menu of your gnome panel and choose Edit Menu

Enable the Education Menu (by checking it) now click on Education (on the left side of the menu editor) and create new item under the Education menu by clicking on New Item (on the right side of the Menu Editor) . Doing this would Open a New Dialog box fill it like this

Name : Scilab-5.1

Command: /opt/scilab-5.1/bin/scilab

Comment: Matrix-based scientific Software Package

Now we give it an Icon

Click on the icon field and copy  this to the navigation address bar   /opt/scilab-5.1/share/scilab/icons/scilab.xpm  (for some reason browsing to the icon location doesn’t  work)

Now you would be able to start Scilab under  /Application/Education/Scilab/

You can download Toolboxes for scilab from here

Hope someone finds this useful.



  1. […] New Arrivals Just in: An eeePc and replacement water pumps for the laser from Hong Kong. I got the eeePc because I wanted a dedicated Ubuntu machine and I could not get Ubuntu installed on my old mac. I’m going to see if I can now get the reprap host software running. Also going to try installing SciLab. […]

    Pingback by New Arrivals « Prometheus Fusion Perfection — February 21, 2009 @ 8:41 pm | Reply

  2. I found this useful, I was just wondering if you needed the pre-requirements file you can also download from the scilab website.

    Comment by Simon — February 26, 2009 @ 12:49 am | Reply

  3. @Simon the pre-requirement package is for those that intend to build scilab from source by compiling it. so you donw need to download that if you are following the procedure in this guide.

    Comment by Bigbrovar — February 26, 2009 @ 7:30 am | Reply

  4. Extremely useful. Thank you.
    However, I am puzzled because I got it to work only after I downloaded the 32 bit version despite I have a 64 bit processor.

    Comment by Maurizio — April 3, 2009 @ 10:02 pm | Reply

  5. very useful for me.
    but it crashes as soon as a command is entered. is there any thoughts about that?

    Comment by onur — April 9, 2009 @ 4:48 pm | Reply

  6. yes, sometimes its crash when i’m using scipad and run into scilab, last day i lost my script 😦

    Comment by parhyang — April 16, 2009 @ 10:21 am | Reply

  7. Brilliant. Thank you very much!

    Comment by Roger — April 22, 2009 @ 6:44 pm | Reply

  8. @Roger you are welcome

    Comment by Bigbrovar — April 22, 2009 @ 7:53 pm | Reply

  9. Your guidance helps me a lot, especially I learned how to set the bin path and icon from the “Edit Menus.” Thank you.

    Comment by Hiankun — May 22, 2009 @ 8:53 am | Reply

    • Am glad that it worked for you .. we all learn everyday

      Comment by Bigbrovar — May 22, 2009 @ 11:24 am | Reply

  10. thank you very much, that was really helpful

    Comment by reddove — June 3, 2009 @ 1:46 am | Reply

  11. @bigbrovar That was the best installation instructions I have ever used. You were really clear and thorough. If it weren’t for you I would be scratching my head for weeks, most likely.

    Comment by John Seales — August 31, 2009 @ 6:48 am | Reply

    • Oh am glad it worked for you, thanks for the feed back

      Comment by Bigbrovar — August 31, 2009 @ 11:30 am | Reply

  12. thx 4 tutorial!! it easy to understand,,btw could we install in other distro “Slackware”?? please email me! im realy newbie! T,T

    Comment by jemiro — October 29, 2009 @ 1:12 am | Reply

  13. Hi,
    I have a problem on my laptop (Ubuntu 8.04) with scilab 5.1.1. When I try to run scilab I get
    … sh scilab
    …/bin/scilab-bin: 1: Syntax error: word unexpected (expecting “)”)
    What could be the reason for this?

    Comment by Peter Hinow — October 30, 2009 @ 6:03 pm | Reply

  14. actually, my last question is moot. I had to download scilab-5.1.1.bin.linux-i686.tar.gz, not scilab-5.1.1.bin.linux-x86_64.tar.gz. I don’t know what is the problem with the latter.

    Comment by Peter Hinow — October 30, 2009 @ 6:28 pm | Reply

    • One (the latter) is for 64bit systems while the other (former) is for 32 bit system. If you are running a 32bit version of ubuntu that stick to the former

      Comment by bigbrovar — October 30, 2009 @ 6:31 pm | Reply

  15. hi,
    this is good.

    Comment by anil — November 5, 2009 @ 10:31 am | Reply

  16. nice information i have chosen right place. thanks for sharing

    Comment by nitin — December 31, 2009 @ 11:03 am | Reply

  17. thnx for the installation instructions
    what else should be done to launch scilab from terminal

    Comment by arunprathap — July 11, 2010 @ 11:28 am | Reply

  18. Thanks for the instructions…. ;-D

    Comment by Bruno — April 24, 2011 @ 3:31 pm | Reply

  19. I find this very useful, thanks !

    Comment by VirtualMan — August 5, 2011 @ 12:03 pm | Reply

  20. Thanks for your very easy tutorial and overall for your precision

    Comment by Andrea — November 6, 2011 @ 11:06 am | Reply

  21. Thank you for the excellent instruction! Just one question: I’m running Ubuntu. How do I launch it from the terminal? Thanks.

    Comment by demian — November 7, 2011 @ 2:15 pm | Reply

  22. I forgot to ask:
    After successfully installed it, can I delete the zip file from the desktop?

    Comment by demian — November 7, 2011 @ 2:18 pm | Reply

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