An Introduction to Rlab: A High Level Language for Scientific and Engineering Applications

Rlab stands for “our lab”. It is available to almost everyone who needs a computational tool for scientific and engineering applications, because it is freely available, and it runs on many platforms.

There are many features, functions, and user-contributed programs that I have not discussed. Of special note are the extensive set of linear algebra functions. Rlab provides a very convenient interface to the LAPACK, FFTPACK, and RANLIB libraries available from Netlib and Statlib.

By now you have should have seen enough of the language to decide whether it is worth the effort to try it out. If you would like to find out more about it you can check out: The Linux binaries of Rlab are now being distributed in RPM format, and are available at Now that ELF distributions are available, and out of beta testing, and considering how much better dynamic linking is with ELF, Rlab binaries are built using the ELF object file format.


The Plplot graphics library is provided by Dr. Maurice LeBrun at the University of Texas. The underlying linear algebra subroutines (LAPACK, and the BLAS) are from the Netlib repository. And, of course, none of this would have been possible without GNU tools. There have been many other contributions to Rlab by various individuals over the years. The ACKNOWLEDGMENT file in the source distribution tries to mention everybody.

Where to Get Rlab

Rlab is available with over a hundred rfiles of various sorts, many contributed by users. Professor J. Layton, at Clarkson University, Potsdam NY, is in the process of finishing up the Rlab Controls Toolbox. A port of Professor Higham's (University of Manchester/UMIST) Test Matrix Toolbox is also available. For more information go to

Ian Searle currently works in the aerospace research field in Seattle Washington, and works on Rlab in his spare time.