Developed at INRIA, Scilab has been developed for system control and signal processing applications. It is freely distributed in source code format (see the copyright file).

Scilab is made of three distinct parts: an interpreter, libraries of functions (Scilab procedures) and libraries of Fortran and C routines. These routines (which, strictly speaking, do not belong to Scilab but are interactively called by the interpreter) are of independent interest and most of them are available through Netlib. A few of them have been slightly modified for better compatibility with Scilab's interpreter.

A key feature of the Scilab syntax is its ability to handle matrices: basic matrix manipulations such as concatenation, extraction or transpose are immediately performed as well as basic operations such as addition or multiplication. Scilab also aims at handling more complex objects than numerical matrices. For instance, control people may want to manipulate rational or polynomial transfer matrices. This is done in Scilab by manipulating lists and typed lists which allows a natural symbolic representation of complicated mathematical objects such as transfer functions, linear systems or graphs (see Section 2.7).

Polynomials, polynomials matrices and transfer matrices are also defined and the syntax used for manipulating these matrices is identical to that used for manipulating constant vectors and matrices.

Scilab provides a variety of powerful primitives for
the analysis of non-linear systems.
Integration of explicit and implicit dynamic systems can be accomplished
numerically. The `scicos` toolbox allows the graphic definition
and simulation of complex interconnected hybrid systems.

There exist numerical optimization facilities for non linear optimization (including non differentiable optimization), quadratic optimization and linear optimization.

Scilab has an open programming environment where the creation of functions and libraries of functions is completely in the hands of the user (see Chapter 3). Functions are recognized as data objects in Scilab and, thus, can be manipulated or created as other data objects. For example, functions can be defined inside Scilab and passed as input or output arguments of other functions.

In addition Scilab supports a character string data type which, in particular, allows the on-line creation of functions. Matrices of character strings are also manipulated with the same syntax as ordinary matrices.

Finally, Scilab is easily interfaced with Fortran or C subprograms. This allows use of standardized packages and libraries in the interpreted environment of Scilab.

The general philosophy of Scilab is to provide the following sort of computing environment:

- To have data types which are varied and flexible with a syntax which is natural and easy to use.
- To provide a reasonable set of primitives which serve as a basis for a wide variety of calculations.
- To have an open programming environment where new
primitives are easily added. A useful tool distributed with
Scilab is
`intersci`which is a tool for building interface programs to add new primitives i.e. to add new modules of Fortran or C code into Scilab. - To support library development through ``toolboxes'' of functions devoted to specific applications (linear control, signal processing, network analysis, non-linear control, etc.)

The objective of this introduction manual is to give the user
an idea of what Scilab can do. On line documentation on all
functions is available (`help` command).