Octave was originally intended to be companion software for an undergraduate-level textbook on chemical reactor design being written by James B. Rawlings of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and John G. Ekerdt of the University of Texas.
Clearly, Octave is now much more than just another `courseware' package with limited utility beyond the classroom. Although our initial goals were somewhat vague, we knew that we wanted to create something that would enable students to solve realistic problems, and that they could use for many things other than chemical reactor design problems.
There are those who would say that we should be teaching the students Fortran instead, because that is the computer language of engineering, but every time we have tried that, the students have spent far too much time trying to figure out why their Fortran code crashes and not enough time learning about chemical engineering. With Octave, most students pick up the basics quickly, and are using it confidently in just a few hours.
Although it was originally intended to be used to teach reactor design, it has been used in several other undergraduate and graduate courses in the Chemical Engineering Department at the University of Texas, and the math department at the University of Texas has been using it for teaching differential equations and linear algebra as well. If you find it useful, please let us know. We are always interested to find out how Octave is being used in other places.
Virtually everyone thinks that the name Octave has something to do with music, but it is actually the name of a former professor of mine who wrote a famous textbook on chemical reaction engineering, and who was also well known for his ability to do quick `back of the envelope' calculations. We hope that this software will make it possible for many people to do more ambitious computations just as easily.
Everyone is encouraged to share this software with others under the terms of the GNU General Public License (see Copying) as described at the beginning of this manual. You are also encouraged to help make Octave more useful by writing and contributing additional functions for it, and by reporting any problems you may have.