Schnee (schnee) wrote,

Wolfram Alpha alternatives?

As useful as Wolfram Alpha is for mathematical legwork, I really wish there were alternatives. It's nice that it can tell me that the integral of x^2/(x^2+4) is x-2arctan(x/2), but it'd be nicer still to know just how it computed that so that I could perhaps learn something myself (I'm not very good at integrating). Oh, sure, it'll tell me if I get a Pro subscription for 7 USD/month, but do I really want that just for just one result every now and then?

Worse, anytime I'm using Wolfram Alpha, as a subscriber or not, I'm giving the company data about what I'm calculating (granted, as long as it's just random integrals etc., that's probably no big deal). And then there's Wolfram's claims that the company owns the copyright to the results the site produces, which is as troubling as it is outlandish (there is no "creative spark", after all; the site merely processes data that YOU provide according to a set of – admittedly complex, and secret and closely-guarded – rules).

So are there alternatives? Maxima is a free (as in beer/freedom) CAS that, despite its rustic interface, seems capable enough, certainly capable of computing such integrals as the above, but it doesn't seem to be able to do step-by-step solutions. (I'm not even gonna complain about the Windows build lagging three versions behind right now.)

Other good resources (how-tos, tutorials etc.) on integration would also be appreciated, but since I'm interested in more than just symbolic integration, a general tool that provides step-by-step solutions without Wolfram Alpha's drawbacks would really be nice.
Tags: input needed, mathematics, software, websites
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