Enabling MATLAB in Jupyter notebooks on Linux


In my previous post I showed how to enable MATLAB in Jupyter notebooks on Windows. Now it’s time for GNU/Linux (Ubuntu).

My main issue with enabling new kernel was having initially installed two Anacondas and two Python versions (2.7 and 3.5). After a lot of frustration, I decided to remove both Anacondas and have a clear install of the latest Anaconda with Python 2.7 and 3.5. In this tutorial I assume that Jupyter and MATLAB are already installed on your system.

Using the right environment

Although the official MATLAB website states that Python-MATLAB engine works with Python 2.7, 3.4, 3.5 and 3.6, I struggled to install it using Python 3.5. If you try to install it with a 3.5 version, you will see the following error:

OSError: MATLAB Engine for Python supports Python version 2.7, 3.3 and 3.4, but your version of Python is 3.5

The error makes it obvious that you need an older version of Python. I decided to use 2.7. To do that, I created another environment with Python 2.7:

conda create -n py27 python=2.7 anaconda

The guidelines to managing Python environments are here.

The next step was checking what environments were available:

conda info --envs

And activating Python 2.7 (py27):

source activate py27

Install Python-MATLAB engine

To install the engine connecting both languages: go to your MATLAB folder, find the Python engine folder and install setup.py. This can be done in the following way:

Change your working directory to where your MATLAB lives:
cd "MATLABROOT/extern/engines/python"

If you don’t know where your MATLAB is installed, use:
locate matlab

Then install the engine (it will only work with MATLAB >=2014b):

sudo python setup.py install

And the latest remaining dependencies:

sudo pip install -U metakernel
sudo pip install -U matlab_kernel
sudo pip install -U pymatbridge

That should do the job. Now open new Jupyter notebook:

jupyter notebook

To check whether you can find MATLAB among the available engines (top right corner):

Now check whether you can actually run the notebook. Initially, when I tried using Python 3.5, I could see MATLAB among the options but the kernels would die each time I tried running the MATLAB code. Moving to Python 2.7, as described in this tutorial, solved the problem.

If all works fine then the following notebook should generate correctly:

Even though I’m getting the MetaKernelApp error, the notebook continues to work correctly:
[MetaKernelApp] ERROR | No such comm target registered: jupyter.widget.version

To leave the environment used to run the notebook, simply type:

source deactivate


Initially, I struggled a bit with making it all work so in the meantime I also tried installing Octave (a free equivalent of MATLAB). I’m not sure whether that installation helped me with running MATLAB within Jupyter.

While trying to install the engine I came across several errors. I guess that most of them were related to my OS configuration and all of them were solved by searching for the error message. One of the errors was:

[I 00:58:19.847 NotebookApp] KernelRestarter: restarting kernel (3/5)
/home/eub/anaconda3/bin/python: No module named matlab_kernel

This was due to installing the Python engine in the wrong environment (i.e. my default Python 3.5). It was solved by activating Python 2.7 and using it to install the Python-MATLAB engine.

I think that there is an alternative way to activate MATLAB in Jupyter, without Anaconda, would be to explicitly point the installer to the Python version that supports the Py-MATLAB engine.

In my case:
sudo ~/anaconda/pkgs/python-2.7.13-0/bin/python2.7 setup.py install

You might also want install the engine in a non-default location. In that case, MATLAB has a solution to that problem and suggested installing Python in the home directory.

There is another Jupyter kernel (imatlab) engine that supposedly works with Python 3.5 and MATLAB R2016b+ but I haven’t tested it myself. As long as my current configuration works, I’m not planning to go through the hell of installing dependencies again.

Using MATLAB in Jupyter notebooks on Windows

After using R notebooks for a while I found it really unintuitive to use MATLAB in IDE. I read that it’s possible to use MATLAB with IPython but the instructions seemed a bit out of date. When I tried to follow them, I still could not run MATLAB with Jupyter (spin-off from IPython).

I wanted to conduct analyses of electroencephalographic (EEG) activity and the best plug-ins to do it (EEGLAB and ERPLAB) were written in MATLAB. I still wanted to use a programming notebook so I had to combine Jupyter and MATLAB.

I spent a bit of time setting it all up so I thought it might be worthwhile to share the process. Initially, I had three version of MATLAB (2011a, 2011b, and 2016b) and two versions of Python (2.7 and 3.3). This did not make my life easier of Windows 7.

Eventually, I only kept the installation of MATLAB 2016b to avoid problems with paths pointing to other versions. MATLAB’s Python engine works only with MATLAB 2014b or later so keeping the older versions could only cause problems.


  • Install Anaconda (2.7)
  • Install MATLAB (>=2014b) – if you are a student then it’s very likely that your university bought a license. There is also a free MATLAB-like language called Octave, but I have not used with Jupyter. Apparently, it is possible to combine Octave with Jupyter. I’m going to focus exclusively on MATLAB in this post.
  • Install MATLAB’s Python engine – run as admin and follow the steps on the official site.
  • Once the engine was installed, I could move to installing metakernel, matlab_kernel, and pymatbridge. Go to Anaconda prompt (run as admin) and run
    pip install metakernel
  • In the Anaconda prompt run pip install matlab_kernel – this will use the development version of the MATLAB kernel.
  • Run pip install pymatbridge to install a connector between Python and MATLAB.
  • … voilĂ !

    MATLAB should now be available in the list of available languages.
    Once you choose it, you can start using it in a Jupyter notebook:

    Obviously, thing were not always this smooth. Initially, I ran into problems with installing MATLAB’s Python engine. The official website suggested running the following code:
    cd "matlabroot\extern\engines\python"
    python setup.py install

    Which I did but it resulted in an error:

    Luckily, the error message was clear so I had to point Python to run the 64-bit version. I double-checked my versions with:
    import platform

    Which returned 64-bit as expected:

    Using a command with full path to Python solved the problem:

    I hope this will be useful. I have been messing with other issues which were pretty specific to my system so I did not include them here. Hopefully, these instructions will be enough to make MATLAB work with Jupyter.

    PS: I have also explained how to use MATLAB with Jupyter on Ubuntu.