The M filetype, commonly associated with MATLAB, denotes files that contain scripts or functions written in the MATLAB programming language. This filetype has a storied history dating back to the late 1970s and early 1980s when MATLAB was initially developed by MathWorks. Originally envisioned for numerical computing, the .m extension files quickly became standard for engineers and scientists looking to perform complex mathematical computations and data analysis.
Understanding the M Filetype
.M files are essentially code files that can include both scripts, which are collections of commands executed together, and functions, which are blocks of code that can be called with arguments to perform specific tasks. When an M file is run within the MATLAB environment, it is interpreted by the software's engine, which translates the high-level language into machine-readable instructions.
Software That Utilizes M Files
While MATLAB is the primary software that reads and processes M files, there are other environments and editors capable of understanding this filetype. GNU Octave, for instance, is an open-source alternative to MATLAB that supports most .m files, allowing users to run MATLAB scripts without modification. Integrated Development Environments (IDEs) like Eclipse and Visual Studio Code can also be configured to read and edit M files with the help of plugins and extensions.
Alternatives to the M Filetype
For those not using MATLAB or looking for alternatives, various filetypes offer similar functionalities. Python with NumPy or SciPy libraries, for example, has become a popular choice for scientific computing. IPython notebooks (with .ipynb extension) provide an interactive environment that combines code execution with rich media, documentation, and more. Similarly, R scripts (.R files) cater to statistical analysis and are favored in academic and research circles.