maxima man page

Maxima — Common Lisp version of MACSYMA symbolic mathematics package released under the GNU Public License

Xmaxima — A graphical version of Maxima


maxima [options]

xmaxima [options]


Maxima is a version of the MIT-developed MACSYMA system, modified to run under Common Lisp.  It is an interactive expert system and programming environment for symbolic and numerical mathematical manipulation.  Written in Lisp, it allows differentiation, integration, solution of linear or polynomial equations, factoring of polynomials, expansion of functions in Laurent or Taylor series, computation of Poisson series, matrix and tensor manipulations, and two- and three-dimensional graphics. Procedures may be written using an ALGOL-like syntax, and both Lisp-like functions and pattern matching facilities are provided. Files containing Maxima objects may be read from and written to disk files. Pre-written Maxima commands may be read from a file and executed, allowing batch-mode use.


-b file, --batch=file

Process file in noninteractive mode.


Process Lisp file file in noninteractive mode.


Process string in noninteractive mode.

-d, --directories

Display Maxima directory information.


Disable readline support.

-g, --enable-lisp-debugger

Enable Lisp debugger.

-h, --help

Display a brief usage summary.


Load the Maxima and Lisp initialization files string.mac and string.lisp at startup.


Load the Maxima initialization file file at startup.


Load the Lisp initialization file file at startup.

-l lisp, --lisp=lisp

Use Lisp implementation lisp. Use --list-avail to see the list of possible values.


List the available Lisp and Maxima versions.

-p lisp_file, --preload-lisp=lisp_file

Preload lisp_file.

-q, --quiet

Suppress Maxima start-up message.

-r string, --run-string=string

Process string in interactive mode.

-s port, --server=port

Connect Maxima to server on port. Note that this does not create a Maxima server; Maxima is the client.

-u version, --use-version=version

Launch Maxima version version. Use --list-avail to see the list of possible values.


Use directory for user directory (default is $HOME/maxima for Windows, $HOME/.maxima for others)

-v, --verbose

Print extra information from the Maxima wrapper script.


Print the (default) installed version.


Suppress expression labels and the Maxima start-up message.

-X Lisp options, --lisp-options=Lisp options

Options to be given to the underlying Lisp.

Introductory Instructions

Upon initialization, maxima prints a startup message, then a command line prompt:


All Maxima commands must be concluded with either:


a semicolon (in which case the result of the command is echoed on a display line, prefaced by %o with an appended sequence number), or


a dollar sign (which suppresses printing of a display line).


(%i1) diff(sin(x),x);

(%o1)                         cos(x)

(%i2) integrate(%o1,x);

(%o2)                         sin(x)

The user types in commands which create Maxima objects (such as functions and system variables) and which manipulate these objects.

On UNIX it may be preferable to run Maxima under Gnu Emacs or XEmacs. You can do this by invoking shell mode in emacs, and then invoking maxima. Preferably, install maxima.el from the distribution and use the command:

M-x maxima

The main advantage of working inside emacs is that it provides a complete history of input/output. If you execute the command

display2d: false

you will be able to use your output as input, by simply killing and yanking.

Lisp is built into Maxima. The function to_lisp() enters the Lisp read-eval-print loop. The Lisp function (run) may be used to return to Maxima. Alternatively, single Lisp commands may be invoked by starting a command line with :lisp.

Built-in Help

The reference manual can be accessed from the Maxima input prompt. A description of a given command can be obtained by typing the command


or, simply,

? command

searches the list of functions for the string command. Demonstration files provide complete examples of problems solved with Maxima, and may be accessed with the command demo(command);. A library of user-contributed command files is also provided (the share library), directed toward a variety of problems.

Other Documentation

The reference manual is provided in both info and html formats.

Command Primer

This list includes only commands which the beginner might find useful to know about prior to studying the reference manual and other texts.


Execute the contents of file myfile, which is assumed to contain Maxima commands.


Close session file opened by a writefile command (see below).


Execute the contents of file myfile, which is assumed to contain Maxima commands, one line at a time.


Print the contents of all of the available information lists.


Print a list of the names of currently defined functions.


Print a list of the various available information lists.


Eliminate the object(s) contained within parentheses; kill(all) Delete all objects created by the user, restoring Maxima to its initial state.


Leave Maxima.


Reset all Maxima control parameters to their default states.


Print a list of the names of currently assigned scalar values.


Write record of session to file myfile; only one file at a time can be open, and the closefile command must be invoked prior to leaving Maxima to flush the buffer.

Plotting Commands

Maxima is capable of producing 2- and 3-dimensional plots. Here is a simple 2-dimensional example

plot2d (sin(x), [x, -2*%pi, 2*%pi]);

and a simple 3-dimensional example

plot3d (2^(-u^2 + v^2), [u, -5, 5], [v, -7, 7]);

By default plots are made by the gnuplot plotting package. Plots can be made by other means; see "? plot_options". For more information about plotting, see "? plot".



Compiled files for lisp implementation lisp


primary documentation directory, containing info files which are used for the 'describe' command, and also for viewing under emacs or other info viewer.


HTML version of info documentation.


Maxima demo files.


Elisp files for use with Emacs or XEmacs.


Contributed external packages.


Documentation for contributed external packages.


Complete Maxima source.


Test suite.


Xmaxima support files.


Maxima utility scripts.

Environment Variables


Points to a directory for user customization files. Maxima's default search paths include MAXIMA_USERDIR. Default value: $HOME/.maxima.


Maxima looks for its input files in the directory configured at compile time, /usr. Maxima can be relocated to a different directory as long as the maxima script maintains the same relative position with respect to the Maxima input files. If, for some reason, the maxima script needs to be relocated independently, MAXIMA_PREFIX needs to be set to point to the top of the tree holding the input files.


MAXIMA_DIRECTORY is equivalent to MAXIMA_PREFIX. It is included only for backward compatibility with older versions of Maxima.

Maxima uses several other environment variables for communication between the maxima script and the lisp image. All such variables start with MAXIMA_. They should not need to be modified by the user.

Customization Files


maximarc is sourced by the maxima script at startup. It should be located in $MAXIMA_USERDIR (see above). maximarc can be used, e.g., to change the user's default lisp implementation choice to CMUCL by including the line "MAXIMA_LISP=cmucl".


At startup, Maxima will load the lisp file maxima-init.lisp if it is found in the search path. For user customization, maxima-init.lisp should be placed in the $MAXIMA_USERDIR (see above). Since Maxima typically has a system maxima-init.lisp in the Maxima share directory, the user may want to copy the contents of the system maxima-init.lisp into his/her custom file. Alternatively, the user can load a Lisp initialization file with another name or location by means of the --init-lisp or --init command-line options.


At startup, Maxima will load the file maxima-init.mac if it is found in the search path.  For user customization, maxima-init.mac should be placed in the $MAXIMA_USERDIR (see above). Alternatively, the user can load a Maxima initialization file with another name or location by means of the --init-mac or --init command-line options.


Old Reference:   MACSYMA Reference Manual (volumes 1 and 2). The Mathlab Group, Laboratory for Computer Science, MIT. Version 10. January 1983.

Newer references:


Maxima is a complex system. It includes both known and unknown bugs. Use at your own risk. The Maxima bug database is available at

New bug reports are always appreciated. Please include the output of the Maxima function "build_info()" with the report.


MACSYMA (Project MAC's SYmbolic MAnipulation System) was developed by the Mathlab group of the MIT Laboratory for Computer Science (originally known as Project MAC), during the years 1969-1972.  Their work was supported by grants NSG 1323 of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, N00014-77-C-0641 of the Office of Naval Research, ET-78-C-02-4687 of the U.S. Department of Energy, and F49620-79-C-020 of the U.S. Air Force.  MACSYMA was further modified for use under the UNIX operating system (for use on DEC VAX computers and Sun workstations), by Richard Fateman and colleagues at the University of California at Berkeley; this version of MACSYMA is known as VAXIMA.  The present version stems from a re-working of the public domain MIT MACSYMA for GNU Common Lisp, prepared by William Schelter, University of Texas at Austin until his passing away in 2001.  It contains numerous additions, extensions and enhancements of the original.  The original version of this manual page was written by R. P. C. Rodgers, UCSF School of Pharmacy, San Francisco, CA 94143 ( in 1989. It was extensively revised by James Amundson in 2002.

Maxima is now developed and maintained by the Maxima project at <>.

Referenced By


September 10, 2005