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Maxima for DebianScience. See also EduMaxima.

As a symbolic algebra environment, Maxima is quite powerful... For rudimentary tasks (module some bugs), however, Maxima is fairly sufficient once the user gets past the learning curve.

However, Maxima (which used to be called MACSYMA) is a very old system. As a consequence it's somewhat crufty and parts of the code have not been touched in decades.

has anybody here had experience with maxima as a replacement for maple/mathematica?

It cannot do all the stuff that mathematica can do. For example, maxima cannot do integration of piecewise continuous functions while mathematica can.

Using texmacs as an interface to maxima would be very eye-candy. This interface is almost same as that of maple.

I've tried to use maxima inside Texmacs, which proved beautiful aesthetically but not very functional.