SANTTUcurriculum vitae
03 Sep 2018

Short Introduction to Matlab

Learning objectives

To familiarise yourself with Matlab syntax and some basic commands and to be able to do some basic operations on matrices. Please remember that Matlab has excellent documentation. Try typing ‘help ‘ to  see if that will provide the answers you seek. Also, googling ‘matlab ‘ is helpful most of the times.

This part is intended for those you have some programming background, but  have never used Matlab before. This article introduces basic concepts, and tries to give enough information to get the student ready for simple programming and solving home assignments.


% Author : Santosh Tirunagari

% Learning objectives:
% - to familiarise yourself with Matlab syntax and some basic commands
% - to be able to do some basic operations on matrices
% please remember that  Matlab has excellent documentation.
% Try typing 'help <function name>' to
% see if that will provide the answers you seek.
% Also, googling 'matlab <doing thing x>' is helpful most of the times.

% This part is intended for those you have some programming background, but
% have never used Matlab before. It introduced basic concepts, and tries to
% give enough information to get the student ready for simple programming
% and solving home assignments.

Short introduction to Matlab

% As you probably notices Matlab uses % for commenting
% Double % in can be used to divide your code to cells.
% Check that you have the cell mode enabled in the cell pulldown menu.
% Now you can run the code cell-by-cell. Pressing ctrl-enter executes
% the active cell. Note: cells in editor should not be confused with cell type,
% introduced in part2 of this exercise.

Printing information to Command Window

Here are some commands for printing various info about state of your program. Strings are specified by using apostrophes. Formating of fprintf and sprintf is similar to C function fprintf.

fprintf('Hello World\n')
disp('Another world');
fprintf('Variable %s equals %10.2f\n', 'bmw', rand);
Hello World
Another world
Variable bmw equals       0.81

Defining variables

Matlab is mostly aimed at computing (performing floating point operaations) and the default variable type is double, and its not necessary to define it beforehand. There are other numeric types but they are not needed for doing the home assignments. Matlab stores variables in so-called workspace, which can be accessed visually within Matlab environment. Statements in Matlab can be finished with semicolon ‘;’, but if semicolon is missing then Matlab prints the result of that statement to Command Window

singleval = 2;               % create variable and assign it value 1
vector1   = [1 2 4 6];       % create array variable and assign values 1,2,4 and 6 to successive elements
                             % arrays are 1xM matrices in Matlab, also called vectors
vector2 = -1:10;             % create vector with values from -1 to 10
matrix = [1 2; 0 1];         % create a matrix (notice semicolon ';')
strval = 'str';              % create a string
intvalue = int16(1);         % create 16-bit integer variable with value 1 (typecasting)
magicmat = magic(6)          % define magic sqaure and print result to Command Window
who                          % list all variables in current workspace
whos                         % list all variables with details in current workspace
magicmat =

    35     1     6    26    19    24
     3    32     7    21    23    25
    31     9     2    22    27    20
     8    28    33    17    10    15
    30     5    34    12    14    16
     4    36    29    13    18    11

Your variables are:

ans        magicmat   singleval  vector1    
intvalue   matrix     strval     vector2    

  Name           Size            Bytes  Class     Attributes

  ans            1x30               60  char                
  intvalue       1x1                 2  int16               
  magicmat       6x6               288  double              
  matrix         2x2                32  double              
  singleval      1x1                 8  double              
  strval         1x3                 6  char                
  vector1        1x4                32  double              
  vector2        1x12               96  double              

Accessing variable elements

Sometimes we need to return specific elements of certain matrix or vector to be used in computations or just checking their values. This is accomplished by giving exact position within parentheses. Specifying all rows and columns is done with colon ‘:’, while multiple selection is done with another vector(s)

vector1(1,3)                 % return element at (row=1, column=3)
vector1(3)                   % return element at position 3 (same as previous statement)
                             % when a variable is a vector, it is enough to give single index
magicmat(2,:)                % return complete row=2
magicmat(:,1)                % return whole column=1
magicmat([1 3],:)            % return rows 1 and 3 and all columns
strval(2)                    % second character of a string
strval(2:3)                  % second and third character of a string
ans =


ans =


ans =

     3    32     7    21    23    25

ans =


ans =

    35     1     6    26    19    24
    31     9     2    22    27    20

ans =


ans =


Putting different vectors/matrices together

Adding and removing new rows/columns. When defining matrices, semicolon ‘;’ enters the new row. See also ‘help vertcat’, ‘help horzcat’ and ‘help cat’

matrix = [0 0; 1 0; 2 0];      % define 3x2 matrix
nrow = [1 2];                  % define 1x2 vector
ncol = [1; 2; 3];              % define 3x1 vector
mat2 = [matrix; nrow];         % add new row to create 4x2 matrix
mat3 = [matrix, ncol];         % add new column to create 3x3 matrix
mat3(:,2) = [];                % remove second column
mat2(1:2,:) = [];              % remove first and second rows

Vector and matrix operations

Matlab is desinged for matrix operations and the syntax accommodates the goal by allowing variables to be matrices, and there is no need for loop statements to achieve the same goal.

mat1 = [1 0; 0 1];
mat2 = [-1 1; 1 2];
mat1 + mat2                    % element-wise summation of matrices
mat1 * mat2                    % matrix multiplication
mat1 .* mat2                   % element-wise multiplication (notice the dot before star)
mat1 / 2                       % divide all elements of mat1 with 2
mat2^2                         % matrix square
mat2.^2                        % element-wise square
ans =

     0     1
     1     3

ans =

    -1     1
     1     2

ans =

    -1     0
     0     2

ans =

    0.5000         0
         0    0.5000

ans =

     2     1
     1     5

ans =

     1     1
     1     4

Useful matrix/vectors functions

See help for length, size, numel, unique, ndims, isequal, ones, zeros, rand, magic, randn, logical

Some keywords

Looping is done with for or while statement. The example below sums over all elements of vector1. For defining your own functions see example_function.m

s = 0;
for i = 1:length(vector1)         % loop variable 'i' does not need to be defined before, but it will remain in workspace
    s = s + vector1(i);

s = 0;
i = 1;
while i <= length(vector1)        % loop variable must be defined before while statement
    s = s + vector1(i);
    i = i + 1;

s = sum(vector1);                 % built-in function for summation

% conditional statement 'if' must be enclosed with 'end' keyword
a = 3;
if a == 3
    fprintf('%d\n', a);

if      a == 1
elseif  a == 2

Saving/loading variables

See ‘help save’ and ‘help load’ for details

save myfile.mat singleval magicmat                     % save 2 variables in myfile.mat
save('myfile.mat', 'singleval', 'magicmat', '-mat');   % same as above but in function form
load myfile.mat magicmat                               % load 1 variables from myfile.mat
load('myfile.mat', 'magicmat');                        % same as above but in function form
save('mytxt.txt', '-ascii', 'vector1');                % save in text format

Deleting variables

Removing unnecessary variable from memory is done with clear

clear singleval  magicmat  strval    % remove specified variables

Enabling paths for functions

In order to get your function working which is located someplace else than the curretn path in Matlab, you must explicitly add it with addpath command, while rmpath removes the path. For example, if you are currently in c:\work (win) or /work (linux) folder, and your function ‘myfun.m’ is in subfolder codes (/work/codes/myfun.m) then you must add the path with ‘addpath codes’ to be able to call your myfun.m function. You can use relative path to your subfolder (absolute path also).

pwd                             % show the current working directory
addpath(tempdir)                % add temporary directory to Matlab path
rmpath(tempdir)                 % remove temporary directory to Matlab path
% addpath '/work/matlab/other/'   % add some directory (absolute path)

Plotting, i.e. showing some numbers

Here are some examples how to show data graphically. For more possibilities and options, see plot, plot3, boxplot, scatter, mesh, surf, hist functions.

% Plotting a function in matlab is (usually) done numerically. That is, you
% first create a grid of points on the x-axis and evaluate the function on
% the points. The you draw a plot based on these function values.

x = linspace(0,10);        % linspace creates 100 equally spaced points between the given parameters
plot(x,sin(x));            % create a new figure and plot results

figure;                    % create a new figure
plot(x, exp(x), 'rx')      % plot with markers only
hold on;                   % use this to include multiple graphs in the same figure
plot(x, exp(x-1), 'k--')   % plot with dashed line
hold off                   % remove option to add more graphs to the current figure

% gcf returns the handle of currently selected figure
saveas(gcf, 'fig', 'fig');                 % save figure with matlab extension
saveas(gcf, 'fig', 'eps');                 % save in eps format
print(gcf, 'fig.png', '-r300', '-dpng');   % save in png format

% creating many plots within the same figure
subplot(2,1,1);            % create 'top' plot
subplot(2,1,2);            % create 'bottom' plot

clf;                       % clear current figure
plot(x, sin(x));
xlabel('ticks');           % add name for horizontal axis
ylabel('sine');            % add name for vertical axis
title('simple plot');      % add title for figure
axis([-1 11 -2 2]);        % modify the range of plot
shg                        % show figure (if you are in command window)

Cells and structures

Organizing your variables into meaningful objects (another variables) can be done with cells and structures. For help see ‘help cell’ and ‘help struct’ Cells are collections of objects, where elements do not have to be of the same type. They are defined by using curly brackets, instead of parentheses.

cell1 = {'a', 1, [1 0; 1 1]};
cell1{1}                             % accessing elements similar to matrices but with curly brackets
                                     % return the contents of a cell
cell1(1)                             % return a cell itself (not really important)
cell2 = cell(3,2);                   % allocate memory for new cell
cell{1,3} = ones(3,2);
cell{2,1} = 'orange';

structure1.field1 = 2;               % structures and fields
structure1.field2 = 1:6;             % fields can be of different type and size
structure1.field3 = 'string';
structure2 = struct('field1', 1, 'field2', 'hello', 'field3', -5:5);

structure2 = rmfield(structure2, 'field1') %to remove a field
ans =


ans =

  1×1 cell array


structure2 = 

  struct with fields:

    field2: 'hello'
    field3: [-5 -4 -3 -2 -1 0 1 2 3 4 5]

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