INTRODUCTION TO MATLAB | Matlab Tutorial | Introduction

Introduction to matlabThe graphical interface to the MATLAB workspace

INTRODUCTION TO MATLAB – The name MATLAB stands for MATrix LABoratory. MATLAB was written originally to provide easy access to matrix software developed by the LINPACK (linear system package) and EISPACK (Eigen system package) projects.

MATLAB is a high-performance language for technical computing. It integrates computation, visualization, and programming environment. Furthermore, MATLAB is a modern programming language environment: it has sophisticated data structures, contains built-in editing and debugging tools, and supports object-oriented programming. These factors make MATLAB an excellent tool for teaching and research.

MATLAB has many advantages compared to conventional computer languages (e.g., C, FORTRAN) for solving technical problems. MATLAB is an interactive system whose basic data element is an array that does not require dimensioning. The software package has been commercially available since 1984 and is now considered as a standard tool at most universities and industries worldwide.

It has powerful built-in routines that enable a very wide variety of computations. It also has easy to use graphics commands that make the visualization of results immediately available. Specific applications are collected in packages referred to as toolbox. There are toolboxes for signal processing, symbolic computation, control theory, simulation, optimization, and several other fields of applied science and engineering.

Starting MATLAB

When you start MATLAB, a special window called the MATLAB desktop appears. The desktop is a window that contains other windows. The major tools within or accessible from the desktop are:

• The Command Window

• The Command History

• The Workspace

• The Current Directory

• The Help Browser

• The Start button

Introduction to matlab
The graphical interface to the MATLAB workspace

When MATLAB is started for the first time, the screen looks like the one that shown in the Figure 1.1. This illustration also shows the default configuration of the MATLAB desktop. You can customize the arrangement of tools and documents to suit your needs

Now, we are interested in doing some simple calculations. We will assume that you have sufficient understanding of your computer under which MATLAB is being run.

You are now faced with the MATLAB desktop on your computer, which contains the prompt (>>) in the Command Window. Usually, there are 2 types of prompt:

>>   for full version

EDU> for educational version

Note: To simplify the notation, we will use this prompt, >>, as a standard prompt sign, though our MATLAB version is for educational purpose.

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Using MATLAB as a calculator

As an example of a simple interactive calculation, just type the expression you want to evaluate. Let’s start at the very beginning. For example, let’s suppose you want to calculate the expression, 1 + 2 × 3. You type it at the prompt command (>>) as follows,

>> 1+2*3

ans = 7

You will have noticed that if you do not specify an output variable, MATLAB uses a default variable ans, short for answer, to store the results of the current calculation. Note that the variable ans is created (or overwritten, if it is already existed). To avoid this, you may assign a value to a variable or output argument name. For example

>> x = 1+2*3

x = 7

will result in x being given the value 1 + 2 × 3 = 7. This variable name can always be used to refer to the results of the previous computations. Therefore, computing 4x will result in

>> 4*x

ans = 28.0000

Before we conclude this minimum session, Table below gives the partial list of arithmetic operators.

Introduction to Matlab
Basic arithmetic operators

Quitting MATLAB

To end your MATLAB session, type quit in the Command Window, or select File −→ Exit MATLAB in the desktop main menu.

Getting started

After learning the minimum MATLAB session, we will now learn to use some additional operations.

Creating MATLAB variables

MATLAB variables are created with an assignment statement. The syntax of variable assignment is

variable name = a value (or an expression)

For example,

>> x = expression

where expression is a combination of numerical values, mathematical operators, variables, and function calls. On other words, expression can involve:

•manual entry

• built-in functions

• user-defined functions

Overwriting variable

Once a variable has been created, it can be reassigned. In addition, if you do not wish to see the intermediate results, you can suppress the numerical output by putting a semicolon (;) at the end of the line. Then the sequence of commands looks like this:

>> t = 5;

>> t = t+1

t = 6 

Error messages

If we enter an expression incorrectly, MATLAB will return an error message. For example, in the following, we left out the multiplication sign, *, in the following expression

>> x = 10;

>> 5x

??? 5x


Error: Unexpected MATLAB expression.

Making corrections

To make corrections, we can, of course retype the expressions. But if the expression is lengthy, we make more mistakes by typing a second time. A previously typed command can be recalled with the up-arrow key ↑. When the command is displayed at the command prompt, it can be modified if needed and executed.

Controlling the hierarchy of operations or precedence

Let’s consider the previous arithmetic operation, but now we will include parentheses. For example, 1 + 2 × 3 will become (1 + 2) × 3

>> (1+2)*3

ans = 9

and, from previous example

>> 1+2*3

ans = 7 

By adding parentheses, these two expressions give different results: 9 and 7

The order in which MATLAB performs arithmetic operations is exactly that taught in high school algebra courses. Exponentiations are done first, followed by multiplications and divisions, and finally by additions and subtractions. However, the standard order of precedence of arithmetic operations can be changed by inserting parentheses. For example, the result of 1+2×3 is quite different than the similar expression with parentheses (1+2)×3. The results are 7 and 9 respectively. Parentheses can always be used to overrule priority, and their use is recommended in some complex expressions to avoid ambiguity.

Therefore, to make the evaluation of expressions unambiguous, MATLAB has established a series of rules. The order in which the arithmetic operations are evaluated is given in Table below.

matlab tutorial
Hierarchy of arithmetic operations

MATLAB arithmetic operators obey the same precedence rules as those in most computer programs. For operators of equal precedence, evaluation is from left to right. Now, consider another example:

In MATLAB, it becomes

>> 1/(2+3^2)+4/5*6/7

ans = 0.7766

or, if parentheses are missing,

>> 1/2+3^2+4/5*6/7

ans = 10.1857

So here what we get: two different results. Therefore, we want to emphasize the importance of precedence rule in order to avoid ambiguity.

Controlling the appearance of floating point number

MATLAB by default displays only 4 decimals in the result of the calculations, for example −163.6667, as shown in above examples. However, MATLAB does numerical calculations in double precision, which is 15 digits. The command format controls how the results of computations are displayed. Here are some examples of the different formats together with the resulting outputs.

>> format short

>> x=-163.6667

If we want to see all 15 digits, we use the command format long

>> format long

>> x= -1.636666666666667e+002

To return to the standard format, enter format short, or simply format.

There are several other formats. For more details, see the MATLAB documentation, or type help format.

Note – Up to now, we have let MATLAB repeat everything that we enter at the prompt (>>). Sometimes this is not quite useful, in particular when the output is pages en length. To prevent MATLAB from echoing what we type, simply enter a semicolon (;) at the end of the command. For example,

>> x=-163.6667;

and then ask about the value of x by typing,

>> x

x = -163.6667

Managing the workspace

The contents of the workspace persist between the executions of separate commands. Therefore, it is possible for the results of one problem to have an effect on the next one. To avoid this possibility, it is a good idea to issue a clear command at the start of each new independent calculation.

>> clear

The command clear or clear all removes all variables from the workspace. This frees up system memory. In order to display a list of the variables currently in the memory, type

>> who

while, whos will give more details which include size, space allocation, and class of the variables.

Keeping track of your work session

It is possible to keep track of everything done during a MATLAB session with the diary command.

>> diary

or give a name to a created file,

>> diary FileName

where FileName could be any arbitrary name you choose.

The function diary is useful if you want to save a complete MATLAB session. They save all input and output as they appear in the MATLAB window. When you want to stop the recording, enter diary off. If you want to start recording again, enter diary on. The file that is created is a simple text file. It can be opened by an editor or a word processing program and edited to remove extraneous material, or to add your comments. You can use the function type to view the diary file or you can edit in a text editor or print. This command is useful, for example in the process of preparing a homework or lab submission.

Entering multiple statements per line

It is possible to enter multiple statements per line. Use commas (,) or semicolons (;) to enter more than one statement at once. Commas (,) allow multiple statements per line without suppressing output.

>> a=7; b=cos(a), c=cosh(a)

b = 0.6570

c = 548.3170

Miscellaneous commands

Here are few additional useful commands:

• To clear the Command Window, type clc

• To abort a MATLAB computation, type ctrl-c

• To continue a line, type . . .

Getting help

To view the online documentation, select MATLAB Help from Help menu or MATLAB Help directly in the Command Window. The preferred method is to use the Help Browser. The Help Browser can be started by selecting the ? icon from the desktop toolbar. On the other hand, information about any command is available by typing

>> help Command

Another way to get help is to use the lookfor command. The lookfor command differs from the help command. The help command searches for an exact function name match, while the lookfor command searches the quick summary information in each function for a match. For example, suppose that we were looking for a function to take the inverse of a matrix. Since MATLAB does not have a function named inverse, the command help inverse will produce nothing. On the other hand, the command lookfor inverse will produce detailed information, which includes the function of interest, inv.

>> lookfor inverse

You can see the complete Matlab Matlab here:

  1. Introduction to Matlab
  2. Chapter 2 on Matlab
  3. Matrix on Matlab
  4. Array And Linear Operation Matlab
  5. Programming in Matlab
  6. Control Flow and Operation in Matlab
  7. Debugging M-files in Matlab
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