<< Chapter < Page Chapter >> Page >
This module covers basic use of MATLAB, and you will be up and running on variables, matrices, mathematical operations and the built-in help system in just a few minutes.

Matlab help

MATLAB has a great on-line help system accessible using the help command. Typing


will return text information about the chosen function. For example to get information about the built-infunction sum type:

help sum

To list the contents of a toolbox type help<toolbox>, e.g. to show all the functions of the signal processing toolbox enter

help signal processing

If you don't know the name of the function but a suitable keyword use the lookfor followed by a keyword string, e.g.

lookfor 'discrete fourier'

To explore the extensive help system use the "Help menu" or try the commands helpdesk or demo .

Matrices, vectors and scalars

MATLAB uses matrices as the basic variable type. Scalars and vectors are special cases of matrices having size 1x1,1xN or Nx1. In MATLAB, there are a few conventions for entering data:

  • Elements of a row are separated with blanks or commas.
  • Each row is ended by a semicolon, ;.
  • A list of elements must be surrounded by square brackets, [ ]

It is easy to create basic variables.

x = 1 (scalar)

y = [2 4 6 8 10] (row vector)

z = [2; 4; 6; 8; 10] (column vector)

A = [4 3 2 1 0; 1 3 5 7 9] (2 x 5 matrix)

Regularly spaced values of a vector can be entered using the following compact notation


A more compact way of entering variables than in Example 1 is shown here:

y= 2 : 2 : 10


If the skip is omitted it will be set to 1, i.e., the following are equivalent

start:1:end and start:end

To create a string use the single quotation mark " ' ", e.g. by entering x = 'This is a string' .

Indexing matrices and vectors

Indexing variables is straightforward. Given a matrix M the element in the i'th row, j'th column is given by M(i,j) . For a vector v the i'th element is given by v(i) . Note that the lowest allowed index in MATLAB is 1. This is in contrast withmany other programming languages (e.g. JAVA and C), as well as the common notation used in signal processing, where indexing starts at0. The colon operator is also of great help when accessing specific parts of matrices and vectors, as shown below.

This example shows the use of the colon operator for indexing matrices and vectors.

A(1,:) returns the first row of the matrix A.

A(:,3) returns the third column of the matrix A.

A(2,1:5) returns the first five elements of the second row.

x(1:2:10) returns the first five odd-indexed elements of the vector x.

Basic operations

MATLAB has built-in functions for a number of arithmetic operations and functions. Most of them arestraightforward to use. The Table below lists the some commonly used functions. Let x and y be scalars, M and N matrices.

Common mathematical operations in matlab
x y x*y
x y x^y
e x exp(x)
log( x ) log10(x)
ln( x ) log(x)
log2( x ) log2(x)
M -1 inv(M)
M T M'
det( M ) det(M)

  • Dimensions - MATLAB functions length and size are used to find the dimensions of vectors and matrices, respectively.
  • Elementwise operations - If an arithmetic operation should be done on each component in a vector (or matrix), rather than on thevector (matrix) itself, then the operator should be preceded by ".", e.g .*, .^ and ./.

Elementwise operations, part I

Let A 1 1 1 1 . Then A^2 will return AA 2 2 2 2 , while A.^2 will return 1 2 1 2 1 2 1 2 1 1 1 1 .

Elementwise operations, part II

Given a vector x, and a vector y having elements y n 1 x n . This can be easily be done in MATLAB by typing y=1./sin(x) Note that using / in place of ./ would result in the (common) error Matrix dimensions must agree .

Complex numbers

MATLAB has excellent support for complex numbers with several built-in functions available. The imaginaryunit is denoted by i or (as preferred in electrical engineering) j . To create complex variables z 1 7 and z 2 2 e simply enter z1 = 7 + j and z2 = 2*exp(j*pi)

The Table below gives an overview of the basic functions for manipulating complex numbers, where z is a complex number.

Manipulating complex numbers in matlab
Re( z ) real(z)
Im( z ) imag(z)
z abs(z)
Angle( z ) angle(z)
z * conj(z)

Other useful details

  • A semicolon added at the end of a line tells MATLAB to suppress the command output to the display.
  • MATLAB and case sensitivity . For variables MATLAB is case sensitive, i.e., b and B are different. For functions it is case insensitive,i.e., sum and SUM refer to the same function.
  • Often it is useful to split a statement over multiple lines. To split a statement across multiple lines, enter three periods "..." at the end of the line to indicate that it continues on the next line.

Splitting y a b c over multiple lines. y = a... + b...+ c;

Questions & Answers

a perfect square v²+2v+_
Dearan Reply
kkk nice
Abdirahman Reply
algebra 2 Inequalities:If equation 2 = 0 it is an open set?
Kim Reply
or infinite solutions?
Embra Reply
if |A| not equal to 0 and order of A is n prove that adj (adj A = |A|
Nancy Reply
rolling four fair dice and getting an even number an all four dice
ramon Reply
Kristine 2*2*2=8
Bridget Reply
Differences Between Laspeyres and Paasche Indices
Emedobi Reply
No. 7x -4y is simplified from 4x + (3y + 3x) -7y
Mary Reply
is it 3×y ?
Joan Reply
J, combine like terms 7x-4y
Bridget Reply
im not good at math so would this help me
Rachael Reply
how did I we'll learn this
Noor Reply
f(x)= 2|x+5| find f(-6)
Prince Reply
f(n)= 2n + 1
Samantha Reply
Need to simplify the expresin. 3/7 (x+y)-1/7 (x-1)=
Crystal Reply
. After 3 months on a diet, Lisa had lost 12% of her original weight. She lost 21 pounds. What was Lisa's original weight?
Chris Reply
preparation of nanomaterial
Victor Reply
Yes, Nanotechnology has a very fast field of applications and their is always something new to do with it...
Himanshu Reply
can nanotechnology change the direction of the face of the world
Prasenjit Reply
At high concentrations (>0.01 M), the relation between absorptivity coefficient and absorbance is no longer linear. This is due to the electrostatic interactions between the quantum dots in close proximity. If the concentration of the solution is high, another effect that is seen is the scattering of light from the large number of quantum dots. This assumption only works at low concentrations of the analyte. Presence of stray light.
Ali Reply
the Beer law works very well for dilute solutions but fails for very high concentrations. why?
bamidele Reply
how did you get the value of 2000N.What calculations are needed to arrive at it
Smarajit Reply
Got questions? Join the online conversation and get instant answers!
QuizOver.com Reply

Get the best Algebra and trigonometry course in your pocket!

Source:  OpenStax, An introduction to matlab. OpenStax CNX. Jan 20, 2006 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10323/1.3
Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google Inc.

Notification Switch

Would you like to follow the 'An introduction to matlab' conversation and receive update notifications?