MATLAB Command Summary

This is a good summary of many common MATLAB commands. It is reproduced here in HTML format. Source: PDF file posted at several sites but originally created by Dr. Brian Vick of Virginia Tech.


General Purpose Commands

Operators and Special Characters

+ Plus; addition operator.
- Minus; subtraction operator.
.* Scalar and matrix multiplication operator.
* Array multiplication operator.
.^ Scalar and matrix exponentiation operator.
^ Array exponentiation operator.
.\ Scalar left-division operator.
./ Scalar right-division operator.
\ Array left-division operator.
/ Array right-division operator.
: Colon; generates regularly spaced elements and represents an entire row or column.
( ) Parentheses; encloses function arguments and array indices; overrides precedence.
[ ] Brackets; enclosures array elements.
. Decimal point.
Ellipsis; line-continuation operator.
, Comma; separates statements and elements in a row.
; Semicolon; separates columns and suppresses display.
% Percent sign; designates a comment and specifies formatting.
Quote sign and transpose operator.
.’ Nonconjugated transpose operator.
= Assignment (replacement) operator.

Commands for Managing a Session

clc Clears Command window.
clear Removes variables from memory.
exist Checks for existence of file or variable.
global Declares variables to be global.
help Searches for a help topic.
lookfor Searches help entries for a keyword.
quit Stops MATLAB.
who Lists current variables.
whos Lists current variables (long display).

Special Variables and Constants

ansMost recent answer
epsAccuracy of floating-point precision
i,jThe imaginary unit sqrt(-1)
NaNUndefined numerical result (not a number)
piThe number 3.14159...

System and File Commands

cd Changes current directory.
date Displays current date.
delete Deletes a file.
diary Switches on/off diary file recording.
dir Lists all files in current directory.
load Loads workspace variables from a file.
path Displays search path.
pwd Displays current directory.
save Saves workspace variables in a file.
type Displays contents of a file.
what Lists all MATLAB files in the current directory.
wklread Reads .wk1 spreadsheet file.

Input/Output and Formatting Commands

Input/Output Commands

disp Displays contents of an array or string.
fscanf Read formatted data from a file.
format Controls screen-display format.
fprintf Performs formatted writes to screen or file.
sprintf Performs formatted writes to a text variable.
input Displays prompts and waits for input.
; Suppresses screen printing.
[txt1 txt2 'literal'] Concatenate text
{ txt1, txt2, 'literal' } Use a cell array to represent multi-line text

Format Codes for fprintf and fscanf

Format Codes for fprintf and fscanf
%s Format as a string.
%d Format as an integer.
%f Format as a floating point value.
%e Format as a floating point value in scientific notation.
%g Format in the most compact form: %f or %e.
\n Insert a new line in the output string.
\t Insert a tab in the output string.

Numeric Display Format

format short Four decimal digits (default).
format long 16 decimal digits.
format short e Five digits plus exponent.
format long e 16 digits plus exponents.
format bank Two decimal digits.
format + Positive, negative, or zero.
format rat Rational approximation.
format compact Suppresses some line feeds.
format loose Resets to less compact display mode.

Vector, Matrix and Array Commands

Array Commands

cat Concatenates arrays.
find Finds indices of nonzero elements.
length Computers number of elements.
linspace Creates regularly spaced vector.
logspace Creates logarithmically spaced vector.
max Returns largest element.
min Returns smallest element.
prod Product of each column.
reshape Change size
size Computes array size.
sort Sorts each column.
sum Sums each column.

Special Matrices

eye Creates an identity matrix.
ones Creates an array of ones.
zeros Creates an array of zeros.

Matrix Arithmetic

cross Computes cross products.
dot Computes dot products.

Matrix Commands for Solving Linear Equations

det Computes determinant of an array.
inv Computes inverse of a matrix.
pinv Computes pseudoinverse of a matrix.
rank Computes rank of a matrix.
rref Computes reduced row echelon form.

Cell Array Functions

cell Creates cell array.
celldisp Displays cell array.
cellplot Displays graphical representation of cell array.
num2cell Converts numeric array to cell array.
deal Matches input and output lists.
iscell Identifies cell array.

Structure Functions

fieldnames Returns field names in a structure array.
getfield Returns field contents of a structure array.
isfield Identifies a structure array field.
isstruct Identifies a structure array.
rmfield Removes a field from a structure array.
setfield Sets contents of field.
struct Creates structure array.

Plotting Commands

Basic xy Plotting Commands

axis Sets axis limits.
fplot Intelligent plotting of functions.
grid Displays gridlines.
plot Generates xy plot.
print Prints plot or saves plot to a file
title Puts text at top of plot.
xlabel Adds text label to x-axis.
ylabel Adds text label to y-axis.

Plot Enhancement Commands

axes Creates axes objects.
close Closes the current plot.
close all Closes all plots.
figure Opens a new figure window.
gtext Enables label placement by mouse.
hold Freezes current plot.
legend Legend placement by mouse.
refresh Redraws current figure window.
set Specifies properties of objects such as axes.
subplot Creates plots in subwindows.
text Places string in figure.

Specialized Plot Commands

bar Creates bar chart.
loglog Creates log-log plot.
polar Creates polar plot.
semilogx Creates semilog plot (logarithmic abscissa).
semilogy Creates semilog plot (logarithmic ordinate).
stairs Creates stairs plot.
stem Creates stem plot.

Colors, Symbols and Line Types


  Symbol   Line
y yellow . point - solid
m magenta o circle : dotted
c cyan x x-mark -. dash dotted
r red + plus -- dashed
g green * star    
b blue d diamond
w white v triangle (down)
k black ^ triangle (up)
  triangle (left)
triangle (right)
p pentagram
h hexagram

Three-Dimensional Plotting Commands

contour Creates contour plot.
mesh Creates three-dimensional mesh surface plot.
meshc Same as mesh with contour plot underneath.
meshz Same as mesh with vertical lines underneath.
plot3 Creates three-dimensional plots from lines and points.
surf Creates shaded three-dimensional mesh surface plot.
surfc Same as surf with contour plot underneath.
meshgrid Creates rectangular grid.
waterfall Same as mesh with mesh lines in one direction.
zlabel Adds text label to z-axis.

Histogram Functions

bar Creates a bar chart.
hist Aggregates the data into equally spaced bins.
histc Aggregates the data into unequally spaced bins.


Logical and Relational Operators

== Relational operator:  equal to.
~= Relational operator:  not equal to.
Relational operator:  less than.
<= Relational operator:  less than or equal to.
Relational operator:  greater than.
>= Relational operator:  greater than or equal to.
& Logical operator:  AND.
| Logical operator:  OR.
~ Logical operator:  NOT.
xor Logical operator:  EXCLUSIVE OR.

Program Flow Control

break Terminates execution of a loop.
case Provides alternate execution paths within switch structure.
else Delineates alternate block of statements.
elseif Conditionally executes statements.
end Terminates for, while, and if statements.
error Display error messages.
for Repeats statements a specific number of times
if Executes statements conditionally.
otherwise Default part of switch statement.
return Return to the invoking function.
switch Directs program execution by comparing point with case expressions.
warning Display a warning message.
while Repeats statements an indefinite number of times.

Logical Functions

any True if any elements are nonzero.
all True if all elements are nonzero.
find Finds indices of nonzero elements.
finite True if elements are finite.
isnan True if elements are undefined.
isinf True if elements are infinite.
isempty True if matrix is empty.
isreal True if all elements are real.


eval Interpret strings containing Matlab expressions.
feval Function evaluation.
function Creates a user-defined function M-file.
global Define global variables.
nargin Number of function input arguments.
nargout Number of function output arguments.
varargin Cell array that will allow for a variable number of function inputs.
nargout Cell array that will allow for a variable number of function outputs.
script Script M-files


cputime CPU time in seconds.
clock Current date and time as date vector.
tic, toc Start, stop a stopwatch timer.

Mathematical Functions

Exponential and Logarithmic Functions

Square root
exp(x)Exponential; ex
log(x)Natural logarithm; ln(x)
log10(x)Common (base 10) logarithm; log(x) = log10(x)

Trigonometric Functions

Note: these functions assume/return angle values in radians. There are similar functions (suffixed with a d) that work in degrees. See the help file for details.
acos(x) Inverse cosine; arcos x = cos –1 (x).
acot(x) Inverse cotangent; arccot x = cot –1(x).
acsc(x) Inverse cosecant; arcs x = csc –1 (x).
asec(x) Inverse secant; arcsec x = sec –1 (x).
asin(x) Inverse sine; arcsin x = sin –1 (x).
atan(x) Inverse tangent; arctan x = tan –1 (x).
atan2(y,x) Four-quadrant inverse tangent.
cos(x) Cosine; cos(x).
cot(x) Cotangent; cot(x).
csc(x) Cosecant; csc(x).
sec(x) Secant; sec(x).
sin(x) Sine; sin(x).
tan(x) Tangent; tan(x).

Hyperbolic Functions

acosh(x) Inverse hyperbolic cosine; cosh –1 (x).
acoth(x) Inverse hyperbolic cotangent; coth –1 (x).
acsch(x) Inverse hyperbolic cosecant; csch –1 (x).
asech(x) Inverse hyperbolic secant; sech –1 (x).
asinh(x) Inverse hyperbolic sine; sinh –1 (x).
atanh(x) Inverse hyperbolic tangent; tanh –1 (x).
cosh(x) Hyperbolic cosine; cosh(x).
coth(x) Hyperbolic cotangent; cosh(x)/sinh(x).
csch(x) Hyperbolic cosecant; 1/sinh(x).
sech(x) Hyperbolic secant; 1/cosh(x).
sinh(x) Hyperbolic sine; sinh(x).
tanh(x) Hyperbolic tangent; sinh(x)/cosh(x).

Complex Functions

abs(x) Absolute value; |x|.
angle(x) Angle of a complex number x.
conj(x) Complex conjugate of x.
imag(x) Imaginary part of a complex number x.
real(x) Real part of a complex number x.

Statistical Functions

erf(x) Computes the error function erf (x).
mean Calculates the average.
median Calculates the median.
std Calculates the standard deviation.

Random Number Functions

rand Generates uniformly distributed random numbers between 0 and 1.
randn Generates normally distributed random numbers.

Numeric Functions

ceil Rounds to the nearest integer toward •.
fix Rounds to the nearest integer toward zero.
floor Rounds to the nearest integer toward - •.
round Rounds towards the nearest integer.
sign Signum function.

String Functions

findstr Finds occurrences of a string.
strcmp Compares strings.
char Creates character string array

Numerical Methods

Polynomial and Regression Functions

conv Computes product of two polynomials
deconv Computes ratio of polynomials.
eig Computes the eigenvalues of a matrix.
poly Computes polynomial from roots.
polyfit Fits a polynomial to data.
polyval Evaluates polynomial and generates error estimates.
roots Computes polynomial roots.

Interpolation Functions

interp1 Linear and cubic-spline interpolations of a function of one variable.
interp2 Linear interpolation of a function of two variables.
spline Cubic-spline interpolation.
unmkpp Computes the coefficients of cubic-spine polynomials.

Root Finding and Minimization

fmin Finds minimum of single-variable function.
fmins Finds minimum of multivariable function.
fzero Finds zero of single-variable function.

Numerical Integration Functions

quad Numerical integration with adaptive Simpson’s rule.
quadl Numerical integration with adaptive Lobatto quadrature.
trapz Numerical integration with the trapezoidal rule.

Numerical Differentiation Functions

diff(x) Computes the difference between adjacent elements in the vector x.
polyder Differentiates a polynomial, a polynomial product, or a polynomial quotient.

ODE Solvers

ode23 Nonstiff, low-order solver.
ode45 Nonstiff, medium-order solver.
ode113 Nonstiff, variable-order solver.
ode23s Stiff, low-order.
ode23t Moderately stiff, trapezoidal rule solver.
ode23b Stiff, low-order solver.
ode15s Stiff, variable-order solver.
odeset Creates integrator options structure for ODE solvers.

Predefined Input Functions

gensig Generates a periodic sine, square, or pulse input.
sawtooth Generates a periodic sawtooth input.
square Generates a square wave input.
stepfun Generates a step function input.

Symbolic Math Toolbox

Functions for Creating and Evaluating Symbolic Expressions

class Returns the class of an expression.
digits Sets the number of decimal digits used to do variable precision arithmetic.
double Converts an expression to numeric form.
ezplot Generates a plot of a symbolic expression.
findsym Finds the symbolic variables in a symbolic expression.
numden Returns the numerator and denominator of an expression.
sym Creates a symbolic variable.
syms Creates one or more symbolic variables.
vpa Sets the number of digits used to evaluate expressions.

Functions for Manipulating Symbolic Expressions

collect Collects coefficients of like powers in an expression.
expand Expands an expression by carrying out jpowers.
factor Factors an expression.
poly2sym Converts a polynomial coefficient vector to a symbolic polynomial.
pretty Displays an expression in a form that resembles typeset mathematics.
simple Searches for the shortest form of an expression.
simplify Simplifies an expression using Maple’s simplification rules.
subs Substitutes variables or expressions.
sym2poly Converts an expression to a polynomial coefficient vector.

Symbolic Calculus Functions

diff Returns the derivative of an expression.
Dirac Dirac delta function (unit impulse).
Heaviside Heaviside function (unit step).
int Returns the integral of an expression.
limit Returns the limit of an expression.
symsum Returns the symbolic summation of an expression.
taylor Returns the Taylor series of a function.

Symbolic Solution of Algebraic and Transcendental Equations

solve Solves symbolic equations.

Symbolic Solution of Differential Equations

dsolve Returns a symbolic solution of a differential equation or set of equations.

Laplace Transform Functions

ilaplace Returns the inverse Laplace transform.
laplace Returns the Laplace transform.

Symbolic Linear Algebra Functions

det Returns the determinant of a matrix.
eig Returns the eigenvalues (characteristic roots) of a matrix.
inv Returns the inverse of a matrix.
poly Returns the characteristic polynomial of a matrix.