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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

are nano particles real
Missy Reply
Hello, if I study Physics teacher in bachelor, can I study Nanotechnology in master?
Lale Reply
no can't
where we get a research paper on Nano chemistry....?
Maira Reply
nanopartical of organic/inorganic / physical chemistry , pdf / thesis / review
what are the products of Nano chemistry?
Maira Reply
There are lots of products of nano chemistry... Like nano coatings.....carbon fiber.. And lots of others..
Even nanotechnology is pretty much all about chemistry... Its the chemistry on quantum or atomic level
no nanotechnology is also a part of physics and maths it requires angle formulas and some pressure regarding concepts
Preparation and Applications of Nanomaterial for Drug Delivery
Hafiz Reply
Application of nanotechnology in medicine
has a lot of application modern world
what is variations in raman spectra for nanomaterials
Jyoti Reply
ya I also want to know the raman spectra
I only see partial conversation and what's the question here!
Crow Reply
what about nanotechnology for water purification
RAW Reply
please someone correct me if I'm wrong but I think one can use nanoparticles, specially silver nanoparticles for water treatment.
yes that's correct
I think
Nasa has use it in the 60's, copper as water purification in the moon travel.
nanocopper obvius
what is the stm
Brian Reply
is there industrial application of fullrenes. What is the method to prepare fullrene on large scale.?
industrial application...? mmm I think on the medical side as drug carrier, but you should go deeper on your research, I may be wrong
How we are making nano material?
what is a peer
What is meant by 'nano scale'?
What is STMs full form?
scanning tunneling microscope
how nano science is used for hydrophobicity
Do u think that Graphene and Fullrene fiber can be used to make Air Plane body structure the lightest and strongest. Rafiq
what is differents between GO and RGO?
what is simplest way to understand the applications of nano robots used to detect the cancer affected cell of human body.? How this robot is carried to required site of body cell.? what will be the carrier material and how can be detected that correct delivery of drug is done Rafiq
analytical skills graphene is prepared to kill any type viruses .
Any one who tell me about Preparation and application of Nanomaterial for drug Delivery
what is Nano technology ?
Bob Reply
write examples of Nano molecule?
The nanotechnology is as new science, to scale nanometric
nanotechnology is the study, desing, synthesis, manipulation and application of materials and functional systems through control of matter at nanoscale
Is there any normative that regulates the use of silver nanoparticles?
Damian Reply
what king of growth are you checking .?
how did you get the value of 2000N.What calculations are needed to arrive at it
Smarajit Reply
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Source:  OpenStax, An introduction to matlab. OpenStax CNX. Jan 20, 2006 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10323/1.3
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