Undocumented property – Undocumented Matlab https://undocumentedmatlab.com Charting Matlab's unsupported hidden underbelly Sun, 17 Dec 2017 10:44:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.4.1 MathWorks-solicited Java surveyhttps://undocumentedmatlab.com/blog/mathworks-solicited-java-survey https://undocumentedmatlab.com/blog/mathworks-solicited-java-survey#comments Wed, 22 Mar 2017 22:05:34 +0000 http://undocumentedmatlab.com/?p=6866
Related posts:
  1. Minimize/maximize figure window Matlab figure windows can easily be maximized, minimized and restored using a bit of undocumented magic powder...
  2. Types of undocumented Matlab aspects This article lists the different types of undocumented/unsupported/hidden aspects in Matlab...
  3. FindJObj – find a Matlab component’s underlying Java object The FindJObj utility can be used to access and display the internal components of Matlab controls and containers. This article explains its uses and inner mechanism....
  4. Matlab callbacks for Java events Events raised in Java code can be caught and handled in Matlab callback functions - this article explains how...
Over the years I’ve reported numerous uses for integrating Java components and functionality in Matlab. As I’ve also recently reported, MathWorks is apparently making a gradual shift away from standalone Java-based figures, toward browser-based web-enabled figures. As I surmised a few months ago, MathWorks has created dedicated surveys to solicit user feedbacks on the most important (and undocumented) non-compatible aspects of this paradigm change: one regarding users’ use of the javacomponent function, the other regarding the use of the figure’s JavaFrame property:

In MathWorks’ words:

In order to extend your ability to build MATLAB apps, we understand you sometimes need to make use of undocumented Java UI technologies, such as the JavaFrame property. In response to your needs, we are working to develop documented alternatives that address gaps in our app building offerings.

To help inform our work and plans, we would like to understand how you are using the JavaFrame property. Based on your understanding of how it is being used within your app, please take a moment to fill out the following survey. The survey will take approximately 1-2 minutes to finish.

I urge anyone who uses one or both of these features to let MathWorks know how you’re using them, so that they could incorporate that functionality into the core (documented) Matlab. The surveys are really short and to the point. If you wish to send additional information, please email George.Caia at mathworks.com.

The more feedback responses that MathWorks will get, the better it will be able to prioritize its R&D efforts for the benefit of all users, and the more likely are certain features to get a documented solution at some future release. If you don’t take the time now to tell MathWorks how you use these features in your code, don’t complain if and when they break in the future…

My personal uses of these features

  • Functionality:
    • Figure: maximize/minimize/restore, enable/disable, always-on-top, toolbar controls, menu customizations (icons, tooltips, font, shortcuts, colors)
    • Table: sorting, filtering, grouping, column auto-sizing, cell-specific behavior (tooltip, context menu, context-sensitive editor, merging cells)
    • Tree control
    • Listbox: cell-specific behavior (tooltip, context menu)
    • Tri-state checkbox
    • uicontrols in general: various event callbacks (e.g. mouse hover/unhover, focus gained/lost)
    • Ability to add Java controls e.g. color/font/date/file selector panel or dropdown, spinner, slider, search box, password field
    • Ability to add 3rd-party components e.g. JFreeCharts, JIDE controls/panels

  • Appearance:
    • Figure: undecorated (frameless), other figure frame aspects
    • Table: column/cell-specific rendering (alignment, icons, font, fg/bg color, string formatting)
    • Listbox: auto-hide vertical scrollbar as needed, cell-specific renderer (icon, font, alignment, fg/bg color)
    • Button/checkbox/radio: icons, text alignment, border customization, Look & Feel
    • Right-aligned checkbox (button to the right of label)
    • Panel: border customization (rounded/matte/…)

You can find descriptions/explanations of many of these in posts I made on this website over the years.

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Sending email/text messages from Matlabhttps://undocumentedmatlab.com/blog/sending-email-text-messages-from-matlab https://undocumentedmatlab.com/blog/sending-email-text-messages-from-matlab#comments Wed, 07 Dec 2016 21:24:03 +0000 http://undocumentedmatlab.com/?p=6765
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In this day and age, applications are expected to communicate with users by sending email/text messages to alert them about applicative events (“IBM stock purchased @$99.99” or “House is on fire!”). Matlab has included the sendmail function to handle this for many years. Unfortunately, sendmail requires some tweaking to be useful on all but the most basic/insecure mail servers. Today’s post will hopefully fill the missing gaps.

None of the information I’ll present today is really new – it was all there already if you just knew what to search for online. But hopefully today’s post will concentrate all these loose ends in a single place, so it may have some value:

Using a secure mail server

All modern mail servers use end-to-end TLS/SSL encryption. The sendmail function needs extra configuration to handle such connections, since it is configured for a non-encrypted connection by default. Here’s the code that does this for gmail, using SMTP server smtp.gmail.com and default port #465 (for other SMTP servers, see here):

setpref('Internet', 'SMTP_Server',   'smtp.gmail.com');
setpref('Internet', 'SMTP_Username', username);
setpref('Internet', 'SMTP_Password', password);
props = java.lang.System.getProperties;
props.setProperty('mail.smtp.auth',                'true');  % Note: 'true' as a string, not a logical value!
props.setProperty('mail.smtp.starttls.enable',     'true');  % Note: 'true' as a string, not a logical value!
props.setProperty('mail.smtp.socketFactory.port',  '465');   % Note: '465'  as a string, not a numeric value!
props.setProperty('mail.smtp.socketFactory.class', 'javax.net.ssl.SSLSocketFactory');
sendmail(recipient, title, body, attachments);  % e.g., sendmail('recipient@gmail.com', 'Hello world', 'What a nice day!', 'C:\images\sun.jpg')

All this is not enough to enable Matlab to connect to gmail’s SMTP servers. In addition, we need to set the Google account to allow access from “less secure apps” (details, direct link). Without this, Google will not allow Matlab to relay emails. Other mail servers may require similar server-side account configurations to enable Matlab’s access.

Note: This code snippet uses a bit of Java as you can see. Under the hood, all networking code in Matlab relies on Java, and sendmail is no exception. For some reason that I don’t fully understand, MathWorks chose to label the feature of using sendmail with secure mail servers as a feature that relies on “undocumented commands” and is therefore not listed in sendmail‘s documentation. Considering the fact that all modern mail servers are secure, this seems to make sendmail rather useless without the undocumented extension. I assume that TMW are well aware of this, which is the reason they posted a partial documentation in the form of an official tech-support answer. I hope that one day MathWorks will incorporate it into sendmail as optional input args, so that using sendmail with secure servers would become fully documented and officially supported.

Emailing multiple recipients

To specify multiple email recipients, it is not enough to set sendmail‘s recipient input arg to a string with , or ; delimiters. Instead, we need to provide a cell array of individual recipient strings. For example:

sendmail({'recipient1@gmail.com','recipient2@gmail.com'}, 'Hello world', 'What a nice day!')

Note: this feature is actually fully documented in sendmail‘s doc-page, but for some reason I see that some users are not aware of it (to which it might be said: RTFM!).

Sending text messages

With modern smartphones, text (SMS) messages have become rather outdated, as most users get push notifications of incoming emails. Still, for some users text messages may still be a useful. To send such messages, all we need is to determine our mobile carrier’s email gateway for SMS messages, and send a simple text message to that email address. For example, to send a text message to T-Mobile number 123-456-7890 in the US, simply email the message to 1234567890@tmomail.net (details).

Ke Feng posted a nice Matlab File Exchange utility that wraps this messaging for a wide variety of US carriers.

User configuration panel

Many GUI programs contain configuration panels/tabs/windows. Enabling the user to set up their own email provider is a typical use-case for such a configuration. Naturally, you’d want your config panel not to display plain-text password, nor non-integer port numbers. You’d also want the user to be able to test the email connection.

Here’s a sample implementation for such a panel that I implemented for a recent project – I plan to discuss the implementation details of the password and port (spinner) controls in my next post, so stay tuned:

User configuration of emails in Matlab GUI (click to zoom-in)
User configuration of emails in Matlab GUI (click to zoom-in)

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Faster findjobjhttps://undocumentedmatlab.com/blog/faster-findjobj https://undocumentedmatlab.com/blog/faster-findjobj#comments Mon, 11 Apr 2016 09:18:14 +0000 http://undocumentedmatlab.com/?p=6376
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My findjobj utility, created in 2007 and updated over the years, has received wide recognition and is employed by numerous Matlab programs, including a few dozen utilities in the Matlab File Exchange. I am quite proud of this utility and find it extremely useful for customizing Matlab controls in many ways that are impossible using standard Matlab properties. I have shown many examples of this in this blog over the past years.

I am happy to announce that I have just uploaded a new version of findjobj to the Matlab File Exchange, which significantly improves the utility’s performance for the most common use-case of a single input and a single output, namely finding the handle of the underlying Java component (peer) of a certain Matlab control:

>> hButton = uicontrol('String','click me!');
>> tic, jButton = findjobj(hButton); toc  % old findjobj
Elapsed time is 1.513217 seconds.
>> tic, jButton = findjobj(hButton); toc  % new findjobj
Elapsed time is 0.029348 seconds.

The new findjobj is backward-compatible with the old findjobj and with all prior Matlab releases. It is a drop-in replacement that will significantly improve your program’s speed.

The new version relies on several techniques:

First, as I showed last year, in HG2 (R2014 onward), Matlab uipanels have finally become full-featured Java JPanels, that can be accessed and customized in many interesting manners. More to the point here, we can now directly access the underlying JPanel component handle using the uipanel‘s hidden JavaFrame property (thanks to MathWorks for supplying this useful hook!). The new findjobj version detects this and immediately returns this handle if the user specified a uipanel input.

I still do not know of any direct way to retrieve the underlying Java component’s handle for Matlab uicontrols, this has been a major frustration of mine for quite a few years. So, we need to find the containing Java container in which we will recursively search for the control’s underlying Java handle. In the old version of finjobj, we retrieve the containing figure’s JFrame reference and from it the ContentPane handle, and use this handle as the Java container that is recursively searched. This is quite slow when the figure window is heavily-laden with multiple controls. In the new version, we try to use the specified Matlab uicontrol‘s direct parent, which is very often a uipanel. In this case, we can directly retrieve the panel’s JPanel reference as explained above. This results in a must smaller and faster search since we need to recursively search far fewer controls within the container, compared to the figure’s ContentPane.

In addition, I used a suggestion by blog reader Hannes for a faster recursive search that uses the control’s tooltip rather than its size, position and class. Finally, the search order is reversed to search backward from the last child component, since this is the component that will most often contain the requested control peer.

Feel free to download and use the new findjobj version. The code for the fast variant can be found in lines #190-205 and #3375-3415.


p.s. – as I explained last week, today’s discussion, and in general anything that has to do with Java peers of GUI controls, only relates to the existing JFrame-based figure windows, not to the new web-based uifigure.

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Customizing contour plots part 2https://undocumentedmatlab.com/blog/customizing-contour-plots-part-2 https://undocumentedmatlab.com/blog/customizing-contour-plots-part-2#comments Wed, 09 Mar 2016 18:00:49 +0000 http://undocumentedmatlab.com/?p=6304
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A few months ago I discussed various undocumented manners by which we can customize Matlab contour plots. A short while ago I receive an email from a blog reader (thanks Frank!) alerting me to another interesting way by which we can customize such plots, using the contour handle’s hidden ContourZLevel property. In today’s post I will explain how we can use this property and expand the discussion with some visualization interactivity.

The ContourZLevel property

The contour handle’s ContourZLevel property is a hidden property. This means that, just like all other hidden properties, it is accessible if we just happen to know its name (which is easy using my getundoc utility). This property sets the Z level at which the contour lines are drawn.

For example, by default the meshc function sets ContourZLevel‘s value to the bottom of the 3D display (in other words, to the axes’ ZLim(1) value). This is done within the mesh.m function:

Standard Matlab meshc output (contour at bottom)

Standard Matlab meshc output (contour at bottom)

We can, however, modify the contour’s level value to any other Z location:

% create a mesh and contour plot
handles = meshc(peaks);
% handles is a 2-element array of handles: the surface plot and the contours
hContour = handles(2); % get the handle to the contour lines
hContour.ContourZLevel = 4.5; % set the contour's Z position (default: hAxes.ZLim(1)=-10)
% We can also customize other aspects of the contour lines, for example:
hContour.LineWidth = 2; % set the contour lines' width (default: 0.5)

Customized Matlab meshc output

Customized Matlab meshc output

Adding some visualization interactivity

Now let’s add some fun interactivity using a vertical slider to control the contour’s height (Z level). Matlab’s slider uicontrol is really just an ugly scrollbar, so we’ll use a Java JSlider instead:

% Add a controlling slider to the figure
jSlider = javaObjectEDT(javax.swing.JSlider);
[hjSlider, hContainer] = javacomponent(jSlider, [10,10,30,120], gcf);
% Set the slider's action callback
hAxes = hContour.Parent;  % handle to containing axes
zmin = hAxes.ZLim(1);
zmax = hAxes.ZLim(2);
zrange = zmax - zmin;
cbFunc = @(hSlider,evtData) set(hContour,'ContourZLevel',hSlider.getValue/100*zrange+zmin);
hjSlider.StateChangedCallback = cbFunc;  % set the callback for slider action events
cbFunc(hjSlider,[]);  % evaluate the callback to synchronize the initial display

Interactive contour height

Interactive contour height

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HG2 updatehttps://undocumentedmatlab.com/blog/hg2-update https://undocumentedmatlab.com/blog/hg2-update#comments Thu, 16 May 2013 00:38:19 +0000 http://undocumentedmatlab.com/?p=3789
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Exactly three years ago, I posted information (here and here) about Matlab’s upcoming new graphics engine, so-called HG2 (Handle Graphics version 2). At the time, I was sure that HG2 was just around the corner. But three years and six releases have passed, Matlab 7 turned into Matlab 8, and HG1 is still in use. I decided that it was time to revisit the latest state of HG2, as reflected in the latest release, R2013a (Matlab 8.1).

In the past few years, development of HG2 has apparently progressed to a stage where most of the kinks were ironed out. The latest HG2 appears to be quite stable, and in my experience most GUI/graphics utilities run as-is, without any need for tweaking. This is good news, which leads me to think that HG2 will be released soon. It is possible that this could happen as early as the upcoming release (R2013b, 8.2) but I have a gut feeling that it will be in R2014a. I also have a gut feeling that MathWorks will name that release 9.0 rather than 8.3, in keeping with its arch-rival Mathematica.

HG2 has improved grid lines, plot anti-aliasing and customizable everything (more on this below). Here’s a simple plot line as it appears in both HG1 and HG2:

hFig = figure('pos',[100,100,300,250]);
x = -10:0.1:10;
y = 1e7*sin(x)./x; 
hLine = plot(x,y);
box off; grid on;
title('HG2 plot');

HG1 plotHG2 plot

Same plot in HG1 and HG2

We can see that MathWorks has invested heavily in improving usability. The graphics are now much more visually appealing than before. A lot of thought has gone into small details such as the plot colors and the axes gray shades. The changes are small when taken separately, but the overall gestalt is striking. HG2 will definitely justify my license maintenance cost.

Addendum Oct 3 2014: HG2 is finally released in Matlab release R2014b (8.4 – not 9.0 as I surmised above). However, many of the advanced customizations shown in this article are still unsupported and undocumented. I plan to detail them in a separate upcoming series of articles.

Highly customizable

Matlab in HG2 mode acts and behaves pretty much as you would expect. There are no visible changes to the Desktop or the graphics interface. The major difference is that all graphics handles, whether interactive controls (figure, uicontrols, uitables, etc.) or graph elements (axes, lines, patches, etc.) are instances of class objects (e.g., matlab.ui.Figure or matlab.graphics.chart.primitive.Line) rather than numeric values. This makes it easy to issue commands such as:

hFig.Color = 'w';
hAxes = gca;
hAxes.Title.Color = 'm';  % default: [0,0,0] = black
hAxes.YRuler.SecondaryLabel.String = 'millions';  % original: 'x10^{6}'
hAxes.YRuler.SecondaryLabel.FontAngle = 'italic';  % default: 'normal'
hAxes.YRuler.Axle.LineStyle = 'dotted';  % default: 'solid'
hAxes.YRuler.Axle.ColorData = uint8([0,100,0,255])';  %=dark green; default: [51 51 51 255], corresponding to [0.2 0.2 0.2 1]
hAxes.YBaseline.Color = 'b';  % default: [0.2 0.2 0.2]
hAxes.YBaseline.Visible = 'on';  % default: 'off'
hAxes.XRuler.Axle.Visible = 'off';  % default: 'on'
hLine.Color = [1,0,0];  %='red'

rather than using the corresponding set(…) or get(…) functions, which are still supported for backward compatibility.

Customized HG2 plot

Customized HG2 plot

Notice how much more customizable HG2 is compared to HG1. I am pretty excited from the huge number of additional possible customizations in HG2 compared to HG1. It is real a pity that many of these customizations rely on hidden/undocumented properties (see below). Hopefully this will change when HG2 is officially released.

Some observations

Here are a few observations that I collected on the latest HG2, as reflected in R2013a:

  1. Java is still supported (hurray!). The warnings about the figure’s JavaFrame property becoming deprecated have fortunately not been fulfilled (hopefully never). All the Java-based GUI tricks shown on this blog and in my book still work, excluding some minor things here and there which are due to inter-release changes rather than to the new HG2 engine.
  2. In order to access the top-level Java Frame of a figure window, we now need to use javaFrame.fHG2Client rather than javaFrame.fHG1Client. The relevant code should now look something like this, in order to be fully-compatible with older Matlab releases:
    jFrame = get(handle(hFig), 'JavaFrame');
        % This works up to R2011a
            % This works from R2008b and up, up to HG2
            % This works in HG2
  3. Anti-aliasing of plot elements (a.k.a. line -smoothing) is now ‘on’ by default (double hurray!). Apparently, MathWorks solved the problems with the existing undocumented LineSmoothing property. Still, for some unknown reason, LineSmoothing remains a hidden/undocumented property. Note that for some objects the property name is different. For example, the axes title (which is a text object of class matlab.graphics.primitive.Text) has a new property called Smoothing that controls anti-aliasing (unlike LineSmoothing, Smoothing appears to be an un-hidden fully-documented property).
    R2013b addendum: The figure handle now includes a property called GraphicsSmoothing that controls anti-aliasing at the entire figure level (default=’on’). No more need to set individual graphic elements, although we still can if we want (alas, this flexibility may be removed soon – see item #6 below). I would have liked to see the anti-aliasing feature use the same property name for all graphic elements, rather than GraphicsSmoothing/LineSmoothing/Smoothing, but maybe I’m just being an ungrateful spoil-sport… The good news about GraphicsSmoothing is that this is a non-hidden property. This means it can be seen with get(gcf) and once HG2 becomes live it will become fully documented/supported – hurray!
  4. Many new properties have been added to graphic objects, that enable customization of different aspects. For example, we can customize the axes grid-lines, containing box and exponent labels in ways that were impossible in HG1 (triple hurray!). Note that many of these new properties are hidden/undocumented (why the hell for???), so we need a utility such as my uiinspect or getundoc to detect them. Some of the useful new axes properties include *Ruler, *Baseline, *GridHandle, BoxFrame and BackDrop (I showed an example usage of *Ruler and *Baseline above). I have absolutely no idea why these so-useful properties are kept hidden, it simply makes no sense.
  5. Some existing HG1 properties are missing. For example, the UserData property is no longer available for some Java objects (this is a real pity — I depended on it for many functionalities, such as storing node-specific data in uitree/JTree nodes). Similarly, axes no longer have *LimInclude properties (this actually makes sense – these properties are still available in plot lines, where they actually have a use).
  6. Some existing HG1 properties now issue a warning, although they still work. For example:
    >> hAxes.DrawMode = 'fast';
    Warning: The DrawMode property will be removed in a future release.
    (Type "warning off MATLAB:hg:willberemoved" to suppress this warning.) 
    >> hLine.LineSmoothing
    Warning: The LineSmoothing property will be removed in a future release.
    (Type "warning off MATLAB:hg:willberemoved" to suppress this warning.) 
    ans =

    R2013b addendum: hAxes.DrawMode no longer issues a warning, although hLine.LineSmoothing does.

  7. There is an open bug on R2012b and R2013a whereby the clf function does not delete javacomponent objects. This bug does not affect HG2, where clf works properly.
  8. Some GUI components are being placed a pixel or two sideways in HG2 compared to HG1. This has no visual importance except in very rare cases, but it does affect my findjobj utility, which relies on the component’s position to find its underlying Java object. I have updated findjobj for the upcoming HG2 and it should work with both HG1 and HG2.
  9. The default axes and labels color has changed from black to gray ([0.2 0.2 0.2]). Grid lines now use an even lighter gray shade. Visually I think that this is a great change, since it directs the viewer’s focus on the plot contents rather than the external decorations.
  10. The default axes plot color order has changed. The standard plot color is no longer blue (as it was for ages in Matlab), but a bluish tint; the second color is no longer red but light green; the third color is reddish rather than dark green, etc.:
    % HG1
    >> get(0,'defaultAxesColorOrder')
    ans =
                0            0            1
                0          0.5            0
                1            0            0
                0         0.75         0.75
             0.75            0         0.75
             0.75         0.75            0
             0.25         0.25         0.25
    >> get(0,'defaultAxesColorOrder')
    ans =
         0.070588      0.40784      0.70196
          0.92941      0.14118      0.14902
          0.60784       0.7451      0.23922
          0.48235      0.17647       0.4549
                1      0.78039            0
          0.30196       0.7451      0.93333
          0.82353       0.4549            0

    R2013b addendum: The default colors have changed a bit (for the better I think). I still think that the relative order should more closely match the current order (blue-green-red-etc.), for compatibility with existing apps. A small utility function could be added that modifies the color-order to something that may be better suited for color-differentiation (see Tim Holy’s excellent utility for an example).

  11. HG2 axes no longer forget the previous plot color (unless we used hold all) — in HG2 color cycling is on by default. Note that this causes some visual discrepancies between HG1 and HG2 in plots that use hold on and have multiple plot lines: In HG1 they were all blue; in HG2 the first is bluish, the second is greenish, then reddish etc.
  12. GUIDE is still the same-ol’ GUIDE (sigh!). The figure toolbar and menubar have likewise not been upgraded, as far as I could tell.
  13. HG2 performance appears to be generally slower than HG1. Hopefully this will improve by the time HG2 is released, since performance has been one of HG1’s drawbacks all along. In my tests, most GUI/graphic aspects ran only slightly slower in HG2, except for 2D plots that were significantly slower. This is corroborated by running bench: on my computer, HG1 yields 0.4 for 2D and 0.22 for 3D; in HG2 the performance is 2.1 for 2D and 0.18 for 3D. Looks like the 2D performance still needs some work…

Testing HG2

As noted in my original article, we can start Matlab in HG2 mode by simply adding the startup (command-line) switch -hgVersion 2 to the Matlab command (note the space between the -hgVersion and the “2”). For example, in Windows, all you need to do is to copy your Matlab shortcut sideways (so that you will always have the standard HG1 version available), then right-click the shortcut, select “Properties”, then add -hgVersion 2 to the Target field (note the space between “hgVersion” and “2”). You will probably want to also add the “HG2” descriptor to the shortcut name, in the “General” tab:

Matlab startup switch for HG2

Matlab startup switch for HG2

If you have any Matlab application that relies on GUI or graphics, I urge you to test it on the new HG2 system. It’s trivially simple and your application should work exactly the same, or better. If you do detect some incompatibility, please post a comment or shoot me an email. In due course I expect that MathWorks will open an official channel for this, but in the meantime I’ll be sure to pass the information to the relevant person.

Do take a moment for testing HG2 – we can all contribute to ensure that when HG2 does come out it will be perfect. It’s in our interest.

NYC visit

If you happen to be in New York next week, I urge you to attend the MATLAB Computational Conference on Thursday May 23 (free registration; my presentation is scheduled for 4:50pm). I would be happy to meet you to discuss how I could bring value to your needs, either financial-oriented or not. We could meet at the conference, or anywhere in New York on Wednesday May 22 or Friday May 24.

Matlab Computational Finance Conference - 23 May 2013

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Pinning annotations to graphshttps://undocumentedmatlab.com/blog/pinning-annotations-to-graphs https://undocumentedmatlab.com/blog/pinning-annotations-to-graphs#comments Wed, 12 Dec 2012 18:00:51 +0000 http://undocumentedmatlab.com/?p=3398
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  1. uiundo – Matlab’s undocumented undo/redo manager The built-in uiundo function provides easy yet undocumented access to Matlab's powerful undo/redo functionality. This article explains its usage....
  2. Matlab’s HG2 mechanism HG2 is presumably the next generation of Matlab graphics. This article tries to explore its features....
  3. New information on HG2 More information on Matlab's new HG2 object-oriented handle-graphics system...
  4. Adding dynamic properties to graphic handles It is easy and very useful to attach dynamic properties to Matlab graphics objects in run-time. ...
Many Matlab users are aware of Matlab’s annotation functionality, which enables us to assign graphic elements such as arrows, lines, ellipses and text labels to Matlab figures. Matlab has a corresponding built-in function, annotation, that enables creation of annotation objects. Through the handle returned by annotation we can customize the annotation’s appearance (for example, line width/style or text font properties).

Limitations of Matlab annotations

Unfortunately, annotation has several major deficiencies, that are in fact related:

A Matlab text-arrow annotation (unpinned)

A Matlab text-arrow annotation (unpinned)

  1. annotation requires us to specify the annotation’s position in normalized figure units. Often, we are interested in an annotation on a plot axes that does NOT span the entire figure’s content area. To correctly convert the position from plot axes data coordinates to figure coordinates requires non-trivial calculations.
  2. The created annotation is NOT pinned to the plot axes by default. This means that the annotation retains its relative position in the figure when the plot is zoomed, panned or rotated. This results in unintelligible and misleading annotations. We can indeed pin the annotation to the graph, but this requires delicate manual interaction (click the Edit Plot toolbar icon, then right-click the relevant annotation end-point, then select “Pin to Axes” from context menu). Unfortunately, the annotation handle does not provide a documented way to do this programmatically.
  3. Finally, the annotation objects are only displayed on top of plot axes – they are obscured by any GUI uicontrols that may happen to be present in the figure.

All of these limitations originate from the underlying implementation of annotation objects in Matlab. This is based on a transparent hidden axes that spans the entire figure’s content area, on which the annotations are being drawn (also called the scribe layer). The annotations may appear to be connected to the plot axes, but this is merely a visual illusion. In fact, they are located in a separate axes layer. For this reason, annotation requires figure position – in fact, the annotation has no information about the axes beneath it. Since plot axes are always obscured by uicontrols, so too is the annotation layer.

Matlab’s implementation of annotation is an attempt to replicate Java’s standard glass-pane mechanism. But whereas the Java glass-pane is a true transparent layer, on top of all other window components (examples), Matlab’s implementation only works for axes.

Oh well, it’s better than nothing, I guess. But still, it would be nice if we could specify the annotation in graph (plot axes) data units, and have it pinned automatically without requiring manual user interaction.

Debugging the problem

The obvious first place to start debugging this issue is to go to the annotation handle’s context-menu (accessible via the UIContextMenu property), drill down to the “Pin” menu item and take a look at its callback. We could then use the hgfeval function to execute this callback programmatically. Unfortunately, this does not work well, because the context-menu is empty when the annotation is first created. A context-menu is only assigned to the annotation after the Edit Plot toolbar button and then the annotation object are clicked.

Being too lazy in nature to debug this all the way through, I opted for an easier route: I started the Profiler just prior to clicking the context-menu’s “Pin to Axes”, and stopped it immediately afterwards. This showed me the code path (beneath %matlabroot%/toolbox/matlab/scribe/), and placing breakpoints in key code lines enabled me to debug the process step-by-step. This in turn enabled me to take the essence of the pinning code and implement it in my stand-alone application code.

Believe me when I say that the scribe code is complex (anyone say convoluted?). So I’ll spare you the gruesome details and skip right to the chase.

The solution

Positioning the annotation in axes data units

The first step is to ensure that the initial annotation position is within the figure bounds. Otherwise, the annotation function will shout. Note that it is ok to move the annotation outside the figure bounds later on (via panning/zooming) – it is only the initial annotation creation that must be within the figure bounds (i.e., between 0.0-1.0 in normalized X and Y units):

% Prepare the annotation's X position
% Note: we need 2 X values: one for the annotation's head, another for the tail
x = [xValue, xValue];
xlim = get(hAxes,'XLim');
% Prepare the annotation's Y position
% Note: we need 2 Y values: one for the annotation's head, another for the tail
% Note: we use a static Y position here, spanning the center of the axes.
% ^^^^  We could have used some other Y data value for this
yLim = get(hAxes,'YLim');
y = yLim(1) + 0*sum(yLim) + [0.1,0]*diff(ylim);  % TODO: handle reverse, log Y axes
% Ensure that the annotation fits in the window by enlarging
% the axes limits as required
if xValue < xlim(1) || xValue > xlim(2)
    % YLim may have changed, so recalculate y
    yLim = get(hAxes,'YLim');
    y = yLim(1) + 0*sum(yLim) + [0.1,0]*diff(ylim);  % TODO: handle reverse, log Y-axes

Next, we convert our plot data units, in order to get the annotation’s requested position in the expected figure units. For this we use %matlabroot%/toolbox/matlab/scribe/@scribe/@scribepin/topixels.m. This is an internal method of the scribepin UDD class, so in order to use it we need to create a dummy scribepin object. topixels then converts the dummy object’s position from axes data units to pixel units. We then use the undocumented hgconvertunits function to convert from pixel units into normalized figure units:

% Convert axes data position to figure normalized position
% uses %matlabroot%/toolbox/matlab/scribe/@scribe/@scribepin/topixels.m
scribepin = scribe.scribepin('parent',hAxes,'DataAxes',hAxes,'DataPosition',[x;y;[0,0]]');
figPixelPos = scribepin.topixels;
hFig = ancestor(hAxes,'figure');
figPos = getpixelposition(hFig);
figPixelPos(:,2) = figPos(4) - figPixelPos([2,1],2);
figNormPos = hgconvertunits(hFig,[figPixelPos(1,1:2),diff(figPixelPos)],'pixels','norm',hFig);
annotationX = figNormPos([1,1]);
annotationY = figNormPos([2,2]) + figNormPos(4)*[1,0];
Pinning the annotation to the axes data

Finally, we use the annotation handle’s pinAtAffordance() method and set the Pin.DataPosition property to the requested X,Y values (we need to do both of these, otherwise the annotation will jump around when we zoom/pan):

A Matlab text-arrow annotation (pinned)

A Matlab text-arrow annotation (pinned)

% Ensure that the annotation is within the axes bounds, then display it
if any([annotationX,annotationY] < 0) || any([annotationX,annotationY] > 1)
    % Annotation position is outside axes boundaries, so bail out without drawing
    hAnnotation = handle([]);
elseif ~isempty(annotationObj)
    % Create a text-arrow annotation with the requested string at the requested position
    hAnnotation = handle(annotation('textarrow', annotationX, annotationY, ...
                                    'String',annotationStr, 'TextColor','b', 'Tag','annotation'));
    % Example for setting annotation properties
    hAnnotation.TextEdgeColor = [.8,.8,.8];
    % Pin the annotation object to the required axes position
    % Note: some of the following could fail in certain cases - never mind
        hAnnotation.Pin(1).DataPosition = [xValue, y(1), 0];
        hAnnotation.Pin(2).DataPosition = [xValue, y(2), 0];
        % never mind - ignore (no error)

p.s. Notice that all this relies on pure Matlab code (i.e., no mention of the dreaded J-word…). In fact, practically the entire scribe code is available in m-file format in the base Matlab installation. Masochistic readers may find many hours of pleasure sifting through the scribe code functionality for interesting nuggets such as the one above. If you ever find any interesting items, please drop me an email, or post a comment below.

Undocumented annotation properties

Annotation objects have a huge number of undocumented properties. In fact, they have more undocumented properties than documented ones. You can see this using my uiinspect or getundoc utilities. Here is the list for a simple text-arrow annotation, such as the one that we used above:

>> getundoc(hAnnotation)
ans = 
              ALimInclude: 'on'
                   Afsize: 6
          ApplicationData: [1x1 struct]
                 Behavior: [1x1 struct]
              CLimInclude: 'on'
               ColorProps: {5x1 cell}
     EdgeColorDescription: 'Color'
        EdgeColorProperty: 'Color'
                  Editing: 'off'
                EraseMode: 'normal'
     FaceColorDescription: 'Head Color'
        FaceColorProperty: 'HeadColor'
             FigureResize: 0
            HeadBackDepth: 0.35
                HeadColor: [0 0 0]
            HeadColorMode: 'auto'
            HeadEdgeColor: [0 0 0]
            HeadFaceAlpha: 1
            HeadFaceColor: [0 0 0]
               HeadHandle: [1x1 patch]
         HeadHypocycloidN: 3
            HeadLineStyle: '-'
            HeadLineWidth: 0.5
               HeadRosePQ: 2
                 HeadSize: 10
             HelpTopicKey: ''
          IncludeRenderer: 'on'
                 MoveMode: 'mouseover'
                    NormX: [0.2 0.4]
                    NormY: [0.5 0.7]
                      Pin: [0x1 double]
                   PinAff: [1 2]
           PinContextMenu: [2x1 uimenu]
                PinExists: [0 0]
              PixelBounds: [0 0 0 0]
        PropertyListeners: [8x1 handle.listener]
        ScribeContextMenu: [9x1 uimenu]
                 Selected: 'off'
             Serializable: 'on'
                ShapeType: 'textarrow'
                    Srect: [2x1 line]
           StoredPosition: []
                TailColor: [0 0 0]
               TailHandle: [1x1 line]
            TailLineStyle: '-'
            TailLineWidth: 0.5
     TextColorDescription: 'Text Color'
            TextColorMode: 'auto'
        TextColorProperty: 'TextColor'
        TextEdgeColorMode: 'manual'
            TextEraseMode: 'normal'
               TextHandle: [1x1 text]
         UpdateInProgress: 0
    VerticalAlignmentMode: 'auto'
              XLimInclude: 'on'
              YLimInclude: 'on'
              ZLimInclude: 'on'
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Types of undocumented Matlab aspectshttps://undocumentedmatlab.com/blog/types-of-undocumented-matlab-aspects https://undocumentedmatlab.com/blog/types-of-undocumented-matlab-aspects#respond Thu, 24 Nov 2011 18:00:36 +0000 http://undocumentedmatlab.com/?p=2534
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  2. Uitable sorting Matlab's uitables can be sortable using simple undocumented features...
  3. Matlab’s HG2 mechanism HG2 is presumably the next generation of Matlab graphics. This article tries to explore its features....
  4. Minimize/maximize figure window Matlab figure windows can easily be maximized, minimized and restored using a bit of undocumented magic powder...
Why are there so many undocumented aspects in Matlab?

This is a great question, recently asked by a reader of this blog, so I wanted to expand on it in next week’s article. Before specifying the different reasons, let’s map the nature of undocumented aspects that we find in Matlab.

The term undocumented/unsupported (as opposed to mis-documentated or deprecated) actually refers to quite a large number of different types.
In the following list, the hyperlinks on the list-item titles lead to a list of corresponding articles on this website:

  • Undocumented functions
    Matlab functions which appears nowhere in the documentation, are usually built-in functions (do not have an m-file) and can only be inferred from online CSSM posts or usage within one of the Matlab m-functions installed with Matlab (the latter being the usual case). None of these functions is officially supported by MathWorks. MEX is an important source for such functions.

  • Semi-documented functions
    Matlab functionality which exists in Matlab m-functions installed with Matlab, but have their main comment separated from the H1 comment line, thereby hiding it from normal view (via Matlab’s help function). The H1 comment line itself is simply a standard warning that this function is not officially supported and may change in some future version. To see the actual help comment, simply edit the function (using Matlab’s edit function or any text editor) and place a comment sign (%) at the empty line between the H1 comment and the actual help section. The entire help section will then onward be visible via the help function:

            function [tree, container] = uitree(varargin)
            % WARNING: This feature is not supported in MATLAB
            % and the API and functionality may change in a future release.
    fix =>  %
            % UITREE creates a uitree component with hierarchical data in a figure window.
            %   UITREE creates an empty uitree object with default property values in
            %   a figure window.

    These functions are not documented in the full documentation (via Matlab’s doc function, or online). The odd thing is that some of these functions may appear in the category help output (for example, help(‘uitools’)), and in some cases may even have a fully-visible help section (e.g., help(‘setptr’)), but do not have any online help documentation (docsearch(‘setptr’) fails, and doc(‘setptr’) simply displays the readable help text).

    All these functions are officially unsupported by MathWorks, even when having a readable help section. The rule of thumb appears to be that a Matlab function is supported only if it has online documentation. Note, however, that in some rare cases a documentation discrepancy may be due to a MathWorks documentation error, not to unsupportability…

  • Helper functions
    Many fully-supported Matlab functions use helper functions that have a specific use in the main (documented) function(s). Often, these helper functions are tightly-coupled to their documented parents and are useless as stand-alone functions. But quite a few of them have quite useful stand-alone use, as I’ve already shown in some past articles.

  • Undocumented features and properties
    Features of otherwise-documented Matlab functions, which appear nowhere in the official documentation. You guessed it – these are also not supported by MathWorks… Like undocumented functions, you can only infer such features by the occasional CSSM post or a reference somewhere in Matlab’s m-code.

  • Semi-documented features
    Features of otherwise-documented Matlab functions, which are documented in a separate section beneath the main help section, and nowhere else (not in the full doc not the online documentation). If you did not know in advance that these features existed, you could only learn of them by manually looking at Matlab’s m-files (which is what I do in most cases…).

  • Undocumented properties
    Many Matlab objects have internal properties, which can be retrieved (via Matlab’s get function) and/or set (via the set function) programmatically. All these properties are fully documented. Many objects also possess hidden properties, some of which are very interesting and useful, but which are undocumented and (oh yes) unsupported. Like undocumented features, they can only be inferred from CSSM or existing code. In a recent article I described my getundoc utility, which lists these undocumented properties of specified objects.

  • Internal Matlab classes
    Matlab uses a vast array of specialized Java classes to handle everything from algorithms to GUI. These classes are (of course) undocumented/unsupported. They can often be accessed directly from the Matlab Command Window or user m-files. GUI classes can be inferred by inspecting the figure frame’s Java components, and non-GUI classes can often be inferred from references in Matlab’s m-files.

  • Matlab-Java integration
    Matlab’s GUI interface, as well as the Java-to-Matlab interface (JMI) is fully undocumented and unsupported. In addition to JMI, there are other mechanisms to run Matlab code from within Java (namely JMI, COM and DDE) – these are all unsupported and by-and-large undocumented.

  • Matlab’s UDD mechanism
    UDD (Unified Data Definition?) is used extensively in Matlab as the internal object-oriented mechanism for describing object properties and functionalities. We can use UDD for a wide variety of uses. UDD was described in a series of articles here in early 2011.

Next week I will list the reasons that cause MathWorks to decide whether a particular feature or property should be documented or not.

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getundoc – get undocumented object propertieshttps://undocumentedmatlab.com/blog/getundoc-get-undocumented-object-properties https://undocumentedmatlab.com/blog/getundoc-get-undocumented-object-properties#comments Wed, 21 Sep 2011 19:00:16 +0000 http://undocumentedmatlab.com/?p=2437
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  3. Draggable plot data-tips Matlab's standard plot data-tips can be customized to enable dragging, without being limitted to be adjacent to their data-point. ...
  4. Undocumented view transformation matrix Matlab's view function returns an undocumented output transformation matrix....
Last week, I presented the list of undocumented properties available in Matlab’s cursor mode and data-tip objects. Over the past two years, I had posted quite a few other articles on this website that used such undocumented properties. So today I will show exactly how such properties can be discovered.

Hidden properties are object properties that for some reason or other MathWorks has decided not to expose to the general public. They can still be used by Matlab users, just like any other regular property. But if you use the built-in get and set functions to list the object’s properties, you will not find the hidden properties listed. You need to know the hidden properties’ exact name in order to use them. Which is where today’s post can help, by showing you how to list these hidden properties. I wrote about this a couple of years ago, and today’s article will expand on that original post.

Hidden properties are by their very nature undocumented and not officially supported. For this reason, you should take extra care when relying on them in your code. They could change functionality or even be removed without prior notice in any future Matlab release. Still, some of these properties enable very important functionality, as I have often shown on this website.


There are two distinct manners by which undocumented properties can be seen in Matlab. The simplest was reported by Hans Olsson all the way back in 1997, in one of the very earliest posts on the CSSM newsgroup (there is no earlier public report, as far as I could tell). Since then, this method was mentioned in about a dozen other CSSM posts.

By setting the Matlab root (handle 0)’s HideUndocumented property to ‘off’ (default=’on’), subsequent calls to the built-in get and set functions list the hidden properties in addition to the regular ones. Note that HideUndocumented is itself a hidden property, which is why Hans’ post is so important – he presented us with the loose end that then enabled us to untangle the hidden properties in any other HG object.

Here is a simple example, showing HideUndocumented‘s effect on the root (handle 0) object handle itself (hidden properties are highlighted):

% Display only regular properties
>> get(0)
	CallbackObject = []
	CommandWindowSize = [86 51]
	CurrentFigure = []
	Diary = off
	DiaryFile = diary
	Echo = off
	FixedWidthFontName = Courier New
	Format = longG
	FormatSpacing = compact
	Language = he_il
	MonitorPositions = [ (2 by 4) double array]
	More = off
	PointerLocation = [1084 590]
	RecursionLimit = [500]
	ScreenDepth = [32]
	ScreenPixelsPerInch = [96]
	ScreenSize = [1 1 1440 900]
	ShowHiddenHandles = off
	Units = pixels
	BeingDeleted = off
	ButtonDownFcn = 
	Children = []
	Clipping = on
	CreateFcn = 
	DeleteFcn = 
	BusyAction = queue
	HandleVisibility = on
	HitTest = on
	Interruptible = on
	Parent = []
	Selected = off
	SelectionHighlight = on
	Tag = 
	Type = root
	UIContextMenu = []
	UserData = []
	Visible = on
% Display ALL properties (including hidden ones, which are highlighted below)
>> set(0,'HideUndocumented','off')
>> get(0)
	BlackAndWhite = off	CallbackObject = []
	CommandWindowSize = [86 51]
	CurrentFigure = []
	Diary = off
	DiaryFile = diary
	Echo = off
	ErrorMessage = [ (1 by 79) char array]	FixedWidthFontName = Courier New
	Format = longG
	FormatSpacing = compact
	HideUndocumented = off	Language = he_il
	MonitorPositions = [ (2 by 4) double array]
	More = off
	PointerLocation = [1022 82]
	PointerWindow = [0]	RecursionLimit = [500]
	ScreenDepth = [32]
	ScreenPixelsPerInch = [96]
	ScreenSize = [1 1 1440 900]
	ShowHiddenHandles = off
	Units = pixels
	AutomaticFileUpdates = on 
	BeingDeleted = off
	PixelBounds = [0 0 0 0]	ButtonDownFcn = 
	Children = []
	Clipping = on
	CreateFcn = 
	DeleteFcn = 
	BusyAction = queue
	HandleVisibility = on
	HelpTopicKey = 	HitTest = on
	Interruptible = on
	Parent = []
	Selected = off
	SelectionHighlight = on
	Serializable = on	Tag = 
	Type = root
	UIContextMenu = []
	UserData = []
	ApplicationData = [ (1 by 1) struct array]	Behavior = [ (1 by 1) struct array]	Visible = on
	XLimInclude = on	YLimInclude = on	ZLimInclude = on	CLimInclude = on	ALimInclude = on	IncludeRenderer = on

Property definitions

An entirely different mechanism uses the schema.prop definitions that were presented here by Donn Scull at the beginning of 2011. The idea is to get the object’s classhandle reference, from it to get the list of properties definitions, and for each property look at its Visible meta-property: hidden properties will simply have Visible=’off’, whereas regular properties will have ‘on’.

It turns out that there is not always a full correspondence between these two mechanism. I can’t remember specific examples, and perhaps these were fixed in the latest Matlab releases. It doesn’t matter, because merging the list of hidden properties reported by these two methods is always safe to do. Which is exactly what my getundoc utility does:

getundoc utility

The getundoc utility is based on another utility by the same name, posted by Duane Hanselman to the Matlab File Exchange in 2006 (Duane has elected to remove all his submissions from FEX a year or two ago, but that’s an entirely separate [and extremely heated] topic for a different discussion). Duane’s original getundoc utility relied only on the first (HideUndocumented) mechanism.

I have since expanded this utility to include support for the second mechanism, as well as support for the upcoming HG2 (see below). The updated getundoc is now available for download on the File Exchange. Since it’s a very short utility, I will digress from my norm and simply present its code, in its present form, here:

function c = getundoc(arg)
%GETUNDOC Get Undocumented Object Properties.
% GETUNDOC('OBJECT') or GETUNDOC(H) returns a structure of
% undocumented properties (names & values) for the object having handle
% H or indentified by the string 'OBJECT'.
% For example, GETUNDOC('axes') or GETUNDOC(gca) returns undocumented
% property names and values for the axes object.
% Extension of Duane Hanselman's original utility (which is no longer
% available on the File Exchange):
% D.C. Hanselman, University of Maine, Orono, ME 04469
% MasteringMatlab@yahoo.com
% Mastering MATLAB 7
% 2006-01-06
if nargin~=1
   error('One Input Required.')
if ischar(arg) % GETUNDOC('OBJECT')
   switch lower(arg)
   case 'root'                                                       % root
   case 'figure'                                                   % figure
   otherwise                          % some other string name of an object
         error('Unknown Object Type String Provided.')         
elseif ishandle(arg) % GETUNDOC(H)
   error('Unknown Object Handle Provided.')
warning off                                      % supress warnings about obsolete properties
try set(0,'HideUndocumented','off'); catch; end  % Fails in HG2
undocfnames=fieldnames(get(h));                  % get props including undocumented
try set(0,'HideUndocumented','on'); catch; end   % Fails in HG2
docfnames=fieldnames(get(h));                    % get props excluding undocumented
% Yair 18/3/2010 - add a few more undocs:
    % This works in HG1
    props = get(classhandle(handle(h)),'properties');
    undocfnames = [undocfnames; get(props(strcmp(get(props,'Visible'),'off')),'Name')];
    % Yair 18/9/2011: In HG2, the above fails, so use the following workaround:
        prop = findprop(handle(h),undocfnames{1});
        props = prop.DefiningClass.PropertyList;
        undocfnames = [undocfnames; {props.Name}'];   % {props([props.Hidden]).Name}
        % ignore...
c = setdiff(undocfnames,docfnames);      % extract undocumented
% Get the values in struct format, if relevant
if ~isempty(c)
  s = struct;
  for fieldIdx = 1 : length(c)
          fieldName = c{fieldIdx};
          s.(fieldName) = get(h,fieldName);
          s.(fieldName) = '???';
  c = s;
% Yair end
if hf~=0                     % delete hidden figure holding selected object

Usage of this utility is extremely simple:

>> getundoc(0)
ans = 
             ALimInclude: 'on'
         ApplicationData: [1x1 struct]
    AutomaticFileUpdates: 'on'
                Behavior: [1x1 struct]
           BlackAndWhite: 'off'
             CLimInclude: 'on'
            ErrorMessage: [1x79 char]
            HelpTopicKey: ''
        HideUndocumented: 'on'
         IncludeRenderer: 'on'
             PixelBounds: [0 0 0 0]
           PointerWindow: 0
            Serializable: 'on'
             XLimInclude: 'on'
             YLimInclude: 'on'
             ZLimInclude: 'on'
>> getundoc(gcf)
ans = 
               ALimInclude: 'on'
    ActivePositionProperty: 'position'
           ApplicationData: [1x1 struct]
              BackingStore: 'on'
                  Behavior: [1x1 struct]
               CLimInclude: 'on'
                CurrentKey: ''
           CurrentModifier: {1x0 cell}
                 Dithermap: [64x3 double]
             DithermapMode: 'manual'
              DoubleBuffer: 'on'
            ExportTemplate: []
               FixedColors: [3x3 double]
                   HelpFcn: ''
              HelpTopicKey: ''
              HelpTopicMap: ''
           IncludeRenderer: 'on'
                 JavaFrame: [1x1 com.mathworks.hg.peer.HG1FigurePeer]
               MinColormap: 64
             OuterPosition: [436 374 568 502]
               PixelBounds: [0 0 560 420]
             PrintTemplate: []
              Serializable: 'on'
                    UseHG2: 'off'
                WaitStatus: []
               XLimInclude: 'on'
               YLimInclude: 'on'
               ZLimInclude: 'on'

Fixes for HG2

Unfortunately, in the new HG2 (which is still not in production, but we must be prepared, mustn’t we?), the original mechanism above (HideUndocumented) fails completely (there is no such property in the new matlab.ui.root object), whereas the second mechanism (UDD property defs) needs to be modified: Apparently, classhandle fails for HG2 object handles. Instead, we use the workaround of using findprop to get the property definition for any regular property, then get its parent (the requested class definition), and then down again to list all available properties. Note that in HG2, the relevant meta-property is Hidden which holds logical (true/false) values, as opposed to Visible and ‘off’/’on’ values for HG1 above.

All of these fixes are now incorporated in the getundoc code that is listed above.

When comparing the list of hidden properties in the existing HG1 and the new HG2, we see many interesting differences. And yes: the figure’s JavaFrame property was indeed removed in HG2. Bummer! (don’t worry – there are several workarounds up my sleeve…)

Do you have any favorite hidden property that you use in your code? If so, please tell us about it in a comment below.

p.s. – For all the numerous good people telling me about cprintf – Yes: I am aware that the latest R2011b release has broken cprintf‘s functionality. I plan to release a workaround sometime soon, when I have some spare time. I’ll keep everybody posted of course. Please be patient. (if you can’t wait, you can always hire me to fix it sooner; otherwise I need to give priority to my paying clients…)

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Controlling plot data-tipshttps://undocumentedmatlab.com/blog/controlling-plot-data-tips https://undocumentedmatlab.com/blog/controlling-plot-data-tips#comments Wed, 14 Sep 2011 20:42:40 +0000 http://undocumentedmatlab.com/?p=2432
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  2. Multi-column (grid) legend This article explains how to use undocumented axes listeners for implementing multi-column plot legends...
  3. getundoc – get undocumented object properties getundoc is a very simple utility that displays the hidden (undocumented) properties of a specified handle object....
  4. Inactive Control Tooltips & Event Chaining Inactive Matlab uicontrols cannot normally display their tooltips. This article shows how to do this with a combination of undocumented Matlab and Java hacks....
Plot data tips are a great visualization aid for Matlab plots. They enable users to interactively click on a plot location and see a tool-tip that contains the clicked location’s coordinates. The displayed tooltip text is even customizable using documented properties of the datacursormode object.

plot data tips

plot data tips

A client has recently asked me to automatically display an attached data-tip to the last data point of a plotted time series of values. The idea was to immediately see what the latest value of the data series is.

Unfortunately, the official documentation clearly says that:

You place data tips only by clicking data objects on graphs. You cannot place them programmatically (by executing code to position a data cursor).

Well, this has never stopped us before, has it?

Creating new data tips

Under the hood, data tips use a data-cursor mode, which shares many similarities in behavior and programming code with the other plot modes (zoom, pan, data-brushing, etc.). At any one time, only a single such mode can be active in any figure window (this is a known limitation of the design). The code itself it actually quite complex and handles numerous edge-cases. Understanding it by simply reading the code (under %matlabroot%\toolbox\matlab\graphics\) is actually pretty difficult. A much easier way to understand the programming flow is to liberally distribute breakpoints (start in datacursormode.m) and interactively activate the functionality, then debug the code step-by-step.

Luckily, it turns out that the code to create a new data-tip is actually quite simple: first get the data-cursor mode object, then create a new data tip using the mode’s createDatatip() method, update some data-tip properties and finally update the data-tip’s position:

% First plot the data
hLine = plot(xdata, ydata);
% First get the figure's data-cursor mode, activate it, and set some of its properties
cursorMode = datacursormode(gcf);
set(cursorMode, 'enable','on', 'UpdateFcn',@setDataTipTxt);
% Note: the optional @setDataTipTxt is used to customize the data-tip's content text
% Note: the following code was adapted from %matlabroot%\toolbox\matlab\graphics\datacursormode.m
% Create a new data tip
hTarget = handle(hLine);
hDatatip = cursorMode.createDatatip(hTarget);
% Create a copy of the context menu for the datatip:
% Set the data-tip orientation to top-right rather than auto
% Update the datatip marker appearance
set(hDatatip, 'MarkerSize',5, 'MarkerFaceColor','none', ...
              'MarkerEdgeColor','k', 'Marker','o', 'HitTest','off');
% Move the datatip to the right-most data vertex point
position = [xdata(end),ydata(end),1; xdata(end),ydata(end),-1];
update(hDatatip, position);

Note: If you don’t like messing with the code, consider using Tim Farajian’s MakeDataTip utility, which basically does all this behind the scenes. It is much easier to use as a stand-alone utility, although it does not give you the flexiblility with all the data-tip properties as in the code above.

Updating an existing data tip

To modify the appearance of a data-tip, we first need to get access to the hDatatip object that we created earlier, either programmatically, or interactively (or both). Since we can access pre-stored handles only of programmatically-created (not interactively-created) data-tips, we need to use a different method. There are actually two ways to do this:

The basic way is to search the relevant axes for objects that have Tag=’DataTipMarker’. For each data-tip, we will get two such handles: one for the marker (Type=’line’) and the other for the text box tooltip (Type=’text’). We can use these to update (for example) the marker size, color and style; and the text’s font, border and colors.

A better way is to access the graphics.datatip object itself. This can be done using two hidden properties of the datacursormode object:

% Get the list of all data-tips in the current figure
>> cursorMode = datacursormode(gcf)
cursorMode =
>> cursorMode.DataCursors
ans =
	graphics.datatip: 2-by-1
>> cursorMode.CurrentDataCursor
ans =
>> cursorMode.CurrentDataCursor.get
            Annotation: [1x1 hg.Annotation]
           DisplayName: ''
           HitTestArea: 'off'
          BeingDeleted: 'off'
         ButtonDownFcn: []
              Children: [2x1 double]
              Clipping: 'on'
             CreateFcn: []
             DeleteFcn: []
            BusyAction: 'queue'
      HandleVisibility: 'off'
               HitTest: 'off'
         Interruptible: 'on'
                Parent: 492.005493164063
    SelectionHighlight: 'on'
                   Tag: ''
                  Type: 'hggroup'
              UserData: []
              Selected: 'off'
             FontAngle: 'normal'
              FontName: 'Helvetica'
              FontSize: 8
             FontUnits: 'points'
            FontWeight: 'normal'
             EdgeColor: [0.8 0.8 0.8]
       BackgroundColor: [1 1 0.933333333333333]
             TextColor: [0 0 0]
                Marker: 'o'
            MarkerSize: 5
       MarkerEdgeColor: 'k'
       MarkerFaceColor: 'none'
       MarkerEraseMode: 'normal'
             Draggable: 'on'
                String: {'Date: 01/09/11'  'Value: 573.24'}
               Visible: 'on'
             StringFcn: []
             UpdateFcn: []
         UIContextMenu: [1x1 uicontextmenu]
                  Host: [1x1 graph2d.lineseries]
           Interpolate: 'off'

We can see that the returned graphics.datatip object includes properties of both the text-box and the marker, making it easy to modify. Moreover, we can use its aforementioned update method to move the datatip to a different plot position (see example in the code above). In addition, we can also use the self-explanatory getCursorInfo(), getaxes(), makeCurrent(), movetofront() methods, and a few others.

Cursor mode and data-tip properties

The graphics.datacursormanager and the graphics.datatip objects have several public properties that we can use:

>> cursorMode.get
              Enable: 'off'
    SnapToDataVertex: 'on'
        DisplayStyle: 'datatip'
           UpdateFcn: @setDataTipTxt
              Figure: [1x1 figure]
>> cursorMode.CurrentDataCursor.get
            Annotation: [1x1 hg.Annotation]
           DisplayName: ''
           HitTestArea: 'off'
      ... % See the list above

Both these objects have plenty of additional hidden properties. You can inspect them using my uiinspect utility. Here is a brief list for reference (R2011b):


  • CurrentDataCursor
  • DataCursors
  • Debug
  • DefaultExportVarName
  • DefaultPanelPosition
  • EnableAxesStacking
  • EnableZStacking
  • ExternalListeners
  • HiddenUpdateFcn
  • NewDataCursorOnClick
  • OriginalRenderer
  • OriginalRendererMode
  • PanelDatatipHandle
  • PanelHandle
  • PanelTextHandle
  • UIContextMenu
  • UIState
  • ZStackMinimum


  • ALimInclude
  • ApplicationData
  • Behavior
  • CLimInclude
  • DataCursorHandle
  • DataManagerHandle
  • Debug
  • DoThrowStartDragEvent
  • EmptyArgUpdateFcn
  • EnableAxesStacking
  • EnableZStacking
  • EraseMode
  • EventObject
  • ExternalListenerHandles
  • HelpTopicKey
  • HostAxes
  • HostListenerHandles
  • IncludeRenderer
  • Invalid
  • IsDeserializing
  • MarkerHandle
  • MarkerHandleButtonDownFcn
  • Orientation
  • OrientationMode
  • OrientationPropertyListener
  • OriginalDoubleBufferState
  • PixelBounds
  • PointsOffset
  • Position
  • SelfListenerHandles
  • Serializable
  • TextBoxHandle
  • TextBoxHandleButtonDownFcn
  • Version
  • ViewStyle
  • XLimInclude
  • YLimInclude
  • ZLimInclude
  • ZStackMinimum
  • uistate

As can be seen, if we really want, we can always use the MarkerHandle or TextBoxHandle directly.

Deleting data tips

To delete a specific data-tip, simply call the cursor mode’s removeDataCursor() method; to delete all data-tips, call its removeAllDataCursors() method:

% Delete the current data-tip
% Delete all data-tips

Have you used plot data-tips in some nifty way? If so, please share your experience in a comment below.

p.s. – did you notice that Java was not mentioned anywhere above? Mode managers use pure-Matlab functionality.

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Minimize/maximize figure windowhttps://undocumentedmatlab.com/blog/minimize-maximize-figure-window https://undocumentedmatlab.com/blog/minimize-maximize-figure-window#comments Wed, 18 May 2011 23:08:07 +0000 http://undocumentedmatlab.com/?p=2310
Related posts:
  1. Detecting window focus events Matlab does not have any documented method to detect window focus events (gain/loss). This article describes an undocumented way to detect such events....
  2. Enable/disable entire figure window Disabling/enabling an entire figure window is impossible with pure Matlab, but is very simple using the underlying Java. This article explains how....
  3. Transparent Matlab figure window Matlab figure windows can be made fully or partially transparent/translucent or blurred - this article explains how...
  4. Blurred Matlab figure window Matlab figure windows can be blurred using a semi-transparent overlaid window - this article explains how...
Over the past couple of years, I posted several articles using the JavaFrame property of the figure handle, which enables access to the GUI’s underlying Java peer object. Today, I show how using JavaFrame we can solve a very frequent user request on the Matlab CSSM forum.

The problem

Matlab figures can be maximized, minimized and restored by interactively clicking the corresponding icon (or menu item) on the figure window’s frame (the title bar). However, we often need to create maximized main-application windows, and wish to save the users the need to manually maximize the window. Moreover, we may sometimes even wish to prevent users from resizing a maximized main window.

Unfortunately, Matlab does not contain any documented or supported way to programmatically maximize, minimize or restore a figure window.

This is very strange considering the fact that these are such elementary figure operations. Moreover, these operations are supported internally (and have been for many releases already), as shown below. It is therefore difficult for me to understand why they were not added to the documented Matlab HG wrapper functionality a long time ago. I fail to understand why obscure features such as docking were added to the wrapper, but standard minimization and maximization were not.


Several solutions have been presented to this problem over the years. Let us start with the pressing question of figure maximization:

Solutions that rely on documented Matlab features tend to compute the available screen size and resize the figure accordingly. The result is lacking in many respects: it does not account for the taskbar (neither in size nor in location, which is not necessarily at the bottom of the screen); it does not remove the window border as in regular maximized figures; and it often ignores extended desktops (i.e. an attached additional monitor).

The solutions that do work properly all rely on undocumented features: Some use platform-specific native Windows API in a mex-file (Jan Simon’s recent WindowAPI submission really pushes the limit in this and other regards). Alternately, we can easily use the platform-independent JavaFrame:

>> jFrame = get(handle(gcf),'JavaFrame')
jFrame =
>> jFrame.setMaximized(true);   % to maximize the figure
>> jFrame.setMaximized(false);  % to un-maximize the figure


To the best of my knowledge, there are no solutions for minimizing figure windows that use documented Matlab features. Again, this can be done using either native Windows API, or the platform-independent JavaFrame:

>> jFrame.setMinimized(true);   % to minimize the figure
>> jFrame.setMinimized(false);  % to un-minimize the figure

Usage notes

Maximized and Minimized are mutually-exclusive, meaning that no more than one of them can be 1 (or true) at any time. This is automatically handled – users only need to be aware that a situation in which a window is both maximized and minimized at the same time is impossible (duh!).

There are several equivalent manners of setting jFrame‘s Maximized and Minimized property values, and your choice may simply be a matter of aesthetics and personal taste:

% Three alternative possibilities of setting Maximized:
set(jFrame,'Maximized',true);   % note interchangeable 1< =>true, 0< =>false
jFrame.handle.Maximized = 1;

jFrame follows Java convention: the accessor method that retrieves boolean values is called is<Propname>() instead of get<Propname>. In our case: isMaximized() and isMinimized():

flag = jFrame.isMinimized;        % Note: isMinimized, not getMinimized
flag = get(jFrame,'Minimized');
flag = jFrame.handle.Minimized;

In some old Matlab releases, jFrame did not possess the Maximized and Minimized properties, and their associated accessor methods. In this case, use the internal FrameProxy which has always contained them:

>> jFrameProxy = jFrame.fFigureClient.getWindow() 
jFrameProxy =
com.mathworks.hg.peer.FigureFrameProxy$FigureFrame[fClientProxyFrame,227,25,568x502,invalid,layout=java.awt.BorderLayout,title=Figure 1,resizable,normal,defaultCloseOperation=DO_NOTHING_ON_CLOSE,...]
>> % Three alternative possibilities of setting Minimized:
>> jFrameProxy.setMinimized(true);
>> set(jFrameProxy,'Minimized',true);
>> jFrameProxy.handle.Minimized = true;

Using FrameProxy for figure minimization and maximization works correctly on both old and new Matlab releases; using jFrame is slightly simpler but only works on recent Matlab releases. Depending on your needs you may choose to use either of these. They are entirely equivalent.

When either the Maximized or Minimized properties are changed back to false, the window is restored to regular mode, which is the FrameProxy‘s RestoredLocation and RestoredSize.

Use of the JavaFrame property

Note that all this relies on the undocumented hidden figure property JavaFrame, which issues a standing warning (since Matlab release R2008a) of becoming obsolete in some future Matlab release (HG2?):

>> jFrame = get(gcf,'JavaFrame')
Warning: figure JavaFrame property will be obsoleted in a future release.
For more information see the JavaFrame resource on the MathWorks web site.
(Type "warning off MATLAB:HandleGraphics:ObsoletedProperty:JavaFrame" to suppress this warning.) 

jFrame =

To remove the above warning I have used (note the handle wrapper, as suggested by Donn Shull):

jFrame = get(handle(gcf),'JavaFrame')

If and when JavaFrame does become obsolete in some future Matlab version, be sure to look in this blog for workarounds.

You may also wish to inform MathWorks on the dedicated webpage that they have set up for specifically this reason (http://www.mathworks.com/javaframe), how you are using JavaFrame and why it is important for you. This may help them to decide whether to keep JavaFrame or possibly add the functionality using other means.

Do you have a smart use for the figure’s minimization or maximization feature? or another use for JavaFrame? If so, please share your ideas in a comment below.

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UDD Propertieshttps://undocumentedmatlab.com/blog/udd-properties https://undocumentedmatlab.com/blog/udd-properties#comments Wed, 09 Mar 2011 18:00:17 +0000 http://undocumentedmatlab.com/?p=2156
Related posts:
  1. Multi-column (grid) legend This article explains how to use undocumented axes listeners for implementing multi-column plot legends...
  2. Creating a simple UDD class This article explains how to create and test custom UDD packages, classes and objects...
  3. UDD Events and Listeners UDD event listeners can be used to listen to property value changes and other important events of Matlab objects...
  4. Introduction to UDD UDD classes underlie many of Matlab's handle-graphics objects and functionality. This article introduces these classes....
Donn Shull continues his series of articles on Matlab’s undocumented UDD mechanism. Today, Donn explains how to use and customize UDD properties.

Properties meta-data

The UDD system is a class system. UDD packages, classes, events, and properties are all classes. In this section we will take a closer look at property classes.

As we have already shown, properties are added to a UDD class by adding schema.prop calls to the schema.m class definition file. What this really means is that each property of a UDD class is itself a class object (schema.prop) with its own properties and methods. The methods of schema.prop are loadobj() and saveobj(), which are used to serialize objects of this class (i.e., storing them in a file or sending them elsewhere).

It is schema.prop‘s properties (so-called meta-properties) that interest us most:

PropertyData TypeDescription
AccessFlagsMatlab structureControls which objects can access (read/modify) the property
CaseSensitiveon/offDetermines if the exact case is required to access the property (i.e., can we use ‘casesensitive’ instead of ‘CaseSensitive’)
DataTypestringThe underlying object’s property data type, set by the constructor
DescriptionstringThis can hold a description of the property (normally empty)
FactoryValueAs specified by DataTypeThis is used to provide an initial or default property value
GetFunctionFunction handleA function handle that is called whenever the property value is read
NamestringThe name of the property, also set by the constructor
SetFunctionFunction handleA function handle that is called whenever the properties value is changed
Visibleon/offDetermines if a property will be displayed by the get method for a UDD object

We can manipulate the values of these meta-properties to control various aspects of our property:

% Create instance of simple.object
>> a = simple.object('a');
% Find the Value property and list its meta-properties
% We can manipulate these meta-properties within limits
>> a.findprop('Value').get
            Name: 'Value'
     Description: ''
        DataType: 'single'
    FactoryValue: 7.3891
     AccessFlags: [1x1 struct]
         Visible: 'on'
     GetFunction: []
     SetFunction: []
>> prop.Visible = 'off';  % i.e. hidden property (see below)
>> prop.AccessFlags.PublicSet = 'off';   % i.e. read-only
>> prop.AccessFlags.PublicGet = 'on';
% Find the DataType meta-property of the Value property
% This meta-property and all other schema.prop base class properties are fixed
>> a.findprop('Value').findprop('DataType').get
            Name: 'DataType'
     Description: ''
        DataType: 'string'
    FactoryValue: ''

Adding properties to existing objects in run-time

schema.prop is a very useful tool – it can be used to add new properties to existing object handles, even after these objects have been created. For example, let’s add a new property (MyFavoriteBlog) to a standard figure handle:

>> p=schema.prop(handle(gcf), 'MyFavoriteBlog','string')
p =
>> set(gcf,'MyFavoriteBlog','UndocumentedMatlab.com')
>> get(gcf,'MyFavoriteBlog')
ans =

Using this simple mechanism, we can add meaningful typed user data to any handle object. A similar functionality can be achieved via the setappdata/getappdata functions. However, the property-based approach above is much “cleaner” and more powerful, since we have built-in type checks, property-change event listeners and other useful goodies.

Property data types

In the article on creating UDD objects we saw that the Name and DataType meta-properties are set by the schema.prop constructor. Name must be a valid Matlab variable name (see isvarname).

DataType is more interesting: There are two equivalent universal data types, 'mxArray', and 'MATLAB array'. With either of these two data types a property can be set to a any Matlab type. If we use a more specific data type (e.g., ‘string’, ‘double’ or ‘handle’), Matlab automatically ensures the type validity whenever the property value is modified. In our simple.object we use ‘double’ and ‘string’. You can experiment with these and see that the Value property will only allow scalar numeric values and the Name property will only allow character values:

>> set(obj, 'Value', 'abcd')
??? Parameter must be scalar.
>> obj.Value='abcd'
??? Parameter must be scalar.
>> obj.Name=123
??? Parameter must be a string.

The following table lists the basic UDD data types:

CategoryData Type
UniversalMATLAB array, mxArray
Numeric Scalarsbool, byte, short, int, long, float, double
Numeric VectorsNints, NReals
Specialized Numericcolor, point, real point, real point3, rect, real rect
Stringschar, string, NStrings, string vector
Handlehandle, handle vector, MATLAB callback, GetFunction, SetFunction
JavaAny java class recognized by Matlab

User-defined data types

While this is an extensive list, there are some obvious types missing. For example there are no unsigned integer types. To handle this UDD provides two facilities for creating your own data types. One is the schema.EnumType. As you can see, Matlab has had a form of enumerations for a really long time not just the last few releases. The other facility is schema.UserType.

With these two classes you can create any specialized data type you need. One word of caution: once you have created a new UDD data type it exists for the duration of that Matlab session. There is no equivalent of the clear classes mechanism for removing a data type. In addition once a new data type has been defined it cannot be redefined until Matlab is restarted.

Let’s use a problem discussed in the CSSM forum as example. The essence of the problem is the need to flag a graphic line object as either editable or not. The proposed proposed is to add a new Editable property to an existing line handle. We will use schema.EnumType to create a new type named 'yes/no' so that the new property could accept only ‘yes’ and ‘no’ values:

function tline = taggedLine(varargin)
%TAGGEDLINE create a line with Editable property
%   TLINE = TAGGEDLINE(VARARGIN) create a new handle graphics line
%   and add 'Ediatable' property to line. Default property value is 'yes'.
%       VARARGIN  : property value pairs to pass to line
%       TLINE     : hg line object with Editable property
    % If undefined define yes/no datatype</font>
    if isempty(findtype('yes/no'))
        schema.EnumType('yes/no', {'yes', 'no'});
    tline = line(varargin{:});
    schema.prop(tline, 'Editable', 'yes/no');

It is necessary to test for the existence of a type before defining it, since trying to redefine a type will generate an error.

We can use this new taggedLine() function to create new line objects with the additional Editable property. Instead of adding a new property to the line class we could have defined a new class as a subclass of line:

function schema()
%SCHEMA  hg package definition function

We create our class definition as a subclass of the handle graphics line class:

function schema()
%SCHEMA  hg.taggedline class definition function
    % package definition
    superPackage = findpackage('hg');
    pkg = findpackage('hg');
    % class definition
    c = schema.class(pkg, 'taggedline', findclass(superPackage, 'line'));
    if isempty(findtype('yes/no'))
        schema.EnumType('yes/no', {'yes', 'no'});
    % add properties to class
    schema.prop(c, 'Editable', 'yes/no');

And our constructor is:

function self = taggedline
%OBJECT constructor for the simple.object class
    self = hg.taggedline;

Here we have placed the schema.EnumType definition in the class definition function. It is usually better to place type definition code in the package definition function, which is executed prior to any of the package classes and available in all classes. But in this particular case we are extending the built-in hg package and because hg is already defined internally, our package definition code is never actually executed.

The schema.UserType has the following constructor syntax:

schema.UserType('newTypeName', 'baseTypeName', typeCheckFunctionHandle)

For example, to create a user-defined type for unsigned eight-bit integers we might use the following code:

schema.UserType('uint8', 'short', @check_uint8)
function check_uint8(value)
%CHECK_UINT8 Check function for uint8 type definition
    if isempty(value) || (value < 0) || (value > 255)
        error('Value must be a scalar between 0 and 255');

Hidden properties

Visible is an 'on/off' meta-property that controls whether or not a property is displayed when using the get function without specifying the property name. Using this mechanism we can easily detect hidden undocumented properties. For example:

>> for prop = get(classhandle(handle(gcf)),'Properties')'
       if strcmpi(prop.Visible,'off'), disp(prop.Name); end

Note that hidden properties such as these are accessible via get/set just as any other property. It is simply that they are not displayed when you run get(gcf) or set(gcf) – we need to specifically refer to them by their name: get(gcf,’UseHG2′). Many other similar hidden properties are described in this website.

You may have noticed that the CaseSensitive meta-property did not show up above when we used get to show the meta-properties of our Value property. This is because CaseSensitive has its own Visible meta-property set to 'off' (i.e., hidden).

Additional meta-properties

FactoryValue is used to set an initial value for the property whenever a new simple.object instance is created.

GetFunction and SetFunction were described in last week’s article, Creating a UDD Hierarchy.

AccessFlags is a Matlab structure of 'on/off' fields that control what happens when the property is accessed:

PublicSetControls setting the property from code external to the class
PublicGetControls reading the property value from code external to the class
PrivateSetControls setting the property from internal class methods
PrivateGetControls reading the property value from internal class methods
InitControls initializing the property using FactoryValue in the class definition file
Default??? (Undocumented, no examples exist)
ResetControls initializing the property using FactoryValue when executing the built-in reset function
SerializeControls whether this object can be serialized
CopyControls whether to pass the property’s current value to a copy
ListenerControls whether property access events are generated or not
AbortSetControls whether property set events are generated when a set operation will not change the property’s value

The CaseSensitive meta-property has AccessFlag.Init = 'off'. This means that properties added to a class definition file are always case insensitive.

Another interesting fact is that properties can be abbreviated as long as the abbreviation is unambiguous. Using our simple.object as an example:

>> a = simple.object('a');
>> a.n  % abbreviation of Name
ans =
>> a.v  % abbreviation of Value
ans =

It is considered poor programming practice to use either improperly cased, or abbreviated names when writing code. It is difficult to read, debug and maintain. But show me a Matlab programmer who has never abbreviated Position as ‘pos’…

Note: for completeness’ sake, read yesterday’s post on MCOS properties on Loren’s blog, written by Dave Foti, author of the original UDD code. Dave’s post describes the fully-documented MCOS mechanism, which is newer than the undocumented UDD mechanism described here. As mentioned earlier, whereas UDD existed (and still exists) in all Matlab 7 releases, MCOS is only available since R2008a. UDD and MCOS co-exist in Matlab since R2008a. MCOS has definite advantages over UDD, but cannot be used on pre-2008 Matlab releases. Different development and deployment requirements may dictate using either UDD or MCOS (or both). Another pre-R2008a alternative is to use Matlab’s obsolete yet documented class system.

In the next installment of this series we will take a look at UDD events and listeners.

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Multi-column (grid) legendhttps://undocumentedmatlab.com/blog/multi-column-grid-legend https://undocumentedmatlab.com/blog/multi-column-grid-legend#comments Mon, 07 Feb 2011 18:00:04 +0000 http://undocumentedmatlab.com/?p=2071
Related posts:
  1. Using linkaxes vs. linkprop linkaxes has a built-in limitation, so using linkprop may sometimes be beneficial. ...
  2. Plot LimInclude properties The plot objects' XLimInclude, YLimInclude, ZLimInclude, ALimInclude and CLimInclude properties are an important feature, that has both functional and performance implications....
  3. Introduction to UDD UDD classes underlie many of Matlab's handle-graphics objects and functionality. This article introduces these classes....
  4. UDD Properties UDD provides a very convenient way to add customizable properties to existing Matlab object handles...
I would like to welcome guest blogger Adrian Cherry. Adrian will describe a very handy utility that shows how basic built-in Matlab functions can be improved and customized by just a bit of fiddling under Matlab’s hood.

Legend Plotting

Whilst I enjoy using the many time saving features of Matlab, one area where I feel it suffers is the technical plotting and annotation. This tale relates the development of a legend plotting routine, gridLegend, in an effort to improve the presentation.

In my day job we have a requirement to condense a large quantity of data onto summary charts. However, there is only so much data consolidation possible before you start losing the information required. We often need to plot 40 or 50 lines of test data to visualize trends or outliers, using the legend to identify the number of test hours against each test specimen.

Using the standard Matlab legend function resulted in a long legend over twice the size of the associated plot:

Standard Matlab legend

Standard Matlab legend

I wanted some way of generating a more compact legend format.

Fortunately earlier in the year, an entry on Matlab Central allowing a multi-column legend to be generated was posted, columnlegend. Although lacking some features, columnlegend gave me a good start on developing what I wanted for a multi column legend, culminating in gridLegend:

Multi-column legend

Multi-column legend

Delving into the Undocumented Matlab

So where is the link with undocumented Matlab?

As mentioned in the original columnlegend entry, it was relatively simple to redraw the legend as required on the screen. However, as soon as the figure was printed or exported to an image file, internal Matlab workings would redraw the figure, including the legend, thereby undoing my careful legend crafting, squeezing it back into one column (Yuck!):

Matlab-reverted multi-column legend

Matlab-reverted multi-column legend

As we wanted to automatically output images files, I had to delve into the hidden areas of Matlab to try to solve this problem.

My initial thought was to find out where the figure got redrawn for printing or export and override the standard legend call with a call to my new function. I couldn’t find the obvious culprit, stepping as far as I could through the print function there didn’t appear to be any call to the legend function.

In my search for information on how the legend worked I found the undocumented Matlab article about generating dynamic legends. This dynamic-legend post covered details about attaching a listener to a child of the legend axes, in Matlab the legend function creates its own set of axes on the figure to display the legend.

Armed with the information that legend axes objects could have listeners attached, I considered that these might be the source of redrawing the legend for printing. So with the legend I had generated I took a look at what listeners were attached, using the undocumented hidden axes property ScribeLegendListeners:

>> legendListener = get(gca,'ScribeLegendListeners')
legendListener = 
        fontname: [1x1 handle.listener]
        fontsize: [1x1 handle.listener]
      fontweight: [1x1 handle.listener]
       fontangle: [1x1 handle.listener]
       linewidth: [1x1 handle.listener]
         deleted: [1x1 handle.listener]
    proxydeleted: [1x1 handle.listener]

The font size and line positioning were all being redrawn for printing so this was potentially the source of my problem. However I’d not looked at a handle.listener before, so a little further digging was required:

K>> get(legendListener.fontname)
      SourceObject: [1x1 schema.prop]
         Container: [1x1 axes]
         EventType: 'PropertyPostSet'
          Callback: {2x1 cell}
    CallbackTarget: []
           Enabled: 'on'

The option Enabled immediately drew my attention, and so the following lines were added to my gridLegend function to switch off these listeners and apply it back to the legend:

LL = get(gca,'ScribeLegendListeners');

Finally allowing me to output the image files with a multi-column legend:

Printed multi-column legend

Printed multi-column legend

So my thanks to the contributors on Matlab Central who enabled me to get started on gridLegend and to Yair for collating the many nuggets of information on Undocumented Matlab which allowed me to complete the function and get it posted on Matlab Central.

Multi-column legend in action

Multi-column legend in action

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Panel-level uicontrolshttps://undocumentedmatlab.com/blog/panel-level-uicontrols https://undocumentedmatlab.com/blog/panel-level-uicontrols#comments Wed, 24 Nov 2010 18:00:53 +0000 http://undocumentedmatlab.com/?p=1976
Related posts:
  1. Customizing Matlab labels Matlab's text uicontrol is not very customizable, and does not support HTML or Tex formatting. This article shows how to display HTML labels in Matlab and some undocumented customizations...
  2. Inactive Control Tooltips & Event Chaining Inactive Matlab uicontrols cannot normally display their tooltips. This article shows how to do this with a combination of undocumented Matlab and Java hacks....
  3. HG2 update HG2 appears to be nearing release. It is now a stable mature system. ...
  4. Plot LimInclude properties The plot objects' XLimInclude, YLimInclude, ZLimInclude, ALimInclude and CLimInclude properties are an important feature, that has both functional and performance implications....
In one of my larger Matlab applications – Integration-lab Debriefing System (IDS, which shall be described in a future dedicated article) – I wanted to present a panel-level checkbox that applies to the entire panel contents. In my particular case, the IDS uipanel contained a Java table (another future topic) with multiple selectable rows, and I needed a global checkbox that selects all (or none) of them at once:

Panel-level ("Objects") checkbox

Panel-level ("Objects") checkbox

One way to do this is to calculate the checkbox’s desired position relative to the uipanel and place a regular checkbox-style uicontrol there. The checkbox can even be made a child of the uipanel with ‘normalized’ units, thereby moving and resizing it together with its uipanel parent when the later is moved or resized.

But there’s a much simpler method that want to share. It relies on the undocumented fact that the uipanel‘s title label is a simple hidden uicontrol child of the uipanel handle. This uicontrol handle can be found and simply transformed from a ‘style’=’text’ control into a ‘style’=’checkbox’ control, as follows:

% Prepare the panel
hPanel = uipanel('position',[0.2,0.2,0.4,0.4], 'title','Objects');
% Get the title label's handle
warning off MATLAB:Uipanel:HiddenImplementation  % turn off warning
hTitle = setdiff(findall(hPanel),hPanel);  % retrieve title handle
hTitle = get(hPanel,'TitleHandle');  % alternative, uses hidden prop
% Modify the uicontrol style; add 20 pixel space for the checkbox
newPos = get(hTitle,'position') + [0,0,20,0];  % in pixels
set(hTitle, 'style','checkbox', 'value',1, 'pos',newPos);

Panel-level checkbox

Panel-level checkbox

Note that we can retrieve the title handle using either the uipanel‘s hidden property TitleHandle, or by scanning the panel’s children using findall. I prefer the TitleHandle approach because it does not require modification (minor as it might be) when the panel already contains other children.

The down-side is that since TitleHandle is an undocumented hidden property, it may change its name, its behavior or even be removed in some future Matlab release. In fact, there’s even a Matlab warning about this, unless you turn it off using:

warning off MATLAB:Uipanel:HiddenImplementation

We can use this approach for more complex options panels, as the following example illustrates. Here, we set radio-button controls rather than a checkbox control, and also modify the title color to blue:

% Main panel and basic alternative control
hPanelMain = uipanel('pos',[.1,.1,.8,.8], 'Title','Main', 'units','norm');
hAlt1 = uicontrol('parent',hPanelMain, 'units','norm', 'pos',[.1,.8,.5,.1], 'style','radio', 'string','Alternative #1');
% Alternative options panel #2
hAlt2 = uipanel('parent',hPanelMain, 'units','norm', 'pos',[.07,.4,.5,.35], 'title','Alternative #2');
hAlt2Title = get(hAlt2, 'TitleHandle');
newPos = get(hAlt2Title,'position') + [0,0,20,0];  % in pixels
set(hAlt2Title, 'style','radio', 'pos',newPos);
hAlt2a = uicontrol('parent',hAlt2, 'units','norm', 'pos',[.2,.6,.7,.3], 'style','checkbox', 'string','Option 1');
hAlt2b = uicontrol('parent',hAlt2, 'units','norm', 'pos',[.2,.2,.7,.3], 'style','checkbox', 'string','Option 2');
% Alternative options panel #3
hAlt3 = uipanel('parent',hPanelMain, 'units','norm', 'pos',[.07,.05,.5,.3], 'title','Alternative #3');
hAlt3Title = get(hAlt3, 'TitleHandle');
newPos = get(hAlt3Title,'position') + [0,0,20,0];  % in pixels
set(hAlt3Title, 'style','radio', 'pos',newPos, 'ForegroundColor','blue');
hAlt3a = uicontrol('parent',hAlt3, 'units','norm', 'pos',[.2,.5,.7,.3], 'style','popup', 'string',{'Option 3a','Option 3b','Option 3c'});

Advanced panel-level controls

Advanced panel-level controls

Note that since the hAlt2Title and hAlt3Title radio-buttons are children of their respective uipanel parents, we cannot use a simple uibuttongroup to group them in a mutual-exclusion group. Instead, we must use a dedicated callback function. This is actually quite easy:

% Set the callback for all relevant radio-buttons
hButtonGroup = [hAlt1, hAlt2Title, hAlt3Title];
set(hButtonGroup, 'Callback', {@SelectionCb, hButtonGroup});
% This is the callback function that manages mutual exclusion
function SelectionCb(hSrc,hEvent,hButtonGroup)
   otherButtons = setdiff(hButtonGroup,hSrc);
   set(hSrc,'value',1);  % needed to prevent de-selection
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Plot performancehttps://undocumentedmatlab.com/blog/plot-performance https://undocumentedmatlab.com/blog/plot-performance#comments Wed, 16 Jun 2010 09:55:47 +0000 http://undocumentedmatlab.com/?p=1623
Related posts:
  1. Plot LimInclude properties The plot objects' XLimInclude, YLimInclude, ZLimInclude, ALimInclude and CLimInclude properties are an important feature, that has both functional and performance implications....
  2. HG2 update HG2 appears to be nearing release. It is now a stable mature system. ...
  3. Performance: accessing handle properties Handle object property access (get/set) performance can be significantly improved using dot-notation. ...
  4. Customizing axes part 2 Matlab HG2 axes can be customized in many different ways. This article explains some of the undocumented aspects. ...
I recently consulted to a client who wanted to display an interactive plot with numerous data points that kept updating in real-time. Matlab’s standard plotting functions simply could not keep up with the rate of data change. Today, I want to share a couple of very simple undocumented hacks that significantly improve plotting performance and fixed my problem.

I begin by stating the obvious: whenever possible, try to vectorize your code, preallocate the data and other performance-improving techniques suggested by Matlab. Unfortunately, sometimes (as in my specific case above) all these cannot help. Even in such cases, we can still find important performance tricks, such as these:

Performance hack #1: manual limits

Whenever Matlab updates plot data, it checks whether any modification needs to be done to any of its limits. This computation-intensive task is done for any limit that is set to ‘Auto’ mode, which is the default axes limits mode. If instead we manually set the axes limits to the requested range, Matlab skips these checks, enabling much faster plotting performance.

Let us simulate the situation by adding 500 data points to a plot, one at a time:

>> x=0:0.02:10; y=sin(x);
>> clf; cla; tic;
>> drawnow; plot(x(1),y(1)); hold on; legend data;
>> for idx = 1 : length(x); plot(x(idx),y(idx)); drawnow; end;
>> toc
Elapsed time is 21.583668 seconds.

simple plot with 500 data points

simple plot with 500 data points

And now let’s use static axes limits:

>> x=0:0.02:10; y=sin(x);
>> clf; cla; tic; drawnow; 
>> plot(x(1),y(1)); hold on; legend data;
>> xlim([0,10]); ylim([-1,1]);  % static limits
>> for idx = 1 : length(x); plot(x(idx),y(idx)); drawnow; end;
>> toc
Elapsed time is 16.863090 seconds.

Note that this trick is the basis for the performance improvement that occurs when using the plot’s undocumented set of LimInclude properties.

Of course, setting manual limits prevents the axes limits from growing and shrinking automatically with the data, which can actually be a very useful feature sometimes. But if performance is important, we now know that we have this tool to improve it.

Performance hack #2: static legend

Hack #1 gave us a 22% performance boost, but we can do much better. Running the profiler on the code above we see that much of the time is spent recomputing the legend. Looking inside the legend code (specifically, the legendcolorbarlayout function), we detect several short-circuits that we can use to make the legend static and prevent recomputation:

>> x=0:0.02:10; y=sin(x);
>> clf; cla; tic; drawnow; 
>> plot(x(1),y(1)); hold on; legend data;
>> xlim([0,10]); ylim([-1,1]);  % static limits
>> % Static legend
>> set(gca,'LegendColorbarListeners',[]); 
>> setappdata(gca,'LegendColorbarManualSpace',1);
>> setappdata(gca,'LegendColorbarReclaimSpace',1);
>> for idx = 1 : length(x); plot(x(idx),y(idx)); drawnow; end;
>> toc
Elapsed time is 5.209053 seconds.

Now this is much much better – a 76% performance boost compared to the original plot (i.e., 4 times faster!). Of course, it prevents the legend from being dynamically updated. Sometimes we actually wish for this dynamic effect (last year I explained how to use the legend’s undocumented -DynamicLegend feature for even greater dynamic control). But when performance is important, we can still display a legend without its usual performance cost.

In conclusion, I have demonstrated that Matlab performance can often be improved significantly, even in the absence of any vectorization, by simply understanding the internal mechanisms and bypassing those which are irrelevant in our specific case.

Have you found other similar performance hacks? If so, please share them in the comments section below.

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Matlab’s HG2 mechanismhttps://undocumentedmatlab.com/blog/matlab-hg2 https://undocumentedmatlab.com/blog/matlab-hg2#comments Fri, 07 May 2010 10:45:03 +0000 http://undocumentedmatlab.com/?p=1453
Related posts:
  1. New information on HG2 More information on Matlab's new HG2 object-oriented handle-graphics system...
  2. Controlling plot data-tips Data-tips are an extremely useful plotting tool that can easily be controlled programmatically....
  3. Draggable plot data-tips Matlab's standard plot data-tips can be customized to enable dragging, without being limitted to be adjacent to their data-point. ...
  4. Adding dynamic properties to graphic handles It is easy and very useful to attach dynamic properties to Matlab graphics objects in run-time. ...
A few days ago I posted a lengthy article about Matlab’s undocumented feature function. In it, I mentioned a feature called HG2, that I believe merits a dedicated article, due to its potential high impact on future Matlab releases.

HG2, which presumably stands for “Handle Graphics 2nd generation”, was already reported in the past as an undocumented hidden figure property (UseHG2). In normal Matlab usage, this boolean property is ‘off’:

>> get(gcf,'usehg2')
ans =

HG2 is mentioned in quite a few Matlab files:

  • clf.m, hgload.m, ishg2figure.m, datetick.m, linkdata.m, linkplotfunc.m, cameratoolbar, /bin/registry/handle_graphics.xml, /ja/xlate and many more
  • uimodemanager.m (and others) temporarily disables a ‘MATLAB:handle:hg2’ warning
  • defaulterrorcallback.m mentions ‘MATLAB:HG2:SceneNode’ and ‘MATLAB:HG2:Property’
  • getplotbrowserproptable.m mentions several special HG2 types (hg2.Line, hg2.Lineseries, hg2.Patch etc.)
  • There’s even a dedicated /toolbox/matlab/graphics/private/ishg2figure.m function that determines whether a figure contains any HG2 graphics based on the existence of ‘hg2peer’ appdata (getappdata(fig,’hg2peer’)).
  • /toolbox/matlab/plottools/@objutil/@eventmanager/schema.m (and a few others) has the following comment:
     % may contain either UDD or MCOS listeners during the hg2 migration.

Obviously, much effort was invested in HG2 functionality. The fact that HG2 has been under development at least since 2007 (when I first discovered and reported it) seems to indicate a major upheaval in Matlab’s Handle Graphics mechanism. This hunch is reinforced by cryptic comments made by MathWorks personnel over the past few years that they are indeed looking at the HG system, which in their opinion is nearing its limitations. Perhaps I’m mixing unrelated stuff here, but it does make sense in light of Matlab’s push of its OOP class system over the past few releases.

To preview this HG2 system, we need to turn it on. Unfortunately, when we set the figure’s UseHG2 to ‘on’ there doesn’t seem to be any visible effect. However, this changes after we use the corresponding ‘UseHG2’ feature using the feature function (this caused lots of nasty-looking errors in past releases but works ok in R2010a):

>> feature('usehg2',1)

The /ja/xlate file (which is used in conjunction with the undocumented xlate function to translates Matlab messages from English to Japanese) has another key to unlocking HG2: This file contains the following message: “feature(‘useGBT2’) is only available when Matlab is started with -hgVersion 2 option.“. So let’s do as the xlate message advises and start a new Matlab session with the undocumented “-hgVersion 2” command-line option. Now feature(‘usehg2’) is true by default and we can test the HG2 system.

Matlab looks basically the same in HG2 as in HG1. All the regular graphic functions behave just as we would expect from the existing (HG1) implementation. There are two major differences though:

  • the figure toolbars/menubars are missing and cannot be shown, even when the relevant figure properties are set. Without a menubar and toobar, Matlab figures are extremely less useful than their HG1 counterparts. This problem does not occur in HG2-enabled figures in the regular Matlab session (i.e., without using the “-hgVersion 2” command-line option)
  • all the HG handles are now Matlab class handles rather than numeric values (These class handles are similar to those returned today (in HG1) using the undocumented handle function). There’s an exception to this rule: in regular Matlab sessions (i.e., without using the “-hgVersion 2” command-line option), after setting the ‘UseHG2’ feature on, the returned figure handle is numeric rather than a class handle (but if you now plot within this figure you get the class object handles). Here’s the output from the “-hgVersion 2” Matlab session:
    >> hFig = figure
    hFig = 
    >> hLine = plot(1:5)
    hLine = 
    >> get(hLine,'Parent')
    ans = 
    >> findprop(gcf,'Tag')
    ans = 
      meta.property handle
      Package: meta
                       Name: 'Tag'
                Description: 'Tag PropInfo'
        DetailedDescription: ''
                  GetAccess: 'public'
                  SetAccess: 'public'
                  Dependent: 1
                   Constant: 0
                   Abstract: 0
                  Transient: 0
                     Hidden: 0
              GetObservable: 1
              SetObservable: 1
                   AbortSet: 0
                  GetMethod: []
                  SetMethod: []
                 HasDefault: 0
              DefiningClass: [1x1 meta.class]
      Methods, Events, Superclasses
    >> methods(gcf)
    Methods for class ui.Figure:
    Figure                  disp                    get                     horzcat                 lt                      subsasgn                
    addlistener             double                  getParentImpl           ishghandlewithargs      ne                      vertcat                 
    addprop                 eq                      getSceneViewer          ishghandlewoargs        notify                  
    applydefaultproperties  findobj                 getdisp                 isvalid                 reset                   
    cat                     findprop                gt                      java                    set                     
    delete                  ge                      hgclose                 le                      setdisp                 
    Static methods:
    >> methods(gcf,'-full')
    Methods for class ui.Figure:
    ui.Figure lhs1 Figure(rhs0)
    event.listener L addlistener(handle sources, char vector eventname, function_handle scalar callback)  % Inherited from hg2utils.HGHandle
    event.proplistener L addlistener(handle sources, meta.property propertyname, char vector eventname, function_handle scalar callback)  % Inherited from hg2utils.HGHandle
    event.proplistener L addlistener(handle sources, string propertyname, char vector eventname, function_handle scalar callback)  % Inherited from hg2utils.HGHandle
    event.proplistener L addlistener(handle sources, cell propertyname, char vector eventname, function_handle scalar callback)  % Inherited from hg2utils.HGHandle
    meta.property prop addprop(handle scalar object, string propname)  % Inherited from dynamicprops
    applydefaultproperties(HGHandle object, rhs1)  % Inherited from hg2utils.HGHandle
    HeterogeneousHandle lhs3 cat(double rhs0, rhs1, rhs2)  % Inherited from HeterogeneousHandle
    delete(handle obj)  % Inherited from handle
    disp(object)  % Inherited from hg2utils.HGHandle
    lhs1 double(handle object)  % Inherited from hg2utils.HGHandle
    logical TF eq(A, B)  % Inherited from hg2utils.HGHandle
    handle output findobj(handle object, varargin)  % Inherited from hg2utils.HGHandle
    meta.property prop findprop(handle scalar object, string propname)  % Inherited from handle
    logical TF ge(A, B)  % Inherited from handle
    varargout get(hgsetget object, rhs1)  % Inherited from hg2utils.HGHandle
    Static HeterogeneousHandle lhs0 getDefaultObject  % Inherited from hg2utils.HGHandle
    lhs2 getParentImpl(handle scalar object, rhs1)  % Inherited from hg2utils.HGObject
    lhs2 getSceneViewer(handle scalar object, rhs1)  % Inherited from ui.UISceneViewerParent
    getdisp(hgsetget rhs0)  % Inherited from hgsetget
    logical TF gt(A, B)  % Inherited from handle
    hgclose(handle scalar object)
    HeterogeneousHandle lhs2 horzcat(rhs0, rhs1)  % Inherited from HeterogeneousHandle
    lhs2 ishghandlewithargs(handle scalar object, rhs1)  % Inherited from hg2utils.HGObject
    lhs1 ishghandlewoargs(handle scalar object)  % Inherited from hg2utils.HGObject
    logical validity isvalid(handle obj)  % Inherited from handle
    j java(JavaVisible scalar h)  % Inherited from JavaVisible
    logical TF le(A, B)  % Inherited from handle
    logical TF lt(A, B)  % Inherited from handle
    logical TF ne(A, B)  % Inherited from hg2utils.HGHandle
    notify(handle sources, string eventname, event.EventData scalar eventdata)  % Inherited from handle
    notify(handle sources, string eventname)  % Inherited from handle
    reset(handle scalar object)  % Inherited from hg2utils.HGHandle
    varargout set(hgsetget object, rhs1)  % Inherited from hg2utils.HGHandle
    setdisp(hgsetget rhs0)  % Inherited from hgsetget
    varargout subsasgn(rhs0, rhs1, rhs2, rhs3)  % Inherited from HeterogeneousHandle
    HeterogeneousHandle lhs2 vertcat(rhs0, rhs1)  % Inherited from HeterogeneousHandle

The latest Matlab releases have shown how the Matlab handle class can be extended using user-created derived classes. It stands to reason that so do all the new HG2 objects. This would theoretically enable Matlab programmers to customize graphic objects appearance to suit their needs in a more intuitive manner than possible using HG1.

Many mysteries remain:

  • is it possible to mix HG1 and HG2 objects in the same figure?
  • can we switch between HG1 and HG2 in the same Matlab session (I got some crashes…)?
  • why is there a need for the separate feature options ‘UseHG2’, ‘UseGBT2’ and ‘HGUsingMatlabClasses’?
  • why is there a need for “-hgVersion 2” Matlab sessions if we can simply use feature(‘UseHG2’)?
  • is it possible to restore the figure menubar and toolbar in “-hgVersion 2” Matlab sessions?
  • is it indeed possible to extend HG2 objects using user-defined classes? and if so, can we modify the appearance/behavior beyond what is available in the existing list of HG2 properties?
  • beyond changing numeric handles into class handles, are there any actual benefits to the HG2 system over HG1?
  • what is the difference between HG2, GBT2 and GBT1.5 (which are mentioned together as separate entities in cameratoolbar.m)?

HG2 is still buggy, which explains why it is still not officially released. For example, the inspect(gca) function crashes Matlab, figure toolbars/menubars are missing, and some properties that are available in HG1 are missing in HG2. Also, we can add Java components to a Matlab figure using javacomponent as in HG1 (the returned container handles is a ui.HGJavaComponent class handle), but we get an error when we close the figure…

Still, with all this effort invested into HG2 I believe that it is only a matter of time before HG2 becomes officially released. This could happen perhaps even as soon as the upcoming R2010b release, but with the current state as seen above I suspect it will not happen before 2011. Also, my gut feeling is that Matlab will define any release that includes HG2 as a major release and we will finally have Matlab 8.0.

I would dearly love to hear any further information anyone discovers about HG2 and related issues. Please share your findings by email or in the comments section below.

Addendum Oct 3 2014: HG2 is finally released in Matlab release R2014b (8.4). It took more than 4 years after this article was posted for Mathworks to sort out all the problems in the new graphics engine. While HG2 is now fully supported, it contains numerous undocumented features and properties. I plan to discuss them in a separate upcoming series of articles.

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Plot LimInclude propertieshttps://undocumentedmatlab.com/blog/plot-liminclude-properties https://undocumentedmatlab.com/blog/plot-liminclude-properties#comments Wed, 31 Mar 2010 19:58:01 +0000 http://undocumentedmatlab.com/?p=1258
Related posts:
  1. FIG files format FIG files are actually MAT files in disguise. This article explains how this can be useful in Matlab applications....
  2. Multi-column (grid) legend This article explains how to use undocumented axes listeners for implementing multi-column plot legends...
  3. Handle Graphics Behavior HG behaviors are an important aspect of Matlab graphics that enable custom control of handle functionality. ...
  4. HG2 update HG2 appears to be nearing release. It is now a stable mature system. ...
Concluding my three-part mini-series on hidden and undocumented plot/axes properties, I would like to present a set of properties that I find very useful in dynamic plots: XLimInclude, YLimInclude, ZLimInclude, ALimInclude and CLimInclude. These properties, which are relevant for plot/axes objects, have an ‘on’ value by default. When set to ‘off’, they exclude their object from the automatic computation of the corresponding axes limits (XLim/YLim/ZLim/ALim/CLim).

For example, here’s a simple sine wave with a wavefront line marker. Note how the too-tall wavefront line affects the entire axes Y-limits:

line('xdata',[7.5,7.5], 'ydata',[-5,5], 'color','r'); 
box off

Regular plot (YLimInclude on)

Regular plot (YLimInclude on)

This situation is quickly fixed using the YLimInclude property:

line('xdata',[7.5,7.5], 'ydata',[-5,5], 'color','r', ...
box off

YLimInclude off

YLimInclude off

Beside the functional importance of this feature, it also has a large potential for improved application performance: I recently designed a monitor-like GUI for a medical application, where the data is constantly updated from an external sensor connected to the computer. The GUI presents the latest 10 seconds of monitored data, which bounce up and down the chart. A red wave-front line is presented and constantly updated, to indicate the current data position. Since the monitored data jumps up and down, the Y-limits of the monitor chart often changes, and with it I would need to modify the wavefront’s YData based on the updated axes YLim. This turned out to steal precious CPU time from the actual monitoring application. Came YLimInclude to the rescue, by letting me specify the wavefront line as:

hWavefront = line(..., 'YData',[-99,99], 'YLimInclude','off');

Now the wavefront line never needed to update its YData (only XData, which is much less CPU-intensive) – it always spanned the entire axes height, since [-99,99] were assured (in my particular case) to exceed the actual monitored data. This looked better (no flicker effects) and performed faster than the regular (documented) approach.

Note that although all these properties exist, to the best of my knowledge, for all Handle-Graphic plot objects, they are sometimes meaningless. For example, ZLimInclude is irrelevant for a 2D patchless plot; CLimInclude relates to the axes color limits which are irrelevant if you’re not using a colormap or something similar; ALimInclude relates to patch transparency (alpha-channel) and is irrelevant elsewhere. In these and similar cases, setting these properties, while allowed and harmless, will simply have no effect.

This concludes my mini-series of undocumented plot/axes properties. To recap, the other articles dealt with the LooseInset and LineSmoothing properties.

Have you found other similar properties or use-cases that you find useful? I will be most interested to read about them in the comments section below.

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Axes LooseInset propertyhttps://undocumentedmatlab.com/blog/axes-looseinset-property https://undocumentedmatlab.com/blog/axes-looseinset-property#comments Wed, 24 Mar 2010 18:14:59 +0000 http://undocumentedmatlab.com/?p=1240
Related posts:
  1. Plot LimInclude properties The plot objects' XLimInclude, YLimInclude, ZLimInclude, ALimInclude and CLimInclude properties are an important feature, that has both functional and performance implications....
  2. Panel-level uicontrols Matlab's uipanel contains a hidden handle to the title label, which can be modified into a checkbox or radio-button control...
  3. Matlab’s HG2 mechanism HG2 is presumably the next generation of Matlab graphics. This article tries to explore its features....
  4. Tab panels – uitab and relatives This article describes several undocumented Matlab functions that support tab-panels...
Last week, I wrote an article about the hidden/undocumented LineSmoothing plot property. This week, I want to introduce another useful hidden/undocumented property – the plot axes’ LooseInset property. This follows on the wake of an email I received from a reader about this property, which had some new information for me (thanks Ben!).

Apparently, LooseInset, which is automatically set to a factory value of [0.13, 0.11, 0.095, 0.075], is used by Matlab axes to reserve a small empty margin around the axes, presumably to enable space for tick marks. These empty margins can be very annoying at times, especially when we have directly control on the axes contents.

figure; t=0:0.01:7; plot(t,2*sin(t));

Axes with default LooseInset values (note the excessive margins)

Axes with default LooseInset values
(note the excessive margins)

If you set Position to [0 0 1 1], the labels are cut-off; if you set Position to something like [0.05 0.05 0.9 0.9], you can get the labels to show up, but if you now resize the image the labels may be cut off… Similarly, setting TightInset also does not work.

Theoretically, the solution should be to set OuterPosition to [0 0 1 1]. This is supposed to make the axes (including labels) take up the entire figure. However, it usually over-estimates the required margins, causing wasted space. Using OuterPosition also causes unexpected behaviors with sub-plots.

Solution: simply set LooseInset to [0 0 0 0]:

set(gca, 'LooseInset', [0,0,0,0]);

Axes with empty LooseInset values

Axes with empty LooseInset values

To modify all future axes in the same way (i.e., have an empty LooseInset):


Clearing the LooseInset margins has a drawback: if the axes is zoomed or modified in such a way that the labels change, then the active axes plot region needs to shrink accordingly. For example:

Axes with empty LooseInset values, wide tick labels (note the changed plot region size)

Axes with empty LooseInset values, wide tick labels
(note the changed plot region size)

When determining the size of the axes, it seems that Matlab takes into account larger of the documented TightInset and the undocumented LooseInset. So, perhaps a better generic solution would be the one suggested by another blog reader:


Note that the LooseInset property was first reported on CSSM back in 2007 (also here). The LooseInset property has remained hidden and undocumented to this day (Matlab 7.10, R2010a), although it has even featured in an official MathWorks Technical Solution to a reported problem about unexpected axes sizes last year.

p.s. – another undocumented property of Matlab axes, ContentsVisible, was described by Matt Whittaker in a comment on my original article that introduced undocumented properties.

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Plot LineSmoothing propertyhttps://undocumentedmatlab.com/blog/plot-linesmoothing-property https://undocumentedmatlab.com/blog/plot-linesmoothing-property#comments Thu, 18 Mar 2010 00:23:50 +0000 http://undocumentedmatlab.com/?p=1226
Related posts:
  1. Multi-column (grid) legend This article explains how to use undocumented axes listeners for implementing multi-column plot legends...
  2. Controlling plot data-tips Data-tips are an extremely useful plotting tool that can easily be controlled programmatically....
  3. getundoc – get undocumented object properties getundoc is a very simple utility that displays the hidden (undocumented) properties of a specified handle object....
  4. Matlab’s HG2 mechanism HG2 is presumably the next generation of Matlab graphics. This article tries to explore its features....
I have already written about several undocumented hidden properties in the past. Today, I would like to introduce one of my favorites: the plot-line’s LineSmoothing property. Compare the following two outputs:

% Standard (non-smoothed) plot-line
plot(1:5,2:6,'o-', 'LineWidth',1);

Standard plot line (not anti-aliased)

Standard plot line (not anti-aliased)

% Smoothed (anti-aliased) plot line
plot(1:5,2:6,'o-', 'LineWidth',1, 'LineSmoothing','on');

Anti-aliased (smoothed) plot line

Anti-aliased (smoothed) plot line

Line smoothing (aka anti-aliasing) works by inserting semi-transparent pixels at the edges of the actual plot line, thereby giving an optical illusion of a smooth line without pixelization effects. In Matlab, antialiasing is done automatically for fonts, but unfortunately not for plot lines that have non-default line-widths.

Line-smoothing has been around for a long time. It was even mentioned in a user comment on the official MathWorks Pick-of-the-Week article that introduced the excellent Myaa utility (Myaa uses applicative Matlab code to create anti-aliased plot effects).

However, to this day (R2010a), the LineSmoothing property remains hidden, undocumented and not officially supported.

Perhaps the reason for this is the following bug: text objects that cross a smoothed line are obscured by it. Depending on the text size and the line width, the text might be completely hidden, although its handle indicates that it is visible and despite it being created after the plot line!

plot(1:5,2:6,'.-', 'LineWidth',5, 'LineSmoothing','on');
text(2.2,3.5, 'abcd','Color','r');

Smoothed line obscuring text

Smoothed line obscuring text

Note that this does not happen for standard (non-smoothed) lines:

plot(1:5,2:6,'.-', 'LineWidth',5);
text(2.2,3.5, 'abcd','Color','r');

Non-smoothed line does NOT obscure text

Non-smoothed line does NOT obscure text

Luckily, there’s a very simple workaround for this, that allows both line-smoothing and non-obstruction: simply set the text‘s z-position to a higher value than the plot line’s. In our example, we used a simple 2D plot line (i.e., z-position = 0), so let’s set z-position=1 for our text label:

plot(1:5,2:6,'.-', 'LineWidth',5, 'LineSmoothing','on');
text(2.2,3.5,1, 'abcd','Color','r');

Smoothed line not obscuring text

Smoothed line not obscuring text

MathWorks have developed a special workaround for the LineWidth problem in OpenGL, using


Unfortunately, as far as I could tell it has no visible effect in this particular case (perhaps I forgot to do something?).

One final note: the LineSmoothing property also exists for line, patch, surf, mesh and other similar objects.

Do you use have any other favorite undocumented/hidden property? If so, please share it in a comment below.

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Solving a MATLAB bug by subclassinghttps://undocumentedmatlab.com/blog/solving-a-matlab-bug-by-subclassing https://undocumentedmatlab.com/blog/solving-a-matlab-bug-by-subclassing#comments Sun, 07 Feb 2010 23:57:25 +0000 http://undocumentedmatlab.com/?p=1110
Related posts:
  1. Plot LimInclude properties The plot objects' XLimInclude, YLimInclude, ZLimInclude, ALimInclude and CLimInclude properties are an important feature, that has both functional and performance implications....
  2. Panel-level uicontrols Matlab's uipanel contains a hidden handle to the title label, which can be modified into a checkbox or radio-button control...
  3. Multi-column (grid) legend This article explains how to use undocumented axes listeners for implementing multi-column plot legends...
  4. UDD Properties UDD provides a very convenient way to add customizable properties to existing Matlab object handles...
I would like to welcome guest blogger Matthew Whitaker. Many of Matt’s CSSM submissions offer important insight of internal Matlab functionality. As shall be seen by today’s article and some future submissions, Matt has plenty to share vis-a-vis Matlab’s undocumented functionality.

In my day-to-day work I make extensive use of MATLAB’s Image Processing Toolbox (IPT). One area of the toolbox that has seen considerable change over the last few releases has been the development of a set of modular tools to aid in GUI design for image processing applications. In this article, I examine a bug in one of those tools to illustrate how we can use the power of subclassing these objects (using an undocumented property) to design a simple and effective workaround.

The problem

The problem arose as I was refactoring some code that was written in R2006b to R2009b. The code in question uses the impoint tool on an image along with an associated text object that moves with the point to display information as it is dragged around the image. At the time of the R2006b release the impoint tool was written as an API. In R2006b the call to impoint returns a handle to an hggroup containing a structure of function handles in its application data under the tag ‘API’. This programming pattern was common before the advent of the new class syntax in MATLAB version 7.6 (R2008a).

Here is an example of how impoint would be used in R2006b:

function impointBehavior_R2006b
%IMPOINTBEHAVIOR_R2006B shows how impoint would be used in R2006b
%Note: RUN UNDER R2006B (will run under R2009b but actually uses
%classdef impoint so it will show the same issue)
  % Display the image in a figure window
  figure;  imshow('rice.png');
  % In R2006b calling impoint returns the hggroup handle
  h = impoint(gca,100,200);
  % In 2006b iptgetapi returns a structure of function handles
  api = iptgetapi(h);
  % Add a new position callback to set the text string
  % Construct boundary constraint function so we can't go outside the axes
  fcn = makeConstrainToRectFcn('impoint',get(gca,'XLim'),get(gca,'YLim'));
  % Fire callback so we get initial text
  function newPos_Callback(newPos)
    % Display the current point position in a text label
  end %newPos_Callback
end %impointBehavior_R2006b

The code above, when run in R2006b, produces the desired behavior of displaying a text object containing the point coordinates that moves around with the point as it is dragged around the axes.

In R2009b, impoint is now a true MATLAB class using the new classdef syntax, so I wanted to update the existing code. Initially this appeared to be a straightforward translation of the code to make use of the new impoint class syntax. The first attempt to rewrite the code was:

function impointBehavior_R2009b
%IMPOINTBEHAVIOR_R2009B shows the undesirable behavior when
%using the setString method in R2009b. 
  % Display the image in a figure window
  figure;  imshow('rice.png');
  h = impoint(gca,100,200);
  % Add a new position callback to set the text string
  % Construct boundary constraint function so we can't go outside the axes
  fcn = makeConstrainToRectFcn('impoint',get(gca,'XLim'),get(gca,'YLim'));
  % Enforce boundary constraint function
  % Fire callback so we get initial text
  function newPos_Callback(newPos)
    % Display the current point position in a text label
  end %newPos_Callback
end %impointBehavior_R2009b

Unfortunately, when this code is run, dragging the mouse around the axes produces a trail of labels as shown below:

Before - buggy behavior

Before - buggy behavior

Opening up impoint.m in the editor and tracing the code revealed that impoint‘s setString method creates a new text object each time it is used. I reported this to MATLAB and the bug is now documented on the MathWorks Support site (574846).

The solution

So how do we work around this bug to get to the behavior we want? One solution would be to rewrite the offending MATLAB code but this is somewhat risky in terms of maintainability and compatibility.

A more elegant solution is to subclass the impoint class and substitute the setString behavior we want. Looking at the impoint code we find that impoint is a subclass of imroi. In the imroi property declarations we see a number of undocumented properties that are protected. We can access these properties in a subclass but not outside the class. One of these undocumented properties is h_group which is an hggroup that contains the handle graphic objects that make up the impoint on the screen. The label, when created, becomes part of this hggroup with its Tag property set to ‘label’. When performing the setString method the behavior we want to see is that if the text object exists we want to update its String property. If it does not exist we want it to perform its existing functionality:

classdef impointtextupdate < impoint
%IMPOINTTEXTUPDATE subclasses impoint to override the setString
%method of impoint so that it does not create a new text object
%each time it is called.   
    function obj = impointtextupdate(varargin)
      obj = obj@impoint(varargin{:});
    end %impointtextupdate
    function setString(obj,str)
      %override impoint setString
      %check to see if there is already a text label
      label = findobj(obj.h_group,'Type','text','Tag','label');
      if isempty(label)
        %do the default behavior
        %update the existing tag
      end %if
    end %setString
  end %methods
end %impointtextupdate

Substituting calls to impoint with the new impointupdatetext subclass now produces the desired effect as shown below:

After - expected behavior

After - expected behavior


This case illustrates a couple of points:

  • Much of the existing code in the MATLAB toolboxes is being updated to the new object oriented syntax. This presents many opportunities to easily and elegantly modify the default behavior without modifying provided toolbox code In the example above we retain all the desirable behavior of impoint while overriding the undesirable behavior.
  • Many of the properties and methods in the provided toolbox objects are hidden or protected and are undocumented. It takes some simple detective work to find these out through examining the code. MATLAB is very generous in providing much of the existing code openly. Open the functions and classes you use in the editor to really find out how they work. Over the years I’ve learned and adopted a lot of useful MATLAB programming patterns by examining the code in the various toolboxes (there are a few coding horrors as well!).

I hope to explore some other under-documented features of the IPT and other toolboxes in future posts.

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