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Using linkaxes vs. linkprop

Posted By Yair Altman On July 22, 2015 | __8 Comments__

One of my clients recently asked me to solve a very peculiar problem: He had several axes and was using Matlab’s builtin * linkaxes* function to link their axis limits. However, it didn’t behave quite the way that he expected. His axes were laid out as 2×2 subplots, and he wanted the two columns to be independently linked in the X axis, and the two rows to be independently linked in the Y axis:

```
% Prepare the axes
ax(1,1) = subplot(2,2,1);
ax(1,2) = subplot(2,2,2);
ax(2,1) = subplot(2,2,3);
ax(2,2) = subplot(2,2,4);
% Plot something
x = 0 : 0.01 : 10;
line(x, sin(x), 'Parent',ax(1,1));
line(x, sin(2*x), 'Parent',ax(1,2));
line(x, cos(x), 'Parent',ax(2,1));
line(x, cos(5*x), 'Parent',ax(2,2));
% Link the relevant axes
linkaxes(ax(:,1),'x'); % left column
linkaxes(ax(:,2),'x'); % right column
linkaxes(ax(1,:),'y'); % top row
linkaxes(ax(2,:),'y'); % bottom row
```

The problem was that the plots didn’t behave as expected: when zooming in on the bottom-left axes, for example, only the bottom-right axes was updated (Y-limits synced), whereas the top-left axes’ X-limits remained unchanged:

Apparently, the second set of two

The reason for this unexpected behavior is that under the hood, * linkaxes* attaches property-change listeners to the corresponding axes, and stores these listeners in the axes’ hidden

Therefore, when we placed the first set of

It so happens that Matlab listeners have a very nasty feature of being deleted when they are no longer referenced anywhere (within a workspace variable or object property). So when we overrode the first set of listener handles, we effectively deleted them, as if they were never set in the first place.

Some people may possibly complain about both issues at this point:

- That Matlab listeners get deleted so easily without so much as a console warning, and certainly against naive intuition.
- That repeated calls to
should override (rather than complement) each other.**linkaxes**

As a side note, the * addlistener* function creates a listener and then persists it in the object’s hidden

Luckily, there is a very easy and simple workaround, namely to use * linkprop* rather than

```
setappdata(ax(1,1), 'YLim_listeners', linkprop(ax(1,:),'YLim'));
setappdata(ax(2,1), 'YLim_listeners', linkprop(ax(2,:),'YLim'));
setappdata(ax(1,1), 'XLim_listeners', linkprop(ax(:,1),'XLim'));
setappdata(ax(1,2), 'XLim_listeners', linkprop(ax(:,2),'XLim'));
```

This results in the expected behavior:

The design decision by MathWorks to automatically delete Matlab listeners as soon as their reference count is zeroed and they get garbage-collected, causes a myriad of unexpected run-time behaviors, one of which is exemplified in today’s post on * linkaxes*. This would still have not caused any problem had the developers of

Luckily, now that we know how Matlab listeners behave, we can easily identify abnormal behavior that results from listener handles going out of scope, and can easily take steps to persist the handles somewhere, so that they will remain active.

I wish to stress here that the listeners’ limited scope is fully documented in several places in the documentation (e.g., here

However, I humbly contend that the fact that these behaviors are documented doesn’t meant that they are

If you are interested in the topic of Matlab listeners, note that I’ve written quite a few listener-related posts over the years (about property-change listeners as well as event listeners). I urge you to take a look at the list of related articles presented below, or to use the search box at the top of the page.

Categories: Handle graphics, Hidden property, Listeners, Low risk of breaking in future versions, Stock Matlab function, Undocumented feature

8 Comments (Open | Close)

Article printed from Undocumented Matlab: **https://undocumentedmatlab.com**

URL to article: **https://undocumentedmatlab.com/articles/using-linkaxes-vs-linkprop**

URLs in this post:

[1] here: **http://www.mathworks.com/help/matlab/matlab_oop/listener-lifecycle.html#brc3z4h**

[2] * linkprop* doc page:

[3] almost-invisible footnote: **http://www.mathworks.com/help/matlab/ref/linkaxes.html#moreabout**

[4] Property value change listeners : **https://undocumentedmatlab.com/articles/property-value-change-listeners**

[5] Determining axes zoom state : **https://undocumentedmatlab.com/articles/determining-axes-zoom-state**

[6] Plot legend title : **https://undocumentedmatlab.com/articles/plot-legend-title**

[7] Plot performance : **https://undocumentedmatlab.com/articles/plot-performance**

[8] Multi-column (grid) legend : **https://undocumentedmatlab.com/articles/multi-column-grid-legend**

[9] FIG files format : **https://undocumentedmatlab.com/articles/fig-files-format**

Click here to print.

Copyright © Yair Altman - Undocumented Matlab. All rights reserved.

8 Comments To "Using linkaxes vs. linkprop"

#1 CommentByYaroslavOn July 24, 2015 @ 05:48Hi @Yair,

The solution you proposed with

`linkprop`

has a small issue: it does not restore the linking after saving and reloading. On the other hand,`linkaxes`

recovers its linking correctly.A simple workaround is to use Matlab’s own solution: “

MCOS graphics cannot rely on custom machinery in hgload to restore linkaxes. Instead, create a matlab.graphics.internal.LinkAxes to wrap the linkprop which will restore the linkaxes when it is de-serialized.” In simple words,#2 CommentByAminOn February 26, 2016 @ 18:50Amazing post Yair. Thanks!

One question though. Is it possible to link two different properties? For example ‘x-axis’ of an ax to ‘x-axis’ and ‘y-axis’ of another ax?

#3 CommentByYair AltmanOn February 27, 2016 @ 18:42@Amin – I believe that you can link multiple properties/handles for example:

aught to link hAxes1.XLim to hAxes2.YLim

#4 CommentByYaroslavOn March 1, 2016 @ 08:43@Yair — I am afraid that your solution doesn’t answer @Amin’s question. It, actually, behaves almost exactly as

@Amin — If you want to link two different properties, you must specify the listeners explicitly. For example,

The

`linkprop`

function won’t do, since it linksthe sameproperty between two different handle objects.#5 CommentByYair AltmanOn March 1, 2016 @ 09:58@Yaroslav – you are correct, I was misled by the wording of

‘s documentation:linkpropServes me right to trust the builtin documentation! – I should have known better… 🙂

#6 CommentByMark D.On August 8, 2018 @ 14:53@Yaroslav your solution works great, but the double mouseclick (of zoom out or zoom in), which puts the plot in the default optimized axes, doesn’t work or behaves the same, instead of just linking by linkaxes. Do you know the solution for that too?

#7 CommentByYaroslavOn August 9, 2018 @ 10:52@Mark, the

function calls`zoom`

(undocumented). It, in turn, resets all modes (`resetplotview`

`X/YLimMode`

) to`auto`

. That is why the listeners do not trigger.To solve the issue, link these properties too:

#8 CommentByGabrielOn December 21, 2021 @ 17:58This didn’t work when trying to link y axes across the plots in each column and x axes across the plots in each row on an (m x n)

`tiledlayout`

.On matlab R2021a found that I had to mix

`linkaxes`

and`setappdata`

, like this: