MATLAB Release Notes    

Development Environment Features

This section includes

MATLAB Desktop

MATLAB has a new environment called the MATLAB desktop, containing tools (graphical user interfaces) for managing files, variables, and applications associated with MATLAB. Think of the desktop as your MATLAB dashboard. The first time MATLAB starts, the desktop appears as shown in the following illustration, although your Launch Pad may contain different entries. You can change the way your desktop looks by opening, closing, and moving tools.

If you prefer a command line interface, you can use functions to perform most of the features found in the MATLAB desktop tools.

The following tools are managed by the MATLAB desktop, but not all of them appear by default when you first start.

Major New Features
Command Window
Run MATLAB functions.
  • Context menu to evaluate, open, or get help for a selection
  • Tab completion for function names
  • Syntax highlighting
Command History
View a log of the functions you entered in the command window, copy them, and execute them.
New tool
Launch Pad
Easily run tools and access documentation for all your MathWorks products. Expand a listing to show the documentation, demos, and tools for that product.
New tool
Help browser
View and search the documentation for the MATLAB full product family, as described in New Online Help.
New user interface that replaces the Help Desk
Current Directory browser
View MATLAB files and related files. Perform file operations such as open files, and find and replace strings in a file.
New tool
Workspace browser
View and make changes to the contents of the workspace.
  • Interface to the Import Wizard
  • Graph data for a variable using the context menu
Array Editor
View array contents in a table format and edit the values.
  • Change the display format for variables
  • Allow strings and cell arrays of strings
Create, edit, and debug M-files (files containing MATLAB functions).
  • Show line numbers
  • Comment or uncomment a selection (multiple lines)
  • Change colors used for syntax highlighting
  • Search through multiple files at once for a specified phrase
  • Option for MATLAB to start a session and open files that were open at shutdown of the previous session
  • Option to view datatips in edit mode
  • Breakpoints are maintained when a file is saved.

To see how many of these new features work, select Demos from the Help menu in the desktop. The playback demos run in your system's Web browser and illustrate the main features of the new interfaces and tools. The playback demos run faster on Windows platforms than they do on UNIX.

Other MATLAB tools are not managed by the desktop, such as figure windows, toolbox graphical user interfaces, and the following development environment tools.

Major New Features
Set Path dialog box
View and change the MATLAB search path.
A modified version of the Path Browser user interface
Import Wizard
Load binary or text data into the MATLAB workspace.
Graphical user interface to the MATLAB import functions. See Import Wizard for more information.
M-File Profiler
Measure where an M-file is spending its time to help you make speed improvements.
Now supports scripts
Source Control Interface
Access your source control system from within MATLAB, Simulink, and Stateflow.
New tool
Access the MATLAB numeric computation and visualization software from within a word processing environment (Microsoft Word).
Supports Word 2000

New Online Help

Release 12 provides almost all the documentation in online form in HTML (a few products' online documentation is in PDF form only). The online documentation is at least as up-to-date as any printed documentation shipped with the product, and in several cases is more up-to-date.

New Help Browser.   Release 12 includes its own Help browser, which allows you to access the online documentation similarly to how you do with Microsoft's HTML Help and Sun's Java Help interfaces. However, the Help browser has been customized to work even more effectively with the whole MATLAB product family. The access methods (via tabs) include

Other features include saving favorites (bookmarks) and being able to execute code examples in the online documentation by highlighting the text and using a right-click context menu.

You can print out copies of the documentation by accessing PDF versions of the documentation. For Windows platforms, PDF files are on the Documentation CD.

See Getting Help in the MATLAB documentation for complete instructions.

Context-Sensitive Help.   For several products, you can access context-sensitive help via Help menus, Help buttons, or from a right-click context menu.

Toolbox Path Cache Reduces MATLAB Startup Time

If you run MATLAB from a network server, you can significantly reduce your startup time by using the new toolbox path cache feature. The toolbox path cache stores path information on all toolbox directories under the MATLAB root directory. During startup, MATLAB obtains this information from the cache rather than by reading it from the remote file system.

The toolbox path cache is used only during the startup of your MATLAB session. It is especially useful if you define your MATLAB path to include many toolbox directories. It takes considerable time to acquire all of this information by scanning directories in the remote file system. Reading it from a pregenerated cache however, is significantly faster. If you have a short toolbox path, there is less benefit to using the cache, but it does still provide a time savings.

When you first install MATLAB, the toolbox path cache must be generated by the system administrator and enabled on those systems for which it is needed. The MATLAB Preferences dialog box has a new Toolbox Caching panel that assists you in generating and enabling the cache.

See Reducing Startup Time with Toolbox Path Caching in the "Development Environment" of the MATLAB documentation for more information.

Import Wizard

The easiest way to import ASCII text data or binary data into the workspace is to use the new MATLAB Import Wizard. To use the Import Wizard, follow these steps:

  1. Start the Import Wizard, by choosing the Import Data option on the MATLAB command window File menu. The Import Wizard displays a file selection dialog box. Specify the file that contains the data you want to import.
  2. The Import Wizard opens the file, processes the data in the file, and displays a preview of the variable (or variables) it has created from the data in the file. If the file contains multiple variables, you can select the variables you want to import. Click Finish to import the data into the workspace.

The Import Wizard can process many types of data formats automatically, such as images, sound files, and spreadsheets. The Import Wizard can also process text data files that use commas, spaces, tabs or semicolons as delimiters. (The delimiter, also known as a column-separator, is the character used to separate the individual data items in text data file.) The Import Wizard can process other text files if you specify the delimiter used in the file.

The following table lists the types of data you can import using the Import Wizard.

Data Types
File Extension 
ASCII text data
.txt, .dat, .dlm, and others
Audio Video Interleaved (AVI) format
CompuServe Graphics Interchange format
Cursor format
HDF raster image
.jpg, .jpeg
Portable Network Graphics
Sound files
.wav, .au, .snd
.csv, .xls, .wk1
Zsoft Paintbrush

Development Environment Functions

This section lists the new and changed development environment functions.

New Development Environment Functions.   The functions listed in the following table are new in MATLAB 6.0.

Check files into your source control system from MATLAB, Simulink, and Stateflow.
Check files out of your source control system into MATLAB, Simulink, and Stateflow.
Get the name of the source control system being used with MATLAB.
Integrate a version control system not supported with MATLAB.

Display the Current Directory browser, a tool for viewing files in the current directory and performing file operations.


Display the MATLAB Help browser, which provides access to extensive online help.

Undo the previous checkout from the source control system.

Development Environment Functions That Changed.   The functions listed in the following table have been changed since MATLAB 5.2 (Release 11)

Description of Change 

The function dbstop if error no longer stops execution on errors detected within a try...catch block. MATLAB does not enter debug mode under these circumstances.

Use the new form of the function, dbstop if all error to stop execution and enter debug mode on all types of errors, including those detected within a try...catch.

Displays documentation in the Help browser instead of in the Help Desk. If an HTML reference page for a function does not exist, it displays M-file help in the Help browser.
Is now only used for:
  • The web function, if the -browser option is used for UNIX platforms
  • The IBM and HP platforms
Displays the Help browser instead of the Help Desk. In a future release, the helpdesk function will be phased out.
Function listings and descriptions appear in the Help browser instead of in a specialized window.
Opens the new Set Path dialog box instead of the Path Browser.
Now has a -java flag, which displays the version of Java used by MATLAB.
By default, displays the specified URL in the Help browser. Now includes the -browser flag, which displays the specified URL in your system's default Web browser.

  MATLAB 6.0 Release Notes Mathematics Features