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MATLAB Operators and Special Characters

This page contains a comprehensive listing of all MATLAB® operators, symbols, and special characters.

Arithmetic Operators

SymbolRoleMore Information
+

Addition

plus
+

Unary plus

uplus
-

Subtraction

minus
-

Unary minus

uminus
.*

Element-wise multiplication

times
*

Matrix multiplication

mtimes
./

Element-wise right division

rdivide
/

Matrix right division

mrdivide
.\

Element-wise left division

ldivide
\

Matrix left division

(also known as backslash)

mldivide
.^

Element-wise power

power
^

Matrix power

mpower
.'

Transpose

transpose
'

Complex conjugate transpose

ctranspose

Relational Operators

SymbolRoleMore Information
==

Equal to

eq
~=

Not equal to

ne
>

Greater than

gt
>=

Greater than or equal to

ge
<

Less than

lt
<=

Less than or equal to

le

Logical Operators

SymbolRoleMore Information
&

Find logical AND

and
|

Find logical OR

or
&&

Find logical AND (with short-circuiting)

Logical Operators: Short-Circuit && ||
||

Find logical OR (with short-circuiting)

~

Find logical NOT

not

Special Characters

@

Name: At symbol

Uses:

  • Function handle construction and reference

  • Calling superclass methods

Description: The @ symbol forms a handle to either the named function that follows the @ sign, or to the anonymous function that follows the @ sign. You can also use @ to call superclass methods from subclasses.

Examples

Create a function handle to a named function:

fhandle = @myfun

Create a function handle to an anonymous function:

fhandle = @(x,y) x.^2 + y.^2;

Call the disp method of MySuper from a subclass:

disp@MySuper(obj)

Call the superclass constructor from a subclass using the object being constructed:

obj = obj@MySuper(arg1,arg2,...)

More Information:

.

Name: Period or dot

Uses:

  • Decimal point

  • Element-wise operations

  • Structure field access

  • Object property or method specifier

Description: The period character separates the integral and fractional parts of a number, such as 3.1415. MATLAB operators that contain a period always work element-wise. The period character also enables you to access the fields in a structure, as well as the properties and methods of an object.

Examples

Decimal point:

102.5543

Element-wise operations:

A.*B
A.^2

Structure field access:

myStruct.f1

Object property specifier:

myObj.PropertyName

More Information

...

Name: Dot dot dot or ellipsis

Uses: Line continuation

Description: Three or more periods at the end of a line continues the current command on the next line. If three or more periods occur before the end of a line, then MATLAB ignores the rest of the line and continues to the next line. This effectively makes a comment out of anything on the current line that follows the three periods.

Note

MATLAB interprets the ellipsis as a space character. Therefore, multi-line commands must be valid as a single line with the ellipsis replaced by a space character.

Examples

Continue a function call on the next line:

sprintf(['The current value '...
'of %s is %d'],vname,value)

Break a character vector up on multiple lines and concatenate the lines together:

S = ['If three or more periods occur before the '...
    'end of a line, then the rest of that line is ' ...
    'ignored and MATLAB continues to the next line']

To comment out one line in a multiline command, use ... at the beginning of the line to ensure that the command remains complete. If you use % to comment out a line it produces an error:

y = 1 +...
    2 +...
  % 3 +...
    4;

However, this code runs properly since the third line does not produce a gap in the command:

y = 1 +...
    2 +...
... 3 +...
    4;

More Information

,

Name: Comma

Uses: Separator

Description: Use commas to separate row elements in an array, array subscripts, function input and output arguments, and commands entered on the same line.

Examples

Separate row elements to create an array:

A = [12,13; 14,15]

Separate subscripts:

A(1,2)

Separate input and output arguments in function calls:

[Y,I] = max(A,[],2)

Separate multiple commands on the same line (showing output):

figure, plot(sin(-pi:0.1:pi)), grid on

More Information

:

Name: Colon

Uses:

  • Vector creation

  • Indexing

  • For-loop iteration

Description: Use the colon operator to create regularly spaced vectors, index into arrays, and define the bounds of a for loop.

Examples

Create a vector:

x = 1:10

Create a vector that increments by 3:

x = 1:3:19

Reshape a matrix into a column vector:

A(:)

Assign new elements without changing the shape of an array:

A = rand(3,4);
A(:) = 1:12;

Index a range of elements in a particular dimension:

A(2:5,3)

Index all elements in a particular dimension:

A(:,3)

for loop bounds:

x = 1;
for k = 1:25
    x = x + x^2;
end

More Information

;

Name: Semicolon

Uses:

  • Signify end of row

  • Suppress output of code line

Description: Use semicolons to separate rows in an array creation command, or to suppress the output display of a line of code.

Examples

Separate rows to create an array:

A = [12,13; 14,15]

Suppress code output:

Y = max(A);

Separate multiple commands on a single line (suppressing output):

A = 12.5;  B = 42.7,  C = 1.25;
B =
   42.7000

More Information

( )

Name: Parentheses

Uses:

  • Operator precedence

  • Function argument enclosure

  • Indexing

Description: Use parentheses to specify precedence of operations, enclose function input arguments, and index into an array.

Examples

Precedence of operations:

(A.*(B./C)) - D

Function argument enclosure:

plot(X,Y,'r*')
C = union(A,B)

Indexing:

A(3,:)
A(1,2)
A(1:5,1)

More Information

[ ]

Name: Square brackets

Uses:

  • Array construction

  • Array concatenation

  • Empty matrix and array element deletion

  • Multiple output argument assignment

Description: Square brackets enable array construction and concatenation, creation of empty matrices, deletion of array elements, and capturing values returned by a function.

Examples

Construct a three-element vector:

X = [10 12 -3]

Add a new bottom row to a matrix:

A = rand(3);
A = [A; 10 20 30]

Create an empty matrix:

A = []

Delete a matrix column:

A(:,1) = []

Capture three output arguments from a function:

[C,iA,iB] = union(A,B)

More Information

{ }

Name: Curly brackets

Uses: Cell array assignment and contents

Description: Use curly braces to construct a cell array, or to access the contents of a particular cell in a cell array.

Examples

To construct a cell array, enclose all elements of the array in curly braces:

C = {[2.6 4.7 3.9], rand(8)*6, 'C. Coolidge'}

Index to a specific cell array element by enclosing all indices in curly braces:

A = C{4,7,2}

More Information

%

Name: Percent

Uses:

  • Comment

  • Conversion specifier

Description: The percent sign is most commonly used to indicate nonexecutable text within the body of a program. This text is normally used to include comments in your code.

Some functions also interpret the percent sign as a conversion specifier.

Two percent signs, %%, serve as a cell delimiter as described in Code Sections.

Examples

Add a comment to a block of code:

% The purpose of this loop is to compute
% the value of ...

Use conversion specifier with sprintf:

sprintf('%s = %d', name, value)

More Information

%{ %}

Name: Percent curly bracket

Uses: Block comments

Description: The %{ and %} symbols enclose a block of comments that extend beyond one line.

Note

With the exception of whitespace characters, the %{ and %} operators must appear alone on the lines that immediately precede and follow the block of help text. Do not include any other text on these lines.

Examples

Enclose any multiline comments with percent followed by an opening or closing brace:

%{
The purpose of this routine is to compute
the value of ... 
%}

More Information

!

Name: Exclamation point

Uses: Operating system command

Description: The exclamation point precedes operating system commands that you want to execute from within MATLAB.

Not available in MATLAB Online™.

Examples

The exclamation point initiates a shell escape function. Such a function is to be performed directly by the operating system:

!rmdir oldtests

More Information

?

Name: Question mark

Uses: Metaclass for MATLAB class

Description: The question mark retrieves the meta.class object for a particular class name. The ? operator works only with a class name, not an object.

Examples

Retrieve the meta.class object for class inputParser:

?inputParser

More Information

''

Name: Single quotes

Uses: Character array constructor

Description: Use single quotes to create character vectors that have class char.

Examples

Create a character vector:

chr = 'Hello, world'

More Information

""

Name: Double quotes

Uses: String constructor

Description: Use double quotes to create string scalars that have class string.

Examples

Create a string scalar:

S = "Hello, world"

More Information

N/A

Name: Space character

Uses: Separator

Description: Use the space character to separate row elements in an array constructor, or the values returned by a function. In these contexts, the space character and comma are equivalent.

Examples

Separate row elements to create an array:

% These statements are equivalent
A = [12 13; 14 15]
A = [12,13; 14,15]

Separate output arguments in function calls:

% These statements are equivalent
[Y I] = max(A)
[Y,I] = max(A)
N/A

Name: Newline character

Uses: Separator

Description: Use the newline character to separate rows in an array construction statement. In that context, the newline character and semicolon are equivalent.

Examples

Separate rows in an array creation command:

% These statements are equivalent
A = [12 13
     14 15]
A = [12 13; 14 15]
~

Name: Tilde

Uses:

  • Logical NOT

  • Argument placeholder

Description: Use the tilde symbol to represent logical NOT or to suppress specific input or output arguments.

Examples

Calculate the logical NOT of a matrix:

A = eye(3);
~A

Determine where the elements of A are not equal to those of B:

A = [1 -1; 0 1]
B = [1 -2; 3 2]
A~=B

Return only the third output value of union:

[~,~,iB] = union(A,B)

More Information

=

Name: Equal sign

Uses: Assignment

Description: Use the equal sign to assign values to a variable. The syntax B = A stores the elements of A in variable B.

Note

The = character is for assignment, whereas the == character is for comparing the elements in two arrays. See eq for more information.

Examples

Create a matrix A. Assign the values in A to a new variable, B. Lastly, assign a new value to the first element in B.

A = [1 0; -1 0];
B = A;
B(1) = 200;
< &

Name: Left angle bracket and ampersand

Uses: Specify superclasses

Description: Specify one or more superclasses in a class definition

Examples

Define a class that derives from one superclass:

classdef MyClass < MySuperclass
   …
end

Define a class that derives from multiple superclasses:

classdef MyClass < Superclass1 & Superclass2 & …
   …
end

More Information:

.?

Name: Dot question mark

Uses: Specify fields of name-value structure

Description:

When using function argument validation, you can define the fields of the name-value structure as the names of all writeable properties of the class.

Examples

Specify the field names of the propArgs structure as the writeable properties of the matlab.graphics.primitive.Line class.

function f(propArgs)
    arguments
        propArgs.?matlab.graphics.primitive.Line
    end
    % Function code
    ...
end

More Information:

String and Character Formatting

Some special characters can only be used in the text of a character vector or string. You can use these special characters to insert new lines or carriage returns, specify folder paths, and more.

Use the special characters in this table to specify a folder path using a character vector or string.

/

\

Name: Slash and Backslash

Uses: File or folder path separation

Description: In addition to their use as mathematical operators, the slash and backslash characters separate the elements of a path or folder. On Microsoft® Windows® based systems, both slash and backslash have the same effect. On The Open Group UNIX® based systems, you must use slash only.

Examples

On a Windows system, you can use either backslash or slash:

dir([matlabroot '\toolbox\matlab\elmat\shiftdim.m'])
dir([matlabroot '/toolbox/matlab/elmat/shiftdim.m'])

On a UNIX system, use only the forward slash:

dir([matlabroot '/toolbox/matlab/elmat/shiftdim.m'])

..

Name: Dot dot

Uses: Parent folder

Description: Two dots in succession refers to the parent of the current folder. Use this character to specify folder paths relative to the current folder.

Examples

To go up two levels in the folder tree and down into the test folder, use:

cd ..\..\test

More Information

*

Name: Asterisk

Uses: Wildcard character

Description: In addition to being the symbol for matrix multiplication, the asterisk * is used as a wildcard character.

Wildcards are generally used in file operations that act on multiple files or folders. MATLAB matches all characters in the name exactly except for the wildcard character *, which can match any one or more characters.

Examples

Locate all files with names that start with january_ and have a .mat file extension:

dir('january_*.mat')

@

Name: At symbol

Uses: Class folder indicator

Description: An @ sign indicates the name of a class folder.

Examples

Refer to a class folder:

\@myClass\get.m

More Information

+

Name: Plus

Uses: Package directory indicator

Description: A + sign indicates the name of a package folder.

Examples

Package folders always begin with the + character:

+mypack
+mypack/pkfcn.m  % a package function
+mypack/@myClass % class folder in a package

More Information

There are certain special characters that you cannot enter as ordinary text. Instead, you must use unique character sequences to represent them. Use the symbols in this table to format strings and character vectors on their own or in conjunction with formatting functions like compose, sprintf, and error. For more information, see Formatting Text.

SymbolEffect on Text
''

Single quotation mark

%%

Single percent sign

\\

Single backslash

\a

Alarm

\b

Backspace

\f

Form feed

\n

New line

\r

Carriage return

\t

Horizontal tab

\v

Vertical tab

\xN

Hexadecimal number, N

\N

Octal number, N

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