CS 332

MATLAB Introduction

Starting MATLAB
Variables, arrays and matrices
    zeros and ones
    colon notation
    array arithmetic and matrix operations
    other useful MATLAB functions: sum, min, max, linspace, find
M-Files, scripts and directories
Using the help system
Conditionals and loops
Aborting a computation and Command Window shortcuts
Managing variables and memory space
Defining new functions
    using help to obtain information about user-defined functions
    adding user input and output to function definitions
    break and return statements
Types of numbers
2D and 3D plotting
Working with images
    image types
    reading and writing images
    displaying images

MATLAB is an extensive technical computing environment with advanced graphics and visualization tools and a rich high-level programming language. This document introduces aspects of MATLAB that will be most useful for working with vision software in the course CS332 Visual Processing in Computer and Biological Vision Systems. To learn more about MATLAB, you can browse the extensive online help facility or peruse the books and documents available in the CS332 library in SCI S160A. The CS112 syllabus page also contains daily links to pdf files of slides on topics covered here, as well as additional MATLAB facilities.

At Wellesley, MATLAB 8, together with some useful toolboxes that include the Image Processing Toolbox, is available on the public Macs and PCs, and can be installed on your personal Mac or PC for use on the campus network (or off campus, through VPN). For more information about this option, see the Technology Support webpage. The MATLAB software is key-served, so there are a limited number of copies that can be used at one time. Please be sure to exit MATLAB when you are done using it! A student version of MATLAB can be purchased for $99.00 at the Mathworks website.

Starting MATLAB

To start MATLAB on a public Mac, double-click on the MATLAB_R2015b icon inside the Applications folder that you can open from the Go menu (some public Macs may have an earlier version of MATLAB installed). Course materials, such as images and code files, can be downloaded to the Mac from the /home/cs332/download directory on the CS file server using the Fetch program. When using Fetch, connect to cs.wellesley.edu using SFTP.

To start MATLAB on a public PC, navigate to the MATLAB icon in the All Programs menu in the bottom left corner of the screen. Course materials can be downloaded to a PC using the WinSCP program.

When you start MATLAB, a large window appears (the MATLAB desktop) that contains smaller windows that include a Command Window, Command History, Current Folder, and Workspace window:


The selection of subwindows that appear, and their spatial arrangement, can be controlled through the Layout menu that appears in the top region of the MATLAB desktop.

Unlike languages such as Java and C, MATLAB is an interactive programming environment, in which the user types single commands at a prompt in the Command Window and the commands are executed immediately. The Command History window maintains a list of all of the commands entered in the Command Window during the current session. Double-clicking on any command in the Command History window evaluates this command again.

Immediately above the central Command Window is a pull-down menu with a text field that indicates the Current Folder (or Current Directory in older versions of MATLAB). The initial current directory will differ on Macs and PCs. The contents of the current directory are listed in the Current Folder window in the left region of the MATLAB desktop. The Workspace window lists the name, value and type of all variables currently defined in the MATLAB workspace.

Variables, arrays and matrices

When the MATLAB interpreter is waiting for a command from the user, the command prompt >> appears in the Command Window. Try entering the following commands that create some variables and assign these variables to values. The printout below also shows the MATLAB response (the phrases preceded by % are comments that should not be entered):

>> format compact         % removes extra vertical space from MATLAB printout
>> a = 10
a =
    10                    % MATLAB prints the value of each expression
>> b = [1 2 3]
b =                       % vector of values
    1    2    3           
>> c = [4 5 6; 7 8 9]
c =                       % matrix of values - the semi-colon separates row contents
    4    5    6           
    7    8    9
>> d = [-1 0; 6 -7]
d =
   -1    0
    6   -7
>> e = [c d];             % semi-colon at the end of a statement suppresses
>> e                             % the printout of its value
e =
    4    5    6    -1    0
    7    8    9     6   -7

MATLAB was originally designed to work efficiently with large matrices of numbers, which are common in many science and engineering applications. The name MATLAB is derived from MATrix LABoratory. A matrix is essentially a two-dimensional array of numbers, although operations on matrices such as multiplication follow certain mathematical rules. A matrix with M rows and N columns is referred to as an MxN matrix. In the above examples, the first variable, a, is assigned to a single scalar value that is stored in a 1x1 matrix. The variable b is assigned to a row vector of three elements that are arranged horizontally. b is represented as a 1x3 matrix. You can think of b as a one-dimensional array. Brackets are used to enter the contents of a matrix, but these brackets are not shown when the value is printed.

The variable c is assigned to a 2x3 matrix that you can think of as a two-dimensional array. In the assignment statement, the elements within each row are separated by spaces and the contents of the two rows are separated by a semi-colon. You can create a column vector in which the elements are arranged vertically, by placing semi-colons between the successive elements, as in the following example:

>> f = [1; 2; 3]
f =

The earlier assignment of the variable e illustrates that new matrices can be formed out of existing ones, by concatenating the parts. This assignment statement is also terminated by a semi-colon, which suppresses the printout of the returned value. The value of a variable can be printed by typing the name of the variable at the command prompt.

At any time, you can enter the clc command to clear the Command Window.

The built-in size function returns the dimensions of a matrix:

>> size(b)           % returns a vector containing the two dimensions, 1x3
ans =
    1    3
>> size(e)
ans = 
    2    5
>> size(e,1)         % returns the first dimension
ans =
>> size(e,2)         % returns the second dimension
ans =
>> [rows cols] = size(e)     % assigns dimensions to separate variables
rows =
cols =

When a value is returned, but not assigned to an explicit variable name, the value is assigned to a default variable named ans. The built-in function length returns the length of a one-dimensional matrix, e.g. length(e).

The elements of a 1D matrix can be accessed by specifying a single index in parentheses, while the elements of a 2D matrix can be accessed by placing two indices inside parentheses, separated by commas, as shown in the following examples:

>> b(2)
ans =              % indices begin with 1 (not with 0, as in Java and C)
>> d(2,2)
ans =
>> d(1,2)
ans =
>> d(2,2) = 10     % assigning new contents to a matrix location
d =
   -1    0
    6   10
>> d(4,4) = 3
d =
   -1    0    0    0
    6   10    0    0
    0    0    0    0
    0    0    0    3

The last example shows that if a value is assigned to a matrix location that is outside the current bounds of the matrix, MATLAB automatically expands the matrix, padding it with zeros in locations where a value is not specified. When expanding the matrix, the old contents are copied to the new matrix, so this is not an efficient operation if performed many times.

zeros and ones

When the desired size of a matrix is known in advance, it is best to create the matrix initially using the functions zeros or ones, as shown in the following examples:

>> image1 = zeros(3,4)        % create a 3x4 matrix of zeros
image1 =
    0    0    0    0
    0    0    0    0
    0    0    0    0
>> image2 = ones(3,3)         % create a 3x3 matrix of ones
image2 =
    1    1    1
    1    1    1
    1    1    1
>> image3 = 5*ones(2,3)       % all matrix elements are scaled by 5
image3 =
    5    5    5
    5    5    5
>> image1D = 2*ones(1,6)      % to create a 1D matrix of zeros or ones,
image1D =                     % you still need to specify two dimensions
    2    2    2    2    2    2

The zeros and ones functions can also be used to create 3D matrices. This is illustrated in the following example, which also shows how to access the dimensions and elements of a 3D matrix:

>> image3D = zeros(10,10,3);
>> [xdim ydim zdim] = size(image3D)
xdim =
ydim =
zdim =
>> image3D(3,6,2) = 100;

colon notation

It is often desirable to create a range of equally spaced numbers or access a range of indices in a matrix all at once. A range of numbers can be specified using colon notation. The expression a:b denotes a sequence of consecutive numbers from a to b, incrementing by 1. The expression a:b:c denotes a sequence of numbers from a to c, changing by b. In the following examples, some sample ranges of numbers are placed in 1D matrices:

>> g = 2:6
g =
    2    3    4    5    6
>> h = 3:2:11
h =
    3    5    7    9    11
>> k = 2:-1:-3
k =
    2    1    0    -1   -2   -3
>> m = 0.2:0.4:2.2
m =
    0.2000   0.6000   1.0000   1.4000   1.8000   2.2000

The last example created a matrix of floating point numbers, and by default, MATLAB prints these numbers with 4 digits after the decimal point. Colon notation can be used to specify a range of indices for a matrix. Inside a matrix reference, a single colon by itself specifies an entire row or column. The keyword end inside a matrix reference specifies the upper limit of a particular dimension. The following examples illustrate these concepts:

>> e
e =
    4    5    6   -1    0
    7    8    9    6   -7
>> e(1,2:4)
ans =                   % row 1, column indices 2 through 4
    5    6   -1   
>> e(1:2,4:5)
ans =                   % rows 1 and 2, columns 4 and 5
   -1    0
    6   -7
>> e(:,2)
ans =                   % all rows in column 2
>> e(2,:)
ans =                   % all columns in row 2
    7    8    9    6   -7
>> e(1,3:end)
ans =                   % row 1, from column 3 to the last column
    6   -1    0
>> e(:,3) = 0           % assign all rows in column 3 to zero
e =
    4    5    0   -1    0
    7    8    0    6   -7

The contents of one matrix can be copied into another, using colon notation to specify regions of the matrices:

>> im1 = zeros(5,5)
im1 =
    0    0    0    0    0
    0    0    0    0    0
    0    0    0    0    0
    0    0    0    0    0
    0    0    0    0    0
>> im2 = ones(3,3)
im2 =
    1    1    1
    1    1    1
    1    1    1
>> im1(2:4,3:5) = im2           % copy all of im2 into im1, starting at 
im1 =                              % row 2, column 1 of im1
    0    0    0    0    0
    0    0    1    1    1
    0    0    1    1    1
    0    0    1    1    1
    0    0    0    0    0
>> im1(4:5,1:2) = im2(1:2,1:2)   % copy a subregion of im2 into im1
im1 =
    0    0    0    0    0
    0    0    1    1    1
    0    0    1    1    1
    1    1    1    1    1
    1    1    0    0    0
>> subimage = im1(2:4,1:3)      % create a separate matrix that is a
subimage =                               % subregion of im1
    0    0    1
    0    0    1
    1    1    1

matrix arithmetic and matrix operations

If two matrices have the same dimensions, their contents can be added, subtracted, multiplied and divided on an element-by-element basis:

>> a1 = [2 6 3; 0 4 7; 1 5 8]
a1 =
    2    6    3
    0    4    7
    1    5    8
>> a2 = [6 4 1; 2 8 0; 3 7 5]
a2 =
    6    4    1
    2    8    0
    3    7    5
>> a1+a2            % add elements at corresponding locations of a1 and a2
ans =
    8   10    4
    2   12    7
    4   12   13
>> a1-a2            % subtract corresponding elements of a1 and a2
ans =
   -4    2    2
   -2   -4    7
   -2   -2    3
>> a1.*a2           % multiply corresponding elements of a1 and a2
ans =                   % note the period before the * symbol!
   12   24    3
    0   32    0
    3   35   40
>> a2.\a1           % divide elements of a1 into corresponding elements
Warning: Divide by zero.       % of a2 - note warning!
ans =
   3.0000   0.6667   0.3333
      Inf   2.0000        0      % Inf represents infinity (undefined)
   3.0000   1.4000   0.6250
>> a1./a2           % divide elements of a2 into corresponding elements
Warning: Divide by zero.       % of a1
ans =
    0.3333   1.5000   3.0000
         0   0.5000      Inf
    0.3333   0.7143   1.6000
>> 2*a1             % scale all the elements by 2 (a1 does not change)
ans =
    4   12    6
    0    8   14
    2   10   16
>> a1.^2            % square all of the elements (a1 does not change)
ans = 
    4   36    9
    0   16   49
    1   25   64
>> a1*a2            % perform a matrix multiplication
ans =
   33   77   17
   29   81   35
   40  100   41
>> a1^2             % multiply a1 by itself using matrix multiplication
ans =
    7   51   72
    7   51   84
   10   66  102

In each of the above examples, a new matrix was created and automatically assigned to the temporary variable ans. To reassign a variable to the new matrix, or assign the result to a new variable name, the expression must be embedded in an assignment statement, e.g. a3 = a1 + a2.

other useful MATLAB functions: sum, min, max, linspace, find

Some additional built-in MATLAB functions that will come in handy include sum, min, max, linspace and find, illustrated in the following code:

>> test1D = [3 5 1 7];
>> sum(test1D)       % returns the sum of the contents of a 1D matrix
ans =
>> test = [1 2 3; 4 5 6; 7 8 9]
test =
    1    2    3
    4    5    6
    7    8    9
>> sum(test)         % for a 2D matrix, sum returns a 1D matrix of
ans =                   % the sums of the values in each column
   12   15   18
>> sum(sum(test))    % invoke sum twice to obtain the sum of all the
ans =                   % contents of a 2D matrix
>> min(test1D)       % returns the minimum value in a 1D matrix
ans =
>> min(test)         % returns vector of minimum values in each column
ans =
    1    2    3
>> min(min(test))    % returns the minimum value in a 2D matrix
ans =
>> max(test1D)       % returns the maximum values
ans =
>> max(test)
ans =
    7    8    9
>> max(max(test))
ans =

linspace(x1,x2,n) returns a 1D matrix containing n values that are evenly spaced between x1 and x2:

>> linspace(2,15,5)
ans =
   2.0000   5.25000   8.5000   11.7500   15.0000

Finally, the find function returns the locations (indices) of values in a matrix that satisfy an input logical expression:

>> nums = rand(1,7)      % create a 1D matrix of random numbers between 0 and 1
nums =
   0.9355   0.9169   0.4103   0.8936   0.0579   0.3529   0.8132
>> find(nums>0.5)        % returns the indices of numbers larger than 0.5
ans =
    1    2    4    7
>> nums = rand(4,4)      % create a 2D matrix of random numbers
nums = 
   0.0099   0.6038   0.7468   0.4186
   0.1389   0.2722   0.4451   0.8462
   0.2028   0.1988   0.9318   0.5252
   0.1987   0.0153   0.4660   0.2026
                             % find numbers between 0.33 and 0.67
>> [r c] = find((nums > 0.33) & (nums < 0.67))
r =                      % r is a column vector of the row coordinates
    1                         % of numbers in this range
c =                      % c is a vector of the column coordinates
    2                         % of numbers in this range

The two vectors r and c indicate that there are numbers between 0.33 and 0.67 at (row, column) locations (1,2), (2,3), (4,3), (1,4) and (3,4). For more information about these and other MATLAB functions, see the section on Using the help system. Other built-in functions that may appear in course software include abs, exp, sqrt, prod, mean, fix, round, rem, sin, cos and tan.

M-Files, scripts and directories

A sequence of MATLAB commands can be stored in a text file and executed by entering the first name of the text file in the Command Window. The file must have a filename extension of .m and is referred to as an M-File. One type of M-file is a script. Although any text editor can be used to create an M-File, MATLAB provides its own editor that is convenient to use. There are at least three ways to open an initial editor window to start a new script:

An existing M-file can be opened in the MATLAB editor through the Open menu near the upper left corner of the MATLAB window, or by clicking on the folder above this menu. You can also double-click on the file name in the Current Folder window, or invoke the edit command in the Command Window, for example:

     edit myCodeFile

In this case, the myCodeFile.m file must be stored in the current directory, or exist somewhere on MATLAB's search path described later in this section.

Multiple files can be open in the editor at one time - the files are overlaid and can be selected by clicking on the tab with their name near the top of the editor window. You can type commands in the editor, and the code will be formatted automatically with indentation to make the code more readable.

A code file can be saved by clicking on the floppy disk icon labeled Save along the top of the editor window, or through the Save menu below the icon. When a file is first created, a dialog box will appear where the name of the file can be entered. Either type the full file name (e.g. myCodeFile.m) or first file name (e.g. myCodeFile) in the text box labeled Save As: and click on the Save button. Unless otherwise specified, the file will be stored in the current directory.

Suppose a file is created, named testFile.m. The sequence of commands in this file can then be executed by entering the name testFile in the Command Window. From the editor, the script can also be run by clicking on the green arrow along the top menu bar.

A comment can be placed in an M-File by preceding the text with %, as shown in the above code samples. Multiple lines of text can be put in comments by surrounding the block of text with %{ and %} placed on separate lines, as shown in the following script:

This script creates a simple image with
two patches of constant intensity against
a black background
image = zeros(50,50);
image(10:20,10:30) = 100;
image(25:40,15:45) = 200;

A script is executed as if the individual commands were entered, one-by-one, in the Command Window. As a consequence, existing variables in the MATLAB workspace can be altered by a script that uses variables of the same name, and new variables created by a script will remain in the workspace after execution is complete.

In the Starting MATLAB section, it was noted that there is a default current directory whose pathname differs on Macs and PCs. The current directory whose contents are listed in the Current Folder window can be changed. The menu bar directly above this window contains arrow and folder icons for navigating up and down the directory tree. Alternatively, you can select the desired directory using the pull-down menu above the central Command Window. In the Command Window, the cd command can also be used to specify a current directory.

When a name, such as testFile, is entered in the Command Window, the MATLAB interpreter first checks if there is a variable of this name in the workspace. If not, it checks whether there is a built-in function of this name. If no built-in function exists, it looks for an M-File in the current directory with this name as the first file name (i.e., testFile.m). If no such file is found, the interpreter checks each directory in a list called the search path for a file of this name. If no file is found on the search path, an error is generated.

The search path initially contains all of the directories where MATLAB stores its files. The search path can be viewed by selecting Set Path from the menu bar at the top of the MATLAB window. This brings up a dialog box with a list of current directories on the search path. On a Mac or PC, a new directory can be added by clicking either the Add Folder... or Add Folder with Subfolders... button, which brings up another dialog box that can be used to navigate to the directory to be added to the search path.

In order to execute a script from the editor or by entering the name of the script in the Command Window, the script file must be stored in the current directory or some other directory listed on the search path.

When naming variables and files, it is helpful to remember the procedure that MATLAB uses to resolve a name that appears in a script or is entered directly in the Command Window. To determine whether a particular name already exists, use the exist function, which returns 0 if a name does not exist:

>> exist magic           % there's a file magic.m on MATLAB's search path
ans =
>> exist stars           % the name 'stars' does not exist
ans =

Using the help system

MATLAB has an extensive library of built-in functions that are documented through the help system. Just enter help or doc followed by the name of a function:

>> help exist
>> doc magic

The help command can also be used to print information about user-defined scripts and functions. In the case of scripts, any comments at the top of the script file that are preceded with a % are printed. For example, suppose the following script were stored in a file named helpTest.m:

% this script illustrates the application of the
% help command to user-defined script files
a = 10;
b = 3;

The comments can then be accessed through the Command Window:

>> help helpTest
    this script illustrates the application of the
    help command to user-defined script files

You can also search for information through the Help menu at the top of the computer screen.

Conditionals and loops

MATLAB provides if and switch statements for conditionals, and for and while statements for loops. This section introduces if and for statements. The if statement can follow one of three patterns:

if expression
     <commands to evaluate if true>

if expression
     <commands to evaluate if true>
     <commands to evaluate if false>

if expression1
     <commands to evaluate if expression1 is true>
elseif expression2
     <commands to evaluate if expression2 is true>
elseif expression3
     <commands to evaluate if expression3 is true>
     <commands to evaluate if all expressions are false>

The expressions in the above patterns are logical expressions that can be created using the following relational operators, similar to Java and C: > < >= <= == ~= & | && || (note that == is used to test for equality - the single equals = is used only for assignment).

The general pattern for the for statement is:

for variable = values
     <commands to evaluate for each value of variable>

It is common to use the colon operator or an existing 1D matrix to specify the values for the variable that controls the number of times that the body of the loop is executed. The following sequence of commands illustrates the use of if and for statements. The statements are formatted as they would appear when entered into an M-File in the editor. Semi-colons are typed at the end of each assignment statement so that the MATLAB output is suppressed during execution:

randomNums = rand(1,7);         % create a 1D matrix of random numbers
numbers = zeros(1,7);               % between 0.0 and 1.0
for i = 1:7                     % loop is executed 7 times, with i assigned
    if (randomNums(i) < 0.33)   % to consecutive integers from 1 to 7
        numbers(i) = 0;
    elseif (randomNums(i) < 0.66)
        numbers(i) = i;
        numbers(i) = 1;
for i = 1:3:7                   % loop is executed 3 times, with i assigned 
    numbers(i) = numbers(i) + 100;     % to 1, 4 and 7
numbers2D = rand(3,6);
for i = 1:3                     % nested for statements can be used to loop
    for j = 1:6                    % through a 2D matrix
        if numbers2D(i,j) < 0.5) | (j == 3)
            numbers2D(i,j) = 0.0;
nums = [3 8 2 9 1 5 8];
sum = 0;
for val = nums                  % loop is executed 7 times, with val assigned
    sum = sum + val;                % to each of the 7 numbers stored in nums

Suppose the above statements were saved in an M-File named forTest.m and then executed in the Command Window. An example of the final values stored in the variables randomNums, numbers, numbers2D and sum is shown in the following printout:

>> randomNums
randomNums =
   0.6992   0.7275   0.4784   0.5548   0.1210    0.4508    0.7159
>> numbers
numbers =
   101    1    3   104    0    6   101
>> numbers2D
numbers2D = 
   0.8928   0.8656      0        0        0        0
        0        0      0        0   0.8439   0.9943
        0   0.8049      0   0.6408        0        0
>> sum
sum =

Aborting a computation and Command Window shortcuts

Now that you know about loops, it's useful to know how to terminate a runaway computation. When MATLAB is busy performing a computation, the word Busy is printed in the lower left corner of the full MATLAB window. The execution of any command can be aborted by typing control-C.

When entering commands in the Command Window, there are a number of handy shortcuts available. The up-arrow and down-arrow keys cycle up and down through previously entered commands, allowing you to repeat the execution of a command. The left- and right-arrow keys move the cursor back and forth through a line to facilitate editing, and the Tab key can be used for command completion. If you type part of a command and decide not to execute this command, press the escape key to erase the line.

A final handy shortcut is that multiple commands can be typed on one line, separated by commas (although this can lead to less readable code):

>>x = 10, y = 15, z = sqrt(x^2 + y^2)
x =
y =
z = 

Managing variables and memory space

Large 2D and 3D matrices can occupy substantial memory space. It is possible for MATLAB to run out of memory, making it impossible to do further work. Fortunately, existing variables that are no longer needed can be eliminated, freeing up memory space for new variables. The who command prints the names of all variables currently defined in the MATLAB workspace, the whos command prints the name, size and type of each variable, and the clear command deletes variables from the workspace:

 >> whos
  Name        Size        Bytes      Class
  ans          1x1            8      double matrix
  im1        10x10          800      double matrix
  im2        20x20         3200      double matrix
  image      50x50        20000      double matrix
Grand total is 3001 elements using 24008 bytes
>> clear im1 im2
>> who
Your variables are:
ans    image

Executing the command clear all deletes all variables from the workspace.

Defining new functions

A new function can be defined in an M-File whose first filename is the same as the name of the function. To open a file to define a new function, select Function from the New menu near the top of the MATLAB window, and the skeleton of a function definition will appear in the MATLAB editor. The first statement in the file is a declaration line that indicates the name of the function and its inputs and outputs. This declaration line implicitly shows the format for calling the function. The generic pattern for a function definition is:

function <outputs> = <function name> (<inputs>)
<statements comprising the body of the function>

<inputs> is a list of input variable names, separated by commas. Inside the body of the function, the inputs can be accessed by name and assigned to new values. If the function returns a single value, then <outputs> is a single variable name. If multiple values are returned, then <outputs> is a bracketed list of variable names, separated by commas. Inside the body of the function, the output variable name(s) must be assigned to the value(s) to be returned. Note that the skeleton of the function definition provided in recent versions of MATLAB contains an end statement at the end of the function, but this is not essential.

Consider the following function named gaussian:

function g = gaussian(x, sigma)
% returns the value of a Gaussian function for
% a particular input location and spread
g = exp(-1.0*(x^2/sigma^2);

This function must be stored in a file named gaussian.m. The follow examples show how this function can be called:

>> gval = gaussian(3.0,2.0)
gval =
>> gvals = zeros(1,6)
gvals =
    0    0    0    0    0
>> for x = 0:5
gvals(x+1) = gaussian(x,2.0);       % the body of a for statement is not
end                                 % indented when entered directly in 
>> gvals                             % the Command Window
gvals =
   1.0000   0.7788   0.3679   0.1054   0.0183   0.0019

When a function is called with a particular set of inputs, the values of these inputs are copied into the input variables specified in the declaration line of the function definition. Similarly, values returned by a function are copied into the variables specified in the function call. Local variables created within a function definition only exist during the execution of the function. The following examples illustrate a variety of function definitions and their application.

The function gaussianFun returns a 1D matrix of samples of a Gaussian function. Its definition illustrates the reassignment of an input variable, sigma, and use of a local variable, xvals:

function g = gaussianFun(range, numSamples, sigma)
% returns a 1D matrix of samples of a Gaussian function
% with spread specified by sigma and x ranging from
% -range to +range
sigma = -1.0/sigma^2;
xvals = linspace(-range, range, numSamples);
xvals = xvals.^2;
g = exp(sigma.*xvals);

The function gaussianPlot illustrates the format of a declaration line for a function with no inputs and outputs. The plot function is described in the section, 2D and 3D plotting.

function gaussianPlot
% function with no inputs and outputs,
% displays a graph of a gaussian function
gauss = gaussianFun(4,9,2.0);              % call another user-defined function
xcoords = [-4:4];

The last two functions can be invoked as follows:

>> gauss = gaussianFun(4,9,2.0)
gauss =
  Columns 1 through 7
    0.0183   0.1054   0.3679   0.7788   1.0000   0.7788   0.3679
  Columns 8 through 9
    0.1054   0.0183
>> gaussianPlot

The findZeros function returns two values, a 2D matrix and a number:

function [zeroMap numZeros] = findZeros(image)
% returns a 2D matrix that is the same size as the input
% image matrix, with 1's at the locations of the zero
% values in the input image and 0's elsewhere. also
% returns the number of zeros in the input image
[xdim ydim] = size(image); % get the dimensions of the input matrix zeroMap = zeros(xdim,ydim); % createa new matrix of the same size [x y] = find(image==0); % find the locations of zeros in the image numZeros = length(x); % determine the total number of zeros for i = 1:numZeros % place 1's at the corresponding locations zeroMap(x(i),y(i)) = 1; % of the zeroMap matrix end >> testImage = [6 2 0 6 1; 0 7 2 5 0; 7 6 2 0 3; 6 1 0 3 7; 8 0 6 9 0] testImage = 6 2 0 6 1 0 7 2 5 0 7 6 2 0 3 6 1 0 3 7 8 0 6 9 0 >> [zMap nZeros] = findZeros(testImage) zMap = 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 nZeros = 7

An M-File that contains a new function definition can also contain the definitions of other functions that serve as helper functions, but only the main function whose name is the same as the M-File can be called directly from the Command Window or by functions in other M-Files.

In the newest version of MATLAB, you can select New>Function from the File menu, and a function template will appear in the file that opens in the editor. This definition contains an end at the end of the template, but end is not required at the end of a function definition in MATLAB.

using help to obtain information about user-defined functions

It was mentioned earlier that the help command can be used to obtain information about user-defined functions. In this case, any comment lines that immediately follow the function header and appear with a % at the beginning of the line are printed:

>> help gaussian
  returns the value of a Gaussian function for
  a particular input location and spread

It is common to place a comment immediately following the header that illustrates how the function is invoked, so that this information is also accessible through the help command, for example:

function g = gaussian(x, sigma)
% g = gaussian(x, sigma)
% returns the value of a Gaussian function ...

adding user input and output to function definitions

A function can request input from the user with the input function, which has a single input that is a quoted text string that is printed as a prompt to the user. The simplest ways to print out intermediate values during the execution of a function are to omit the semi-colon at the end of an assignment statement, or to create a string that contains text and variables, as illustrated in the newGaussian function shown below. The disp function displays in input value without printing a variable name. In the first call to disp, the input is an matrix of characters created by concatenating two literal strings and a string representation of the number stored in sigma, created with the num2str function.

function g = newGaussian(x)
% returns a sample of a Gaussian function after prompting
% the user for a value for sigma. also illustrates ways
% to provide printout of intermediate values
sigma = input('enter a value for sigma: ');     % request user input
disp(['you entered ' num2str(sigma) ' at the prompt']);
disp('the resulting Gaussian value is');
g = exp(-1.0*(x^2/sigma^2))           % note omission of semi-colon at the end
disp('have a nice day!');

>> gval = newGaussian(2);
enter a value for sigma: 3.0
you entered 3 at the prompt
the resulting Gaussian value is
g = 
have a nice day!

When concatenating multiple strings to print with disp, square brackets are used to combine the components of the string. To create nicely formatted output, explore the sprintf and fprintf functions, similar to their counterparts in C and C++.

break and return statements

The execution of a break statement inside a loop immediately terminates the loop. The execution of a return statement anywhere in a function immediately terminates the function.

Types of numbers

By default, MATLAB represents numbers as double-precision floating point numbers that each require 8 bytes of storage space. A large 2D or 3D matrix of double-precision floating point numbers occupies a lot of memory space! Fortunately such precision is often not needed and MATLAB provides several other types of numbers that can be represented more compactly:

MATLAB name    size(bytes)      description
uint8             1             integers 0 to 255
uint16            2             integers 0 to 65,545
uint32            4             integers 0 to 4,294,967,295
int8              1             integers -128 to 127
int16             2             integers -32,768 to 32,767
int32             4             integers -2,147,483,648 to 2,147,483,647
single            4             single-precision floating point

For each type, there is a function of the same name that converts an input number to the desired type. In the example below, the function uint8 is used to create a matrix of integers of type uint8 from a matrix of numbers of type double:

>> image = 200*ones(100,100);
>> newImage = uint8(image);
>> whos
  Name          Size        Bytes      Class
  ans            1x1            8      double matrix
  image      100x100        80000      double matrix
  newImage   100x100        10000      uint8 matrix
Grand total is 20001 elements using 90008 bytes

The newImage matrix can be created directly, without the intermediate image matrix, by executing the statement newImage = uint8(200*ones(100,100)).

When printing floating point numbers of type double, MATLAB uses scientific notation to print very large or very small numbers, as shown here:

>> number = 1230000000
number =
>> number = 0.000789
number =

2D and 3D plotting

The plot function can be used to create 2D graphs. The essential inputs to plot are two 1D matrices containing the x and y coordinates of the points to be plotted. The plot function opens a graphic window called a figure window, draws axes with labels that are scaled to fit the range of the data, and connects the points with straight lines, as shown in the following example:

>> xc = 0.0:0.1:2*pi;      % 1D matrix of evenly spaced x coords from 0 to 2π
>> yc = sin(xc);           % 1D matrix of samples of a sine function
>> plot(xc, yc);           % plot function displays the graph shown below


By default, the plot function draws a new graph in the most recently opened figure window. To create a new window, execute the figure command. The plot function is extremely versatile. For example, you can change the appearance and range of the axes, adjust the appearance of the graph with different line types, symbols and colors, add labels and legends, and display multiple graphs superimposed. Some of these facilities are illustrated below:

xc = 0.0:0.1:2*pi;
yc = sin(xc);
yc2 = cos(xc);
plot(xc, yc, 'b-*')
hold on
plot(xc, yc2, 'r:o')
plot(linspace(0,2*pi,10), linspace(-1,1,10), 'g-.s', 'Linewidth', 2)
axis([-0.5 7.5 -1.3 1.3])
xlabel('x coords')
ylabel('y coords')
title('sample graphs')
legend('sine', 'cosine', 'line', 'Location', 'Best')
hold off


Multiple plots can be displayed within a single figure window using the subplot command, and scatter plots can be created with the scatter function. The contents of figure windows can also be saved for later retrieval or insertion into documents by selecting the Save or Save As... options from the File menu at the top of the figure window.

3D plots can be created with the functions plot3, scatter3, mesh and surf. The following example illustrates the creation of a surface plot:

>> [x,y,z] = peaks(30);    % peaks returns x,y,z coordinates of a surface
>> surf(x,y,z);            % creates the 3D  surface plot shown below


Pictures with arrows can be created with the quiver function, for example, to illustrate how features are moving in an image:


When many figure windows are open, displaying plots or images, the memory storage for all of these windows sometimes interferes with the memory space used for numerical computations, producing erroneous results. For this reason, you should not have too many figure windows open at one time! Individual figure windows can be closed by clicking on the close button in the upper right corner of the window. All of the current windows can be closed at once by executing the following command:

>> close all

You can learn much more about all of the plotting functions through the MATLAB help facility.

Working with images

The basic MATLAB system, combined with the Image Processing Toolbox, provides many functions for reading, writing, displaying and processing 2D and 3D images. This section introduces the basic facilities that we will use extensively in CS332.

image types

There are four types of images that are supported in MATLAB. A binary image contains only black and white pixels and is stored in a logical matrix of 0's and 1's. An indexed image is an matrix of integers in a range from 1 to n that each represent an index into a separate colormap. The colormap is stored in an nx3 matrix, where each row contains values for the red, green and blue components of a particular color. Indexed images can be stored in matrices of type uint8, uint16 or double. The colormap is always an matrix of type double. An intensity image consists of intensity, or gray-scale values. When displayed, an intensity image appears as a black and white photograph. Intensity images can be stored in matrices of type uint8, uint16 or double. Finally, an RGB image, or truecolor image, is stored in an mxnx3 matrix. The first two dimensions represent pixel location and the third dimension specifies the red, green and blue components for the color of each image pixel. An RGB image can also be stored in matrices of type uint8, uint16 or double. We will primarily work with intensity and RGB images. It is easy to convert between image types, using functions that were mentioned briefly in the section, Types of numbers. MATLAB also provides specific functions such as rgb2gray that converts an RGB image into a gray-level image.

reading and writing images

MATLAB can read and write images using many different file formats, obtained from many different sources. The most common image file types that we will use are JPEG, PNG and TIFF. The functions for reading and writing images are imread and imwrite, which are defined in the Image Processing Toolbox. Extensive information about various image file formats and their specification can be obtained through the help pages for these two functions. The imread function has one essential input that is the name of the image file to be loaded into the MATLAB workspace. Often MATLAB can infer the type of file from its contents, so that it is not necessary to provide any further inputs to the imread function:

>> coins = imread('coins.png');
>> peppers = imread('peppers.png');
>> whos
  Name            Size        Bytes      Class
  coins        246x300        73800      uint8 matrix
  peppers    384x512x3       589824      uint8 matrix
Grand total is 663624 elements using 663624 bytes

The imfinfo function prints information about the format of an image, for example, try entering imfinfo('coins.png'). The essential inputs to the imwrite function are the image name and file name, with a file name extension that indicates the file format to use:

>> imwrite(image1, 'image1.jpg');
>> imwrite(image2, 'image2.png');

By default, the image is stored in the current directory.

displaying images

MATLAB provides two functions for displaying images, imshow and imtool, which are also defined in the Image Processing Toolbox.

>> imshow(coins);


By default, the imshow function displays the image using 256 discrete levels of gray. The number of gray levels can be changed by providing a second integer input, e.g. imshow(coins,64). In the case of an 8-bit image, the value 0 is normally displayed as black and 255 is displayed as white. The imshow function can be called with a specified range of intensities to be displayed from white to black. For example, imshow(coins, [50,200]) displays intensity values of 50 or less as black, and intensities of 200 or higher as white. The values between 50 and 200 are evenly spread over the levels of gray from black to white. imshow can also be used to display binary, indexed and RGB images. If the input image is of type double, MATLAB assumes that the values to be displayed range from 0.0 to 1.0. In this case, any values below 0.0 are displayed as black, values above 1.0 are shown in white, and values between 0.0 and 1.0 are displayed as shades of gray. Again, a different range of intensities can be specified, e.g. imshow(newImage, [1.0, 5.0]).

Multiple images can be displayed in separate figure windows by calling the figure function to create a new window. Keep in mind that MATLAB can become confused if too many figure windows are open, so be sure to close unnecessary windows, either individually or with the close all command. Using the subplot function, multiple images can be displayed inside a single figure window. You can zoom in or out of an image displayed in a figure window, or change the size of the image by changing the window size. It is also possible to add figure annotations and print images that are displayed with imshow.

The imtool function displays the image in a separate window called an Image Tool. The Image Tool provides special tools for navigating around large images and inspecting small regions of pixel values. Similar to imshow, a particular range of intensity values can be specified when calling imtool, e.g. imtool(coins, [50,200]). The main Image Tool window has a menu bar that allows you to open a smaller Overview window containing the full image, and a Pixel Region window that displays the intensity or RGB values within small image regions:

>> imtool(coins);


>> imtool(peppers);


You can zoom in and out of the image to view it at different resolutions, and navigate around the image with the mouse. Expand the Pixel Region Tool window with the mouse to view intensity or RGB values over a larger image region. RGB color images can be converted to gray-level images using the rgb2gray function:

>> pepper2 = rgb2gray(peppers);
>> imshow(pepper2);


The windows created with imtool can be closed all at once by executing the following command:

>> imtool close all

Documentation for the Image Processing Toolbox, available online through the Help menu, provides more detailed information about how to use the Image Tool.

Finally, we will create and display animations to view moving images using the functions getframe and movie.

Throughout the semester, we will use a mixture of built-in functions from the basic MATLAB system, additional functions from the Image Processing Toolbox, and custom-built software for analyzing images. Most of the basic MATLAB facilities that you will use are introduced in this document, and other tools will be presented as needed.