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Property Definition

What You Can Define

Control aspects of property definitions in the following ways:

    Note:   Always use case-sensitive property names in your MATLAB® code. Properties cannot have the same name as the class.

Initialize Property Values

There are two basic approaches to initializing property values:

  • In the property definition — MATLAB evaluates the expression only once and assigns the same value to the property of every instance.

  • In a class constructor — MATLAB evaluates the assignment expression for each instance, which ensures that each instance has a unique value.

For more information on the evaluation of expressions that you assign as property default values, see When MATLAB Evaluates Expressions.

Property Default Values

Within a properties block, you can control an individual property's default value. Assign default values as a value or MATLAB expressions. Expressions cannot reference variables. For example:

  • Prop1 — No assignment results in empty [] default value

  • Prop2 — Assign character array as default value

  • Prop3 — Assign result of expression as default value

classdef ClassName
      Prop2 = 'some text'
      Prop3 = sin(pi/12)

If the class definition does not specify a default property value, MATLAB sets the property value to empty double ([]).

    Note:   Evaluation of property default values occurs only when the value is first needed, and only once when MATLAB first initializes the class. MATLAB does not reevaluate the expression each time you create an instance of the class.

For more information on the evaluation of expressions that you assign as property default values, see Evaluation of Expressions in Class Definitions and Properties Containing Objects.

Assign Property Values from Constructor

To assign values to a property from within the class constructor, reference the object that the constructor returns (the output variable obj):

classdef MyClass
      function obj = MyClass(intval)
         obj.Prop1 = intval;

When you assign a property in the class constructor, MATLAB evaluates the assignment statement for each object you create. Assign property values in the constructor if you want each object to contain a unique value for that property.

For example, suppose that you want to assign a unique handle object to the property of another object each time you create one of those objects. Assign the handle object to the property in the constructor. Call the handle object constructor to create a unique handle object with each instance of your class.

For more information on constructor methods, see Referencing the Object in a Constructor.

Initialize Properties to Unique Values

MATLAB assigns properties to the specified default values only once when MATLAB loads the class definition. Therefore, if you initialize a property value with a handle-class constructor, MATLAB calls this constructor only once and every instance references the same handle object. If you want a property value to be initialized to a new instance of a handle object each time you create an object, assign the property value in the constructor.

Property Attributes

All properties have attributes that modify certain aspects of the property's behavior. Specified attributes apply to all properties in a particular properties block. For example:

classdef ClassName
   properties (PropertyAttribute = value)

For example, only methods in the same class definition can modify and query the Salary and Password properties.

classdef EmployeeInfo
   properties (Access = private)

This restriction exists because the class defines these properties in a properties block with the Access attribute set to private.

Property Attributes

For a description of property attributes you can specify, see, Property Attributes.

Property Access Methods

MATLAB calls whenever setting or querying a property value. Define property set access or get access methods in methods blocks that specify no attributes and have the following syntax:


   function obj = set.PropertyName(obj,value)

   function value = get.PropertyName(obj)


MATLAB does not call the property set access method when assigning the default value specified in the property's definition block.

For example, the set.Password method tests the length of the character array assigned to a property named Password. If there are fewer than seven characters in the value assigned to the property, MATLAB returns the error. Otherwise, MATLAB assigns the specified value to the property.

function obj = set.Password(obj,pw)
   if numel(pw) < 7
      error('Password must have at least 7 characters')
      obj.Password = pw;

For more information on property access methods, see Property Access Methods.

Reference Object Properties Using Variables

MATLAB can resolve a property name from a char variable using an expression of the form:


where PropertyNameVar is a variable containing the name of a valid object property. Use this syntax when passing property names as arguments. For example, the getPropValue function returns the value of the KeyType property:

PropName = 'KeyType';
function o = getPropValue(obj,PropName)
   o = obj.(PropName);

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