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Overview of Signal Loading Techniques

Simulink® provides several techniques for importing signal data into a model. Each of the signal data loading techniques uses blocks to represent signal data sources visually.

For additional details about which technique to use to meet specific modeling requirements, see Comparison of Techniques.

Source Blocks

You can add a source block, such as a Sine Wave block, to generate signals to input to another block. To specify how to generate the signal, use the Block Parameters dialog box. For example, in the Sine Wave Block Parameters dialog box, you can specify the sim function to use and time-based or sample-based data.

The output data types of source blocks vary. For example, a Sine Wave block outputs a vector of real doubles.

For an example of using a source block, see Build and Edit a Model in the Simulink Editor.

Recommended Uses

  • Do initial prototyping in a model, when the generated signal data serves your modeling requirements

  • Avoid creating the data manually.

  • Reduce memory consumption. Source blocks do not store signal data.

  • Make the kind of signal data visually clear in the model.


Source blocks generate signals based on a predefined algorithm. To use actual data from an external source or to test a model without having to modify the model, use a different signal loading technique.

Root-Level Input Ports

You can import signal data from a workspace and apply it to a root-level input port using one of these blocks:

The root-level input ports load external inputs from the MATLAB® (base), model, or mask workspace. These blocks import data from the workspace based on the value of the Configuration Parameters > Data Import/Export > Input parameter or a sim command argument. For an example, see Import Data to Model a Continuous Plant.

To import many signals to root-level input ports, consider using the Root Inport Mapper tool. This tool updates the Input configuration parameter based on the signal data that you import and map to root-level input ports. For an example, see Map Data Using Root Inport Mapper Tool.

Recommended Uses

Use root input ports to:

  • Import many signals to many blocks

  • Test your model as a referenced model in a wider context with signals from the workspace, without modifying your model

For importing signal data to meet most modeling requirements and to maintain model flexibility, root-level inport mapping is a convenient technique. Root-level inport mapping:

  • Displays signal data for you to inspect without loading all the signal data into MATLAB memory

  • Provides memory-efficient signal viewing


To ensure that the Simulink variable solver executes at the times that you specify in the imported data, set the Configuration Parameters >
Data Import/Export
> Additional parameters >
Output options
parameter to Produce additional output.


  • You cannot use input ports to import buses in external modes. To import bus data in rapid accelerator mode, use Dataset format.

  • The Root Inport Mapper tool supported map modes depend on the data type of a signal. For details, see Choose a Base Workspace and MAT-File Format.

From File Block

A From File block reads data from a MAT-file and outputs the data as a signal.

For an example, see From File Block Loading Timeseries Data.

Recommended Uses

Consider using a From File block for loading:

  • Large amounts of data. For a Version 7.3 MAT-file, the From File block loads data incrementally from the MAT-file during simulation.

      Tip:   To convert a Version 7.0 file to Version 7.3 (for example, my_data_file.mat that contains the variable var), at the MATLAB command line, enter:

      save('my_data_file.mat', 'var', '-v7.3')
  • Data that was exported to a To File block. The From File block reads data written by a To File block without any you modifying the data or making other special provisions.

  • Data stored in a MAT-file that is separate from the model file.


  • For Version 7.0 or earlier MAT-file, the From File block reads only array-format data.

  • Version 7.3 and Version 7.0 or earlier MAT-files handle multiple variables differently. See MAT-File Variable.

  • The From File block supports reading nonvirtual bus signals in MATLAB timeseries format.

  • For array data, the From File block reads only double signal data.

  • Code generation that involves building ERT or GRT targets, or using SIL or PIL simulation modes, has some special considerations. See Code Generation Requirements.

From Spreadsheet Block

The From Spreadsheet block reads data from Microsoft® Excel® spreadsheets (all platforms) or CSV spreadsheets (Microsoft Windows® platform with Microsoft Office only) and outputs the data as one or more signals.

Recommended Uses

Use the From Spreadsheet block for loading:

  • Large Microsoft Excel or CSV spreadsheets. The From Spreadsheet block incrementally reads data from the spreadsheet during simulation, rather than loading the data into Simulink memory.

  • Spreadsheets that you expect to modify. The From Spreadsheet block handles changes to worksheet values automatically, because it loads data directly from the spreadsheet.


  • You cannot import bus data.

  • The From Spreadsheet file has requirements for the spreadsheet data. Organize Excel spreadsheet data using the format described in Supported Microsoft Excel File Formats.

  • Linux® and Mac platforms do not support using a From Spreadsheet block to import data from a CSV spreadsheet.

From Workspace Block

The From Workspace block reads signal data from a workspace and outputs the data as a signal. In the Block Parameters dialog box, in the Data parameter, enter a MATLAB expression that specifies the workspace data.

For an example of how to use a From Workspace block, see Use From Workspace Block for Test Case.

Recommended Uses

Use the From Workspace block for loading:

  • A small set of signal data to perform local, temporary testing

  • Data from the MATLAB (base), model, mask, or function workspace

  • Variable-size signals

  • Data that you saved using a To Workspace block in MATLAB timeseries format, without manual changes to the data

  • Data saved in a previous simulation by a To Workspace block in either Timeseries or Structure with Time format for use in a later simulation


  • The data expressions that you specify must evaluate to one of these types of data:

    • A MATLAB timeseries object

    • A structure of MATLAB timeseries objects

    • An array or structure containing an array of simulation times and corresponding signal values

Signal Builder Block

Using a Signal Builder block, you can create interchangeable groups of piecewise linear signal sources to use in a model.

For examples of how to use a Signal Builder block, see:

Recommended Uses

Use the Signal Builder block to create and load signal groups to use in testing.

These products integrate the Signal Builder block into their workflows:

  • Simulink Test™

  • Simulink Verification and Validation™


  • The Signal Builder block has requirements for the spreadsheet data. Organize Excel spreadsheet data using the format described in Importing Signal Group Sets.

  • Data stores are not supported.

  • The data type for signals must be double.

Related Examples

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