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Intelligent code completion for matlab



03 Sep 2009 (Updated )

Code completion for the Matlab editor.

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The Matlab editor provides an integrated code completion through the tab key. However the scope of this completion is the entire Matlab path, so the number of matches is usually large when matching a few characters. On the other hand the native Matlab code completion is sometimes too restrictive since it only matches sequential characters. I have found the more flexible matching of TextMate very convenient to use, where e.g. the string 'fcn' can be completed to 'function'. The purpose of this macro is to provide such a more flexible matching algorithm, but with scope restricted to the current document.
To use this macro you must install EditorMacro by Yair Altman, put this file (Matlab_Code_Completion_Macro.m) on your Matlab path and add the following lines to your startup.m file:
macros = EditorMacro('ctrl-space',@Matlab_Code_Completion_Macro, 'run');
 macros = EditorMacro('ctrl-alt-space',@Matlab_Code_Completion_Macro, 'run');
 macros = EditorMacro('shift-ctrl-space',@Matlab_Code_Completion_Macro, 'run');
To use the macro, type in the Matlab editor a string to be completed, e.g.,
To find possible completions, press ctrl-space.
Then you get the suggested code completion
Pressing ctrl-space once again you get the next best completion
and pressing ctrl-space again
Pressing ctrl-shift-space we step back to the previous suggestion
and this completion is chosen by pressing ctrl-alt-space, so we get
Now with the caret positioned at the end of the function keyword, we press ctrl-alt-space again and get
function [
Now we can type a variable list
function [y,z
and type ctrl-alt-space again to get
function [y,z] =
Type the function name
function [z,w] = f
and press ctrl-alt-space again
function [z,w] = f(
Type a variable list
function [z,w] = f(x,y
and press ctrl-alt-space again
function [z,w] = f(x,y)
Next, you can type the function body, for example
function [z,w] = f(x,y)
       z=x+y; w=z-y;
(to get correct indentation you may need to apply the smart indent, e.g., by the shortcut ctrl-i). Finally, you can use ctrl-alt-space again to get the end statement
function [z,w] = f(x,y)
       z=x+y; w=z-y;
Similar completions work for if, elseif, for and while.

In conclusion, I have found this macro a valuable complement to the native Matlab code completion, and it has saved me a lot of typing and searching for variable and function names.
I hope you find it useful. Enjoy!


Editor Macro Assign A Macro To A Keyboard Key Stroke In The Matlab Editor And Command Window inspired this file.

MATLAB release MATLAB 7.8 (R2009a)
Other requirements Requires EditorMacro Tested with Matlab R2007b, R2008a, R2008b, R2009a, R2009b
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Comments and Ratings (4)
22 Feb 2011 Yair Altman

For those interested in the Command Window issue, David Gittins posted a workaround in a comment on the EditorMacro page:

30 Mar 2010 David Gittins

I had the same tab-completion issue when I tried EditorMacro. I have mentioned it on the EditorMacro page. I am running 2010a on CentOS.

09 Oct 2009 Leif Persson

thanks for pointing out the documentation error.
I have tested with R2007b-R2009b on Win XP x64 but I couldn't
reproduce the error - tab completion in the command window
seems to work fine on my computer for all these releases.

Matlab_Code_Completion_Macro doesn't work properly in 2007a though, it seems that something in the regexp semantics changed from R2007a to R2007b.

08 Oct 2009 Les Beckham


I tried your utility and was quite impressed at first. However, it seems that it breaks tab completion for workspace variables in the command window. So, I won't be using it.

You might want to check into this and see if you can fix it.

If you find a fix I might try this again.

Note also that the suggested startup.m commands in the comment header don't work. I had to remove the single quote at the end of the function handle. Here is what I used:

macros = EditorMacro('ctrl-space',@Matlab_Code_Completion_Macro, 'run'); %#ok<NASGU>
macros = EditorMacro('ctrl-alt-space',@Matlab_Code_Completion_Macro, 'run'); %#ok<NASGU>
macros = EditorMacro('shift-ctrl-space',@Matlab_Code_Completion_Macro, 'run');


04 Sep 2009

Improved code completion: function and variable names within comments are now ignored

04 Sep 2009

Bug fix

07 Sep 2009

Improved sorting of code completion matches
Bugfix for comment exclusion
Added end statement as last altenative for ctrl-alt

07 Sep 2009

Cleaned up debug prints

07 Sep 2009

Cleaned up debug prints

07 Sep 2009

Tokens in strings now excluded
Bug fixes

07 Sep 2009

Bug fix

10 Sep 2009

Turned off debug print (again!)

10 Sep 2009

Bugfix for struct fields

09 Oct 2009

Updated documentation

09 Oct 2009

Description update

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