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MATLAB Programming Style Guidelines


Richard Johnson (view profile)


11 Oct 2002 (Updated )

13 pages of advice on writing clear code.

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Advice on writing MATLAB code usually addresses efficiency concerns, with recommendations such as "Don't use loops." This document is different. Its concerns are correctness, clarity and generality. The goal of these guidelines is to help produce code that is more likely to be correct, understandable, sharable and maintainable.

This document lists MATLAB coding recommendations consistent with best practices in the software development community. These guidelines are generally the same as those for C, C++ and Java, with modifications for MATLAB features and history. The recommendations are based on guidelines for other languages collected from a number of sources and on personal experience.

This file is also available at


This file inspired Matlab Style Guidelines Cheat Sheet, Matlab Style Guidelines 2.0, Matlab Coding Checklist, and Matlab Style Guide Wiki Access And Search Function.

MATLAB release MATLAB 6.5 (R13)
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Comments and Ratings (87)
26 Oct 2016 Tom Hawkins

09 Nov 2015 Noam Greenboim

Good work!

27 Mar 2014 Richard Johnson

Richard Johnson (view profile)

I have just submitted an updated and revised version named "MATLAB Style Guidelines 2.0". It is file ID 46056. Thanks for all the helpful feedback.

Comment only
17 Apr 2013 bersan.riccardo

08 Aug 2012 Bryce

Bryce (view profile)

Nice paper. Is there any chance that an MS Word version could be made available so that I can make small updates that are specific to my organization? But if that violates the copyright then I understand.

03 May 2012 Mathijs Faase

Excellent work! I agree with the comment that the use of i and j of variables should be avoided altogether (because i and j are used to work with complex numbers) and to start iterators with k. But that's the only fault I find. I've been using a lot of this for years, but there's still some useful new insights here as well.

18 Apr 2012 Hugh

Hugh (view profile)

05 Jan 2012 Alexander Reinhold

Excellent guidelines.

The 14 pages describe practices I've already used for years, but remind me well why to apply them.

In addition, the citations add some fun while reading it.

Thanks a lot!

Comment only
05 Jan 2012 Alexander Reinhold

27 Nov 2011 Chandra Evans

Quite! This was a very great publish. Thanks for the supplied info. You can read about Programming Style at

02 Nov 2011 Eric Johnson

Eric Johnson (view profile)

19 Feb 2011 Richard Johnson

Richard Johnson (view profile)

I now have a book on this topic.
Elements of MATLAB Style</a><img
style="border: medium none ! important; margin: 0px ! important;"
border="0" height="1" width="1">
It has been reviewed by Loren Shure in her blog.

Comment only
05 Dec 2010 Paul

Paul (view profile)

I'd like to recommend starting a wikibook on this topic.

21 Oct 2010 M Koelemay

09 Sep 2010 Mathijs

14 May 2009 Braden Hancock

This is great to have! I'm glad I finally have some sort of reference on what are standard accepted practices in more than just my own circle of users.

29 Nov 2008 Ryan Ollos

10 Apr 2008 Patrick Stallings

Short, simple, straightforward, and surprisingly helpful.

10 Apr 2008 Jeff Karas

Good food for thought. I like the sense of humor, particularly "% 24 November 1971, D.B. Cooper, exit conditions modified."

28 Jun 2007 Asaf Horesh

I read several gudilines documents, this one was far better than the others.
comment: the use of Capitals in function names is wide spread, and much more clarifying for the meaning.

19 Jun 2007 oliv -

Several mistakes in that document:
1-The use of underscore is said to be uncommon in other languages, which is a very partial assertion. It is of common use in C, which is quite a common language. This document shows how to write unreadable variable names by not using the underscore.
2- the use of i and j is mentioned for scratch variables. 'i' and 'j' are matlab constants (sqaure root of -1), and redefining 'i' is one of the hardest bug to debug (unless you are well aware of that possibility). The good Matlab programmer should avoid using 'i' (or 'j').
3- Use of uppercase letters in function names is perfectly valid, contrary to what the document suggests. There are cases where X and x have different meanings. Think about colorimetry, where x,y,z are the chromaticity coordinates and X,Y,Z the tristimuli. Matlab offers the freedom of using both uppercase and lowercase, it should be used reasonably (e.g. for an acronym, a name, etc.).

03 Jan 2007 Vishnuvenkatesh Dhage

Nice and good document

06 Nov 2006 Karthik Raja T

Good, I will be thankful if u send me any more guidelines materials like complete soft copies..!

15 Apr 2006 muhammad islam

it need more n more improvements for modern age.

05 Dec 2005 Krishna Pillai

Nice doc.

30 Nov 2005 Jas Ellis

Very good.

22 Jul 2005 Mohamed Mostafa

05 Jul 2005 I Am a Loser Loser

Well, the author says: "Common scratch variables for integers are i, j, k, m, n and for doubles x, y and z." However, we should avoid using i and j as variable names because they are by default the unit of imagenary numbers. To be more precise, in Matlab, i^2 == j^2 == -1. Using i and j as varaible names may cause errors hard to detect.

14 Feb 2005 Yun-man Jung

Thanks a lot. So much useful reference for
novice then.

01 Feb 2005 Izru Garner

Useful by all people who begin to programming.

21 Jan 2005 schmitz koeln

na ja et jet su

16 Jan 2005 shafi rahman

10 Jan 2005 Frederic Bosche

Really helpful. everybody should read something like this before starting any coding ! (Now, it;s my turn to review everything that I did)

05 Jan 2005 Rene Just Nielsen

19 Dec 2004 Fu-Sung Wang

After I read this article, I'm impressed some good stuffs that I uesed to ignore or misuderstand. This pdf file is easy understood and it's especially useful for MATLAB experienced programmers. The guidelines helped me to construct a more standardized, easy-maintained programs. No matter what kind of languages you are using, there will be some concepts you can refer to.

09 Dec 2004 John Solar

09 Dec 2004 Richard Kirkeeide

Clear, concise and reasonable. Should be alot of help to me (and others). Thanks

07 Oct 2004 James Bonanno

04 Sep 2004 Marcio Andre Andre

Gostei muito me ajuda guando trabalho com matrizes ele é otimo se duvidas...

14 Aug 2004 - -

28 Jul 2004 muthu kumar

i am very greatful

26 Jul 2004 H Patel

File is damaged and I couldn't open it.

Comment only
30 Jun 2004 Fa Esu

Your documemet is not structured enough yet. Try use a standard LaTex. More examples could be helpful and thus self-explanatory. Thanks, btw.

22 Jun 2004 skr sleem

17 Jun 2004 Gavril Grebenisan

The file is damaged and I cannot open

Comment only
26 May 2004 takis soteropoulos

13 May 2004 aki arso


07 Apr 2004 William Zimmerman

Concise and thorough

05 Apr 2004 Mark Newton

Useful, short document that reminds one of all the things they should already do, but probably don't.

03 Apr 2004 nigus Habtu

I am greatful to Matlab& I am very happy if give me this documment.

Comment only
27 Mar 2004 shivanand b

23 Mar 2004 nhgg jhgu

06 Feb 2004 Saeed Attarzadeh

It's great

14 Jan 2004 Michael Villalba

An excellent collection, great for beginning or intermediate Matlab coders.

13 Jan 2004 Fahad Al Mahmood

Great & Appreciated Guidelines!
I hope I can follow all of them!

16 Dec 2003 Bharani Krishnamurthy

very good

10 Dec 2003 w j


20 Nov 2003 sudharsan kannan

20 Oct 2003 John Solar

Very good. But a little too kind. Mandate instead of suggest! Also, i and j should never be used. Code may get expanded to use complex numbers. It is also a bad habit that might allow a slip in the future. You are not doing favors by allowing it sometimes.

15 Oct 2003 Anatoly Shadrin

09 Oct 2003 hamid reza mohammadi

03 Oct 2003 Dennis James

Standards are always welcome in structured programming. This is an attempt at standardizing.

17 Sep 2003 old programmer

no news

30 Aug 2003 kikaw wahyudi

05 Aug 2003 ramin vasfpour

24 Jul 2003 Tom Alen

14 Jul 2003 James Cline

Concise, good examples

30 Jun 2003 Adam Remy

12 May 2003 Alexander Toniatti

29 Apr 2003 Viet Tung NGUYEN

16 Apr 2003 Dr K. Olp

Generally, most of this should already be known and adhered to by any professional programmer, however it is sometimes useful to have it 'written down' as a reference. Useful as a beginners guide.

11 Apr 2003 John Bucsek

No problems viewing file. A good collection of programming tips.

11 Mar 2003 vikas jain

thanks for such facility.

24 Feb 2003 Cristian Gutiérrez

Very instructive this material. However, requires knowing about Matlab programming.

12 Feb 2003 Angelo Stranieri

Cannot download PDF. Acrobat 5.0 says there is an error in the file.

Comment only
30 Jan 2003 another user

Opinionated, but well thought out for issues specific to Matlab :-). I liked it! I wonder if something like this exists for Simulink as well?

23 Jan 2003 a l

22 Jan 2003 B G

Very helpful. I typically write in MATLAB, and I haven't read about style guidelines before. This will help me write more readable and more maintainable MATLAB code.

22 Jan 2003 Matlab User

Most parts are borrowed from other languages. Can't see much useful information.

22 Jan 2003 Lei Wang

Good convention for programming large codes

10 Jan 2003 Tanveer Yasser

05 Jan 2003 eduardo perez

01 Jan 2003 Predrag Kovacevic

24 Dec 2002 nandha kumar


17 Dec 2002 daniel he

19 Nov 2002 Penny Anderson

I thought this document encapsulated a boat load of good advice relevant for many programming languages, and included some nice MATLAB specific hints.

Detailed comments:
Longer, more descriptive variable, function and file names are good, except when math training takes over. I am never going to refer to A, x and b in the system of linear equations A*x=b by any other names ;-)

My exception to the rule about iterators being in alphabetical order is when using them to access entries in an array (granted, we try to discourage this behavior in the first place, but it's not always feasible). In this case, I generally use i for rows, j for columns and k for pages if it's a 3D array, regardless of the loop order. For more dimensions I would use something like i1,i2,i3, ...

In the section on Conditionals, I would replace "Complex" with "Complicated" to avoid confusion with MATLAB's complex numbers.

19 Nov 2002 Matthew Simoneau

Great work. The document is well-written and spot-on. A much-needed addition to the MATLAB community.

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