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Control Chart Interactivity

You can interactively explore and edit plotted data to improve the visual display of the data or reveal additional information about the data. The interactions available depend on the contents of the axes, but typically include zooming, panning, rotating, data tips, data brushing, and restoring the original view.

Some types of interactions are available through the axes toolbar. The toolbar appears at the top-right corner of the axes when you hover over the chart area.

Other types of interactions are built into the axes and are available through gestures, such as dragging to pan or scrolling to zoom. These interactions are controlled separately from those in the axes toolbar.

When you create a chart, you can control the set of available interactions in several ways:

In R2018a and previous releases, many of the interaction options appear in the figure toolbar instead of the axes toolbar. Also, in previous releases, none of the interactions are built into the axes.

Show or Hide Axes Toolbar

To show or hide the axes toolbar, set the Visible property of the AxesToolbar object to 'on' or 'off', respectively. For example, hide the toolbar for the current axes:

ax = gca;
ax.Toolbar.Visible = 'off';

Customize Axes Toolbar

You can customize the options available in the axes toolbar using the axtoolbar and axtoolbarbtn functions.


Custom toolbars do not appear in figures in the Live Editor. To see the custom toolbar, open the figure in a separate figure window.

For example, add a custom state button for the axes toolbar that turns on and off the axes grid lines. First, create a program file called mycustomstatebutton.m. Within the program file:

  • Plot random data.

  • Create a toolbar for the axes with options to zoom in, zoom out, and restore the view using the axtoolbar function.

  • Add an empty state button to the toolbar using the axtoolbarbtn function. Return the ToolbarStateButton object.

  • Specify the icon, tool tip, and callback function for the state button by setting the Icon, Tooltip, and ValueChangedFcn properties. This example uses the icon, which you must first save as an image file called mygridicon.png on your path.

When you run the program file, click the icon to turn on and off the grid lines.

function mycustomstatebutton

ax = gca;
tb = axtoolbar(ax,{'zoomin','zoomout','restoreview'});

btn = axtoolbarbtn(tb,'state');
btn.Icon = 'mygridicon.png';
btn.Tooltip = 'Grid Lines';
btn.ValueChangedFcn = @customcallback;

    function customcallback(src,event)
        switch src.Value
            case 'off'
                event.Axes.XGrid = 'off';
                event.Axes.YGrid = 'off';
                event.Axes.ZGrid = 'off';
            case 'on'
                event.Axes.XGrid = 'on';
                event.Axes.YGrid = 'on';
                event.Axes.ZGrid = 'on';


Enable or Disable Built-In Interactions

To control whether a set of built-in interactions is enabled within a chart, use the disableDefaultInteractivity and enableDefaultInteractivity functions. Sometimes MATLAB® automatically disables the built-in interactions. For example, they might be disabled for charts that have special features, or when you implement certain callbacks such as a WindowScrollWheelFcn.

Customize Built-In Interactions

Most types axes include default a set of built-in interactions that correspond to specific gestures. The interactions that are available depend on the contents of the axes. Most Cartesian axes include interactions for scrolling to zoom, hovering or clicking to display data tips, and dragging to pan (in a 2-D view) or rotate (in a 3-D view). You can replace the default set with a new set of interactions, but you cannot access or modify any of the interactions in the default set.


Customizing or replacing the built-in interactions is not supported in the Live Editor.

To replace the default interactions, set the Interactions property of the axes to an array of interaction objects. Choose a compatible combination of interaction objects from the following table. To delete all interactions from the axes, set the property to an empty array ([]).

Interaction ObjectDescriptionCompatible Interactions
panInteractionPan within a chart by dragging.All except regionZoomInteraction and rotateInteraction
rulerPanInteractionPan an axis by dragging it.All
zoomInteractionZoom by scrolling or pinching.All
regionZoomInteractionZoom into a rectangular region by dragging.
(For 2-D charts only)
All except panInteraction and rotateInteraction
rotateInteractionRotate a chart by dragging it.All except panInteraction and regionZoomInteraction
dataTipInteractionDisplay data tips by hovering, clicking, or tapping.All

For example, create a plot containing 1000 scattered points.

x = 1:500;
y = randn(1,500);
y2 = 5*randn(1,500) + 10;

By default, this plot has a set of interactions that includes dragging to pan within the chart area. However, because the plot has a dense collection of points, a more useful set of interactions might include one that allows you to zoom into specific regions of the plot. The regionZoomInteraction object provides this functionality. Replace the default set of interactions for the current axes with an array that includes the regionZoomInteraction object.

ax = gca;
ax.Interactions = [zoomInteraction regionZoomInteraction rulerPanInteraction];

Now, dragging within the plot area defines a rectangular region of interest to zoom into.

See Also



Related Topics