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Reuse MATLAB Code by Defining MATLAB Functions

A MATLAB® function in a Stateflow® chart is a graphical element that you use to write algorithms that are easier to implement by calling built-in MATLAB functions. Typical applications include:

  • Matrix-oriented calculations

  • Data analysis and visualization

This type of function is useful for coding algorithms that are more easily expressed by using MATLAB instead of the graphical Stateflow constructs. MATLAB functions also provide optimizations for generating efficient, production-quality C code for embedded applications.

A MATLAB function can reside anywhere in a chart, state, or subchart. The location of the function determines the set of states and transitions that can call the function.

  • If you want to call the function within one state or subchart and its substates, put your MATLAB function in that state or subchart. That function overrides any other functions of the same name in the parents and ancestors of that state or subchart.

  • If you want to call the function anywhere in a chart, put your MATLAB function at the chart level.

  • If you want to call the function from any chart in your model, put your MATLAB function at the chart level and enable exporting of chart-level functions. For more information, see Export Stateflow Functions for Reuse.


A MATLAB function can access chart and state data above it in the Stateflow hierarchy.

For example, this MATLAB function has the name stdevstats. It takes an argument vals and returns an output value stdevout.

To compute the standard deviation of the values in vals, the function uses this code.

function stdevout = stdevstats(vals)

% Calculates the standard deviation for vals

len = length(vals);
stdevout = sqrt(sum(((vals-avg(vals,len)).^2))/len);

function mean = avg(array,size)
mean = sum(array)/size;

Define a MATLAB Function in a Chart

  1. In the object palette, click the MATLAB function icon . Move your pointer to the location for the new MATLAB function in your chart.

  2. Enter the signature label for the function.

    The function signature label specifies a name for your function and the formal names for its arguments and return values. A signature label has this syntax:

    [return_val1,return_val2,...] = function_name(arg1,arg2,...)
    You can specify multiple return values and multiple input arguments. Each return value and input argument can be a scalar, vector, or matrix of values. For functions with only one return value, omit the brackets in the signature label.

    You can use the same variable name for both arguments and return values. For example, a function with this signature label uses the variables y1 and y2 as both inputs and outputs:

    [y1,y2,y3] = f(y1,u,y2)
    If you export this function to C code, y1 and y2 are passed by reference (as pointers), and u is passed by value. Passing inputs by reference reduces the number of times that the generated code copies intermediate data, resulting in more optimal code.


    Do not use the name of a chart symbol as a function argument or return value. For example, if either x or y are chart data, defining a function with the signature y = f(x) results in a run-time error.

  3. To program the function, open the MATLAB editor by double-clicking the function box.

  4. In the MATLAB editor, enter the MATLAB code implementing your function. For more information, see Program a MATLAB Function in a Chart.

  5. In the Model Explorer, expand the chart object and select the MATLAB function. The arguments and return values of the function signature appear as data items that belong to your function. Arguments have the scope Input. Return values have the scope Output.

  6. In the Data properties dialog box for each argument and return value, specify the data properties, as described in Set Data Properties.

  7. Create any additional data items required by your function. For more information, see Add Data Through the Model Explorer.

    Your function can access its own data or data belonging to parent states or the chart. The data items in the function can have one of these scopes:

    • Constant — Constant data retains its initial value through all function calls.

    • Parameter — Parameter data retains its initial value through all function calls.

    In MATLAB functions, you do not need to create local or temporary function data explicitly. If you use an undefined variable, Stateflow creates a temporary variable that is available to the rest of the function. To store values that persist across function calls, use the keyword persistent.

Call MATLAB Functions in States and Transitions

You can call MATLAB functions from the actions of any state or transition. You can also call MATLAB functions from other functions. If you export a MATLAB function, you can call it from any chart in the model.

To call a MATLAB function, use the function signature and include an actual argument value for each formal argument in the function signature. If the data types of the actual and formal arguments differ, the function casts the actual argument to the type of the formal argument.

Specify Properties of MATLAB Functions

You can specify properties for a MATLAB function in the Model Explorer or the MATLAB Function properties dialog box.

  • To use the Model Explorer:

    1. To open the Model Explorer, in the Modeling tab, select Model Explorer.

    2. In the Model Hierarchy pane, select the MATLAB function.

    3. In the MATLAB Function pane, edit the MATLAB function properties.

  • To use the MATLAB Function properties dialog box:

    1. In the Stateflow Editor, right-click the MATLAB function.

    2. Select Properties.

    3. Edit the MATLAB function properties.

You can also specify MATLAB function properties programmatically by using Stateflow.EMFunction objects. For more information about the Stateflow programmatic interface, see Overview of the Stateflow API.


Function name. Click the function name link to open your function in the MATLAB editor.

Function Inline Option

Controls the inlining of your function in generated code:

  • Auto — Determines whether to inline your function based on an internal calculation.

  • Inline — Inlines your function if you do not export it to other charts and it is not part of a recursion. (A recursion exists if your function calls itself directly or indirectly through another function call.)

  • Function — Does not inline your function.


Signature label for your function. The function signature label specifies a name for your function and the formal names for its arguments and return values.

Saturate on Integer Overflow

Specifies whether integer overflows saturate in the generated code. For more information, see Handle Integer Overflow for Chart Data.

This property applies only to MATLAB functions in charts that use C as the action language. In charts that use MATLAB as the action language, the behavior of data depends on the value of the Saturate on integer overflow property for the chart.

MATLAB Function fimath

Defines the fimath properties for the MATLAB function. The fimath properties specified are associated with all fi and fimath objects constructed in the MATLAB function. Choose one of these options:

  • Same as MATLAB — The function uses the same fimath properties as the current global fimath. The edit box appears dimmed and displays the current global fimath in read-only form. For more information on the global fimath and fimath objects, see the Fixed-Point Designer™ documentation.

  • Specify Other — Specify your own fimath object by one of these methods:

    • Construct the fimath object inside the edit box.

    • Construct the fimath object in the MATLAB or model workspace and enter its variable name in the edit box.

This property applies only to MATLAB functions in charts that use C as the action language. In charts that use MATLAB as the action language, the behavior of data depends on the value of the MATLAB Chart fimath property for the chart.


Function description. You can enter brief descriptions of functions in the hierarchy.

Document Link

Link to online documentation for the function. You can enter a web URL address or a MATLAB command that displays documentation in a suitable online format, such as an HTML file or text in the MATLAB Command Window. When you click the Document link hyperlink, Stateflow displays the documentation.

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