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Why does MATLAB fail to load my preferred language on macOS Sierra?

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When running MATLAB on macOS Sierra, I have noticed that MATLAB does not seem to load my language, region, or text encoding preferences correctly. On previous releases of macOS, the MATLAB user interface appeared in my preferred language, but on macOS Sierra it appears in English. Additionally, MATLAB fails to load or save non-ASCII characters. How can I resolve this issue?

Accepted Answer

MathWorks Support Team
MathWorks Support Team on 3 Sep 2021
Edited: MathWorks Support Team on 25 Aug 2021
Apple released macOS Sierra on September 20, 2016 and changed the way macOS reports Language & Region preferences to MATLAB. If you have set your Language & Region (hereafter referred to together as "locale") to a locale not listed below, you may be impacted by this issue. To check your locale, open the "Language & Region" preference pane in System Preferences. Your current Language is at the top of the list on the left, and your Region is listed in the drop down menu on the right.
The following locales are not impacted by this issue:
  • English, United States
  • English, Australia
  • English, Canada
  • English, United Kingdom
  • Deutsch, Austria
  • Deutsch, Switzerland
  • Français, Canada
  • Français, Switzerland
  • Español, Spain
  • Nederlands, Belgium
  • Português, Brazil
  • Português, Portugal
If you have set your Mac to one of these locales, no patch is necessary. MATLAB will use the correct character encoding for your locale regardless of which release of MATLAB you are using.
If you have set your Mac to a locale outside of these twelve, you either need to update to a newer release of MATLAB or apply a patch for MATLAB to resume its expected behavior in your locale.
If you are running MATLAB R2016b and you installed MATLAB before October 6, 2016, a patch can be downloaded here. If you installed MATLAB after October 6, 2016, no action is required.
If you are running MATLAB R2014a through R2016a a patch for these releases of MATLAB can be downloaded here.
If you are running MATLAB R2013b or earlier a patch for these releases is not available. Please update to MATLAB R2014a or later to use MATLAB on macOS Sierra.
If you are not sure if your Mac is affected by this issue, the script attached to this article will tell you. To run the script:
  1. Download the attached file, sierraLocaleDetector.p
  2. Move the file to your MATLAB working directory
  3. In MATLAB, run the command "sierraLocaleDetector"
The script will tell if your Mac is impacted and if you need to apply the patch.
  5 Comments
MathWorks Support Team
MathWorks Support Team on 21 Sep 2016
Edited: MathWorks Support Team on 19 May 2021
@Jonathan: There was a change in the format of locale strings returned from macOS which MATLAB depends on to determine language, region, and character encoding. Apple describes the change to language identifiers in macOS.
@Raphael Canty: We are qualifying a patch against the final release of macOS Sierra and will publish it as soon as it is ready.
Walter Roberson
Walter Roberson on 21 Sep 2016
"As a systems administrator, application developers driving my upgrade path is nonsense. "
You might perhaps have been given a very very different mandate than I was. As systems administrator my mandate was to keep the hardware and software working smoothly in support of applications and development.
The organizations I worked for did not buy computer hardware because computer hardware is cool: they bought computer hardware to run applications, and to develop software. The operating system version was considered a detail left to me provided that the OS updates did not break anything. I got actively criticized for upgrading OS versions unless the upgrade was completely transparent -- and even then, I would get criticized for rebooting the server in the middle of the night because then people would (Oh, horrors!) have to log back on!
In every single place I have worked over the decades, an operating system was never an end in itself: it was always only there to make it possible to run the needed software.
Systems Administration is not a theoretical task: it is the art of making things work. Including anticipating and measuring and alleviating risks. An operating system upgrade is always a risk, and should never be put into place without testing. You can be virtually guaranteed that the OS vendor did not do their testing on your exact configuration, so you need to test everything of importance to you before deploying.
The places I have worked that could afford more than one computer always maintained the Development / Production distinction (though we were more likely to call it "Test-Bed" than "Development".) One system or network that could afford to be messed up while new things were implemented, and different systems that were required to work (except while being updated with tested configurations). Upgrading the production systems with day-of-release software versions without testing first was Not Acceptable to the people I worked with.

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More Answers (1)

Mr M.
Mr M. on 31 Oct 2016
I would like to run MATLAB 2013b on Sierra, but window with title "Error Starting Desktop" appears. Lots of error messages are in there, most of them contains keyword: java.
For example: java.lang.NullPointerExeption
com.mathworks.widgets.WindowsWidgetFactory‹‹SearchAndClearButton.anyText(WindowsWidgetFactory.java:187)
  1 Comment
MathWorks Support Team
MathWorks Support Team on 1 Nov 2016
Edited: MathWorks Support Team on 1 Feb 2021
MathWorks does not recommend running R2013b on macOS Sierra as a patch for the issue described in this article is not available for R2013b. If you are using MATLAB outside of the eleven Language & Region combinations listed in the above answer, you will be limited to the ASCII character encoding when using R2013b on macOS Sierra.
You may be able to get R2013b to run on macOS Sierra if you apply this patch however there are other problems associated with running MATLAB R2013b on macOS Sierra which could manifest. For additional assistance please contact MathWorks support, but to reiterate, MATLAB R2013b is not supported on macOS Sierra and you may not be able to get it to run at all. The best way to run MATLAB on macOS Sierra is to update to R2016b.

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