A programmatic GUI is ideal if you need a lot of flexibility and many possibilies for support of old releases. It is less visual when designing, but that can be mitigated by either trial and error in a script, or by using GUIDE to design the initial layout and get the Position right for your objects.
My small guide to avoid GUIDE:
- Make a figure (with f=figure;) and look into the doc for figure which properties you want to turn off (you probably want to set Menu and Toolbar to 'none')
- Create buttons and axes and everything you need with functions like uicontrol and axes. Save the handles to each element to fields of a struct (like handles.mybutton=uicontrol(___);)
- Use those handles in function calls that create graphics objects. Never use gcf and gca in your code, because the user might have clicked on a different figure window, making those call targets incorrect. Most functions allow you to specify a parent object (including, plot, bar, axes and many more). When creating a graphics object, check the documentation to see how you can specify the parent.
- When you've finished loading all data (and saving it to fields of your handles struct), and creating all the buttons, save your handles struct to the guidata of your figure like this guidata(handles.f,handles);. (You can also use getappdata and setappdata)
- You can set the Callback property of many objects. If you do, use a function name with an @ in front, or a char array that can be evaluated to valid code. (like @MyFunction or 'disp(''you pushed the button'')')
- Callback functions will be called with two arguments: the first is a handle to the callback object, the second is eventdata that may contain special information. To get access to your data, just use handles=guidata(gcbo);. You can replace the gcbo function with the name of the first input to your callback function if you prefer.
- More information about callbacks can be found in multiple places in the doc, for example here.