MATLAB Answers

What is missing from MATLAB #2 - the next decade edition

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Rik on 31 Jul 2020 at 15:16
Commented: Rik on 2 Aug 2020 at 18:00
Meta threads have a tendency to grow large. This has happened several times before (the wishlist threads #1 #2 #3 #4 #5, and 'What frustrates you about MATLAB?' #1 and #2).
No wonder that a thread from early 2011 has also kept growing. After just under a decade there are (at time of writing) 119 answers, making the page slow to load and navigate (especially on mobile). So after a friendly nudge; here is a new thread for the things that are missing from Matlab.
Same question: are there things you think should be possible in Matlab, but aren't? What things are possible with software packages similar to Matlab that Matlab would benefit from? (note that you can also submit an enhancement request through support, although I suspect they will be monitoring activity on this thread as well)
What should you post where?
Wishlist threads (#1 #2 #3 #4 #5): bugs and feature requests for Matlab Answers
Frustation threads (#1 #2): frustations about usage and capabilities of Matlab itself
Missing feature threads (#1 #2): features that you whish Matlab would have had
@anyone posting a new thread when the last one gets too large (about 50 answers seems a reasonable limit per thread), please update this list in all last threads. (if you don't have editing privileges, just post a comment asking someone to do the edit)

Answers (3)

Rafael S.T. Vieira
Rafael S.T. Vieira on 31 Jul 2020 at 15:46
Edited: Rafael S.T. Vieira on 31 Jul 2020 at 15:56
I would love to have a command TeX2sym and sym2TeX. With it, we could bring formulas from LaTeX and run them in MATLAB and the other way around. It is a tedious work doing it by hand, and I could bet most MATLAB users do it or will do it eventually.
Another useful feature to add would be arbitrary-precision arithmetic...languages such as python and Java (with Bignum), allows unlimited precision when dealing with integers at least. Granted that It is slow, but I believe that the MATLAB team could do something better. And I honestly feel like MATLAB is missing a feature by not having it...even some competing software has it.
And finally I was considering buying the Text Analytics Toolbox, and it would be nice, if it could have a grammar/spell checker. Even if it is not as advanced or doesn't contain all words. With live scripts, we can write an interactive document, so it would be nice if MATLAB could correct our spelling (even if it required a ToolBox to do it).


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Walter Roberson
Walter Roberson on 31 Jul 2020 at 20:42
For example
  • sin x+y -> %observed in the wild. People are likely to interpret as sin(x)+y . Not recommended latex style for trig functions
  • \sin x+y -> %is it sin(x+y) or sin(x)+y? People are likely to interpret as sin(x)+y
  • \sin{x+y} -> %sin(x+y) but people are likely to guess sin(x)+y without being sure
  • \sin{x}+y -> %sin(x)+y but people are likely to guess sin(x)+y without being sure
  • sin(x+y) -> %sin(x+y). Not recommended latex style for trig functions
  • \sin(x+y) -> %sin(x+y). Better latex syntax for trig functions
  • \sin\left( x+y \right) -> %sin(x+y) . Considered better latex style because it allows latex to match heights of () when internal content is varying sizes, but has too much space
  • mx+b -> %m*x+b which people understand from long convention. But it could be a variable named mx that is being added to b . This is, however, the primary recommended latex style
  • m.x+b -> %m*x+b but not recommended latex style. However, lower dot for multiplication tends to show up in papers that have matrix multiplication
  • m*x+b -> %m*x+b but actively recommended against latex style
  • {m}{x}+b -> %m*x+b which people understand from long convention, but visually it could be a variable named mx that is being added to b. Easier for mechanical interpretation but not typical latex style
  • m{\cdot}x+b -> %m*x+b understandable both mechanically and human. One of the recommended latex styles
  • m{\times}x+b -> -> %m*x+b understandable both mechanically and human, but less common in practice. Considered to be one of the valid latex styles if needed
  • f{\textrm{\"{o}}}rl{\textrm{\aa}}t -> %a single word. Using {} inside an expression does not reliably indicate multiplication. And it was harder to get the special characters to work here than it should have been
Implied multiplication without any syntactic separation is very common in mathematics and latex.
The above shows just some of the ways that simple operations can be written in Latex, and tex2sym would have to try to understand them all.
There is also the issue that a lot of latex uses constructs that MATLAB does not support, especially \usepackage and amsmath mode.
Rafael S.T. Vieira
Rafael S.T. Vieira on 1 Aug 2020 at 6:31
Thank you for your interest, Walter and Rik. I believe that It is best to teach ourselves to code in a particular way, which will allow MATLAB to convert it to sym, than to be doing the task by hand every time.
Operator precedence could take care some of these issues. If \sin x + y was the input, then left-to-right precedence could dictate the output to be sin(x) + y. And to obtain sin(x+y), we would have to code in LaTeX \sin{x+y} or \sin(x+y).
Implied multiplication is indeed very common in mathematics and latex. On the other hand, it is also almost ubiquitous that variables are written just as single letters (especially if we are writing implied multiplication).
Finally, a command like tex2sym does not need to contemplate every math package imho, just some set of commands and macros. MATLAB could even return its best guess, and let us do the remainder of the task. Of course, ideally, we would just copy the contents from environments like $$ and \[ ... \] and paste them into MATLAB for a tex2sym conversion.

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Shae Morgan
Shae Morgan on 31 Jul 2020 at 15:44
facet_wrap or facet_grid (or general ggplot2 functionality) version of subplots, or some altered, simpler customizability for subplotting subsets of data.
gramm is an available toolbox, but it'd be nice to have it built in


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Mikhail on 2 Aug 2020 at 6:48
Some (well, most) dynamic programming languages allow for an experienced developer to have an insight look into how their code is actually executed by the runtime environment.
They are able to see the parse tree and the compiled byte code.
They are able to see what parts of code are JIT-compiled, and how exactly the are compiled. When something is not compiled, they are able to see why.
The developer doesn't have to guess whether a particular optimization has kicked in or not. They know for sure how each and every object in their code is handled (whether it is CoW, passed by reference, passed by value).
I'd love to see these capabilities in MATLAB, too.


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Mikhail on 2 Aug 2020 at 17:14
> I tell people to use readfile(filename_or_url) and use that result, instead of telling them how to figure out if a file is UTF8 or ANSI and which exact conversion that requires for their specific OS and version of Matlab/Octave.
> ...
> The function is not suddenly horrible because you can't have a peek at the implementation and optimize your workflow accordingly. Why would the language as a whole be any different?
Given that I can't peek at the function's implementation, this function suddenly becomes horrible when I have a file double encoded to UTF-8 (and so your function returns garbage) and you considered your users too dumb to allow them to mend this function for their needs.
Same goes for the language.
Rik on 2 Aug 2020 at 18:00
That doesn't make the function horrible, it just means the function is not suited to your needs. I don't complain that my hypothetical electric stove can't cool things down, even though with a TEC it is possible to both heat and cool down things with a single electrically powered device.
Although you could re-use a lot of the internals of readfile to fix double UTF-8 encoded files, the problem is not the function, it's the double encoding. Fixing double encoding is a different task from reading a file correctly. It wouldn't be a matter of 'mending my function', it would be re-using internal functions for a different goal. The word 'mending' implies my function is broken, but returning a double encoded file in a corrected form is not living up to the contract that the name of the function is offering.
Also, there are more reasons to close down the source than just thinking your users are dumb (suggesting otherwise sounds a lot like assuming bad faith). As an example: if you want to provide a function for a license fee, it would be plain stupid to have your license check in an m-file, since it would be almost trivial to circumvent.

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