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Adam Danz
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New in R2020b: Record snapshots of your app

Adam Danz on 19 Oct 2020 (Edited on 29 Apr 2021)
Latest activity Reply by goc3 on 24 Sep 2021

  1. Use the new exportapp function to capture an image of your app|uifigure
  2. MATLAB's getframe now supports apps & uifigures
  3. Review: How to get the handle to an app figure

Use the new exportapp function to capture an image of your app|uifigure

Imagine these scenarios:

  • Your app contains several adjustable parameters that update an embedded plot and you'd like to remember the values of each app component so that you can recreate the plot with the same dataset
  • You're constructing a manual for your app and would like to include images of your app
  • You're app contains a process that automatically updates regularly and you'd like to store periodic snapshots of your app.

As of MATLABs R2020b release , we no longer must rely on 3rd party software to record an image of an app or uifigure.

exportapp(fig,filename) saves an image (JPEG | PNG | TIFF | PDF) of a uifigure ( fig) with the specified file name or full file path ( filename). MATLAB's documentation includes an example of how to add an [Export] button to an app that allows the user to select a path, filename, and extension for their exported image.

Here's another example that merely saves the image as a PDF to the app's main folder.

1. Add a button to the app and assign a ButtonPushed callback function to the button. This one also assigns an icon to the button in the form of an svg file.

2. Define the callback function to name the image after the app's name and include a datetime stamp. The image will be saved to the app's main folder.

% Button pushed function: SnapshotButton
function SnapshotButtonPushed(app, ~) 
    % create filename containing the app's figure name (spaces removed)
    % and a datetime stamp in format yymmdd_hhmmss
    filename = sprintf('%s_%s.pdf',regexprep(app.MyApp.Name,' +',''), datestr(now(),'yymmdd_HHMMSS'));
    % Get the app's path
    filepath = fileparts(which([mfilename,'.mlapp']));
    % Store snapshot
    exportapp(app.MyApp, fullfile(filepath,filename))

Matlab's getframe now supports apps & uifigures

getframe(h) captures images of axes or a uifigure as a structure containing the image data which defines a movie frame. This function has been around for a while but as of r2020b , it now supports uifigures. By capturing consecutive frames, you can create a movie that can be played back within a Matlab figure (using movie ) or as an AVI file (using VideoWriter ). This is useful when demonstrating the effects of changes to app components.

The general steps to recording a process within an app as a movie are,

1. Add a button or some other event to your app that can invoke the frame recording process.

2. Animation is typically controlled by a loop with n iterations. Preallocate the structure array that will store the outputs to getframe. The example below stores the outputs within the app so that they are available by other functions within the app. That will require you to define the variable as a property in the app.

% nFrames is the number of iterations that will be recorded.
% recordedFrames is defined as a private property within the app
app.recordedFrames(1:nFrames) = struct('cdata',[],'colormap',[]);

3. Call getframe from within the loop that controls the animation. If you're using VideoWriter to create an AVI file, you'll also do that here (not shown, but see an example in the documentation ).

% app.myAppUIFigure: the app's figure handle
% getframe() also accepts axis handles
for i = 1:nFrames
      ... % code that updates the app for the next frame
      app.recordedFrames(i) = getframe(app.myAppUIFigure);

4. Now the frame data are stored in app.recordedFrames and can be accessed from anywhere within the app. To play them back as a movie,

% or 
movie(app.recordedFrames, n) % to play the movie n-times
movie(app.recordedFrames, n, fps) % to specify the number of frames per second

To demonstrate this, I adapted a copy of Matlab's built-in PulseGenerator.mlapp by adding

  • a record button
  • a record status lamp with frame counter
  • a playback button
  • a function that animates the effects of the Edge Knob

Recording process (The GIF is a lot faster than realtime and only shows part of the recording) (Open the image in a new window or see the attached Live Script for a clearer image).

Playback process (Open the image in a new window or see the attached Live Script for a clearer image.)

Review: How to get the handle to an app figure

To use either of these functions outside of app designer, you'll need to access the App's figure handle. By default, the HandleVisibility property of uifigures is set to off preventing the use of gcf to retrieve the figure handle. Here are 4 ways to access the app's figure handle from outside of the app.

1. Store the app's handle when opening the app.

app = myApp;
% Get the figure handle
figureHandle = app.myAppUIFigure;

2. Search for the figure handle using the app's name, tag, or any other unique property value

allfigs = findall(0, 'Type', 'figure'); % handle to all existing figures
figureHandle = findall(allfigs, 'Name', 'MyApp', 'Tag', 'MyUniqueTagName');

3. Change the HandleVisibility property to on or callback so that the figure handle is accessible by gcf anywhere or from within callback functions. This can be changed programmatically or from within the app designer component browser. Note, this is not recommended since any function that uses gcf such as axes(), clf(), etc can now access your app!.

4. If the app's figure handle is needed within a callback function external to the app, you could pass the app's figure handle in as an input variable or you could use gcbf() even if the HandleVisibility is off.

See a complete list of changes to the PulseGenerator app in the attached Live Script file to recreate the app.

goc3 on 24 Sep 2021

Thanks for this useful article!

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