Tips & Tricks

bio lim

Experts of MATLAB, how did you learn? Any advice for beginner/intermediate users?

bio lim on 6 Jul 2015
Latest activity Reply by Athanasios Paraskevopoulos on 25 Mar 2024

The community is very helpful, yet I feel really powerless that I cannot find the appropriate way to code, nor find the problems with the codes I have written. I have read numerous books on MATLAB, mostly related with science and engineering applications. Any advice to improve would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
Athanasios Paraskevopoulos
Athanasios Paraskevopoulos on 25 Mar 2024
MATLAB has extensive documentation and examples. Go through these examples, understand how they work, and try to modify them to do something slightly different. This will help you understand the nuances of the language and its application.
Aram on 22 Mar 2024
Do you know about the Onramps? I highly encourage you check these out :)
These are typically a short, 2-3 hour commitment, and they are free!
The MATLAB Onramp is the best way to start if you've very new to MATLAB.
There are also the more comprehensive "Fundamentals" courses:
I recommend MATLAB Fundamentals to built a good foundation before moving on to any other courses.
Chandrabhanu on 22 Mar 2024

Practice makes perfect

Hetavi on 21 Mar 2024
University of Vanderbilt offers an externsive course on MATLAB on the COURSERA platform
David Cazenave
David Cazenave on 19 Mar 2024
To write an mfile for the MATLAB File Exchange, there are other places to look for ideas, besides MATLAB's File Exchange: textbooks, languages, internet, ...
Dr. Kelsey Joy
Dr. Kelsey Joy on 17 Mar 2024 (Edited on 17 Mar 2024)


I have a collection of samples programs posted on my MathWorks page on here. I also have a collection of YouTube videos that I've put together to help people through basics and some complicated things in MATLAB. These videos correspond to step by step directions on how to make the programs I've posted on MathWorks. How to Create Programs in MATLAB (tutorial): YouTube MATLAB tutorial

I also reply to any comments on YouTube to answer MATLAB questions. I'm always happy to help out.

Best of luck on your learning journey. -Kelsey

David Cazenave
David Cazenave on 29 Jan 2024
I always look in documentation first, unless I already know it. The stuff at the top and the bottom of the pages, of the "commands" and/or "functions" that you enter into the documentation search bar, are usually the most useful. MATLAB "Answers" is what I use next if I can't find what I need in documentation, and you can access MATLAB "Answers" two ways, directly from the File Exchange page and the MATLAB Central (drop down menu), or I use Google Chrome to search for MATLAB "Answers" by entering into the Google Chrome search bar: "matlab" and "search term question", but leave out the previous and, and the quotation marks. Thank you, thank you very much.
Prince Malik
Prince Malik on 20 Aug 2023
Practice Makes Perfection
Farooq Saeed
Farooq Saeed on 28 Jul 2023
Practice makes you perfect
Vikas Chelluru
Vikas Chelluru on 19 Jun 2023
Thinking about problems and continuous solving can help you
Andreas Neu
Andreas Neu on 21 Dec 2022
Even the best coding language needs smart users and can not by itself solve your problems. Some poor hints might be:
  • use modulatization, such as functions for repeating tasks in code
  • debug small parts of your code before getting huge
  • use in appropriate steps output including text and figure and maybe files
  • let your code be reviewed by colleagues
  • and my favourite one: distrust yourself, you might have been wrong in coding, double check.
Stephen23 on 17 Jun 2023
+1 good points
Mario Buchely
Mario Buchely on 22 Sep 2022
First, it could be overwhelm to start using Matlab because if you are not familiar, the concept is completely different from the most common tool that engineers use nowdays: "Excel". So, I recommend to get familir with the platform, take the free Matlab Onramp tutorial offered by MathWorks.
After that, try to force yourself to use Matlab for everything: from simple calculations, to plots curves, to analyze data... and avoid to use Excel at all. Find examples of similar problems in the forums or in Google. I always find a similar program or function that has been coded previously, and I learn a lot from that. And google any function that you need to incorporate. Most likely Matlab already has a function for your problem, and the Matlab help files are very nice and complete.
It takes some time, but at the end, it is much more worth it for your work than use Excel!
Hope this helps!
NEHA CHOUDHARY on 22 Sep 2022
I am beginner here but trying to lean it and its really fun when we understand the concept.
M.MUSBA Elhadid
M.MUSBA Elhadid on 16 Oct 2021
Good question.
guoping qiu
guoping qiu on 24 Sep 2021
For The "Find the Treasures in MATLAB Central",post this words.
Javier on 16 Sep 2021
Hello, I am not a Matlab expert by no means. I have been using Matlab for about two years.
Something that has really helped me is to look for other things that I can use Matlab for, that can make my workflow more efficient.
For example, when I am working on a .tex document (which is very used in engineering at my university), instead of making the table yourself, which could take a lot of time, look for a function that can make it for you.
Also, try to use them for personal proyects (to manage different format files), or proyects that are not necesarily engineering ones.
Reading some books and looking at courses if you are starting out is also something useful.
Also, try to ask and answer questions on the Matlab Answers forum, you could really learn from studying diferent solutions to other people's questions, and then trying to solve such question in your own way. There may be some difficult ones but there are also some challenging enough ones.
Also, if you understand the errors that appear on your command window, I think coding will be so much easier.
Sulaymon Eshkabilov
Sulaymon Eshkabilov on 6 Jul 2021
Really great points on practical and theoretical aspects how to study and master programming in MATLAB environment. My learnig experience of MATLAB and Simulink was a little bit different from the points highlighted above. During my college years, I have employed MS Excel and Visual Basic programming in MS Excel in most of engineering and numerical analysis classes. Then I challenged myself to do everything what I had done in MS Excell and Visual Basic programming in MATLAB.
Later, I challenged my research fellow colleagues to perform all simulation and modelling problems of ours in MATLAB and Simulink environments and find out differences in solutions if there are any. These challenges were really fun and sometimes frustration due to simple ("now we call") or silly mistakes such as overlooking a solver type (i.e. fixed-step solver vs. variable-step solver) or error tolerance ('RelTol', "AbsTol") or executing Simulink models with undefined variables in the MATLAB workspace. One nugget here for Simulink modelling people how to carry all variables and their values along with the models is to define all variables and their values in: Model Explorer -> Callbacks -> InitFcn
As pinpointed above by others, "practice makes perfect!".
One great lifetime lesson that my Math Teacher in school taught was to solve any given problem with at least two or more different ways. That practice I have applied in solving various problems in MATLAB and Simulink in parallel that also helped me to study many different features of programming in MATLAB and Simulink.
Another practice of mine that I have found very essential in learning MATLAB/Simulink is designing and solving specific engineering projects in vibrations, control problems of dynamics, image analysis, etc.
Last but not least by helping others to solve their problems and teach others one can gain significant amount of valuable experiences including new features of MATLAB/Simulink packages and their toolboxes.
Kerry Paparusi
Kerry Paparusi on 2 Jun 2022
I've used MatLab for a couple days. I bought a big book on how to code a particle accelerator. I figure by the time I finish I should have the hang of it. So far, not all the code is running smoothly. I am not mad. Thats how I learn.
DGM on 6 Jul 2021
Everyone else here has covered what are arguably the more useful answers. I'm no expert, but I think one point that hasn't been mentioned (similar to Stephen's last point) was to spend some time to casually become familiar with your tools without the burden of performing a task for others.
I was taught to type on a typewriter and came away from all that practice without any practical typing ability. It wasn't until I was motivated to communicate with others in real time online that I learned to type for my own selfish motivations. Likewise, all the coursework and research I pushed through Matlab hardly taught me much in terms of breadth or depth of familiarity. It wasn't until I started writing my own projects that the challenges felt meaningfully rewarding and I began to find some shreds of confidence.
... maybe I just outed myself as a terrible learner. I guess I'm old enough to live with that.
Kerem Utku Demir
Kerem Utku Demir on 5 Jul 2021
Self-paced courses are enough.
Cutie on 6 Jul 2021
@Walter Roberson, you are right. The self-paced course aren't enough until one start 'getting his/her hands dirty' with practical implementation before you can know 'how much you know!'. I have particulary found this community helpful.
Walter Roberson
Walter Roberson on 5 Jul 2021
Enough for what purpose?
If you visit the main MATLAB Answers page, and you look at the list of the 20 most recent questions: of those 20, how many would a person be able to answer after taking just self-paced courses?
Brett Pantalone
Brett Pantalone on 28 Jan 2021
It takes a little time to get proficient in MATLAB, especially if you are coming from more traditional programming languages. I agree with everything said in the previous answers, but I'd like to emphasize a few of the things that really helped me personally.
  • Understand how MATLAB uses vectors and matrices, and the various ways you can access them using subscripts and slices. Learn how to use a logical mask to filter elements of a vector or matrix.
  • Learn to vectorize operations. When you find yourself writing a FOR loop, try to eliminate it using a vector operation. Usually you can do it, making your code faster and easier to understand.
  • MATLAB's help system is one of the best. Use 'help <command>' to be reminded of command syntax, and 'doc <command>' to read about usage details and optional parameters.
  • Don't reinvent the wheel. MATLAB includes lots of built-in functions that can deal with many types of problems, not to mention all of the specialized toolboxes.
  • Don't try to write perfect code the first time. Get something working, verify your results, and then optimize it for size or speed if needed.
  • Use comments liberally to document your code. Even if something seems obvious today, after some time has passed you may find yourself wondering, "What the heck was I trying to do here?" Writing good comments saves time in the long run.
  • Break problems up into smaller pieces, and write functions instead of large scripts. This helps improve code architecture and makes it easier to reuse, debug, and share code.
  • Looking at other people's code helps with learning and understanding MATLAB's unique programming idioms and best practices. Check the file share section for solutions to specific problems.
  • Finally, the MathWorks question and answer forums have lots of helpful information. But you already knew that.
Good luck!
Walter Roberson
Walter Roberson on 28 Jan 2021
Vectorization is not always best. In some cases it can force you into multi-dimensional logical arrays, calculate the values over the whole range of possibilities as-if all the entries were going to be selected, and then selecting the answers using logical mask. As the dimensionality goes up, the fractional of entries that are eventually going to be selected can go down quickly, and it can become much faster to instead loop and select only limited subsets to calculate over.
Ryan Chapman
Ryan Chapman on 25 Nov 2020
Is this 5 years old? I hope you fingured it out by now.
Walter Roberson
Walter Roberson on 31 Oct 2020
The coffee is not strictly mandatory: I never drink the stuff myself.
I could claim that milk does just as well.. but more accurate would be that programming is greatly assisted by having a supply of comfort foods such as potato chips and chocolate.
Steven Lord
Steven Lord on 1 May 2020
Two questions that can be useful to ask when writing a significant piece of code are "What problem am I trying to solve?" and "What steps do I need to do to solve my problem?"
Sometimes when I'm writing code I'll start off with either just a bunch of comments listing the steps or a series of function calls (no bodies yet, just the names.) This is just to fix the series of steps in my mind and ensure that I'm not missing anything. Once I have the general workflow in place, I determine what each of those steps needs to receive as input and what it needs to produce for other parts of the workflow. This finishes the signature of each of my functions. Then I can implement each step as its own function, independent of the rest of the workflow. This limits how often I have to go back to an already-implemented function and change it to satisfy the requirements of later functions.
You may be tempted to save time by using short, potentially cryptic function or variable names. I recommend resisting that temptation unless maybe the variable is only in use for a very short period of time. So using single letter variable names like t and y as the input arguments of an anonymous function may be okay.
odefun = @(t, y) t.*y;
For anything that's going to be used repeatedly, I try to choose function and variable names that make my code look more or less like English sentences or phrases that describe the purpose of the function, the variable, and/or the function call. Tab completion can help limit how much typing you need to do. Consider one example:
data = readDataFromFile(filename);
Without knowing anything about the body of that function, you can get a pretty good sense of what it does and roughly what it returns.
data = readDataFromFile(filename);
cleanedData = removeOutliersAndMissing(data);
Those seem like two reasonable steps in the process of analyzing data from a file.
The debugging tools, Code Analyzer, and other tools to help you fix and avoid problems in your code have already been mentioned and they're good tools to have in your toolbox. There are a few others that may have been mentioned in passing that would be useful particularly for larger projects.
  • the Profiler can help you understand where the performance bottlenecks in your code are located, focusing your attention on the long poles.
  • Given the department I work in at MathWorks, I don't think it'll surprise anyone that I give a plug for the testing tools. Even a few script-based tests to lock down the behavior of the most critical part of your code will help you when or if you need to change that code, to reduce the chances that you'll break it. Note that we have frameworks both for correctness of your code and to measure performance, to reduce the chances that you'll slow your code down and not notice.
Walter Roberson
Walter Roberson on 18 Nov 2020
odefun = @(t, y) t.*y;
The variable names may be short and cryptic there, but in the context of ode numeric solvers they are also conventional, and that can help a fair bit in having them recognized. Just like how all of the Mathworks optimizers use names such as A, b, Aeq, beq, lb, ub: the coding pattern can become strong enough with common repetition that using different names can start to be distracting.
(If you dig into the implementation of ode45 then you will find a lot of places where you are asking yourself what the difference is between input parameter names and names carried around through the code, because there is a programming maxim that if you use a different name then it should be for a different purpose.)
Adam on 3 Mar 2016
I hadn't noticed this question at the time (or I think maybe I did, but Stephen's answer was so comprehensive as regards advice that I didn't feel the need to add anything).
To give an answer on a more personal note though, I have first started working in Matlab ~9 years ago. At the time I was a novice C++ programmer, fairly fresh out of a Computer Science PhD, had been offered a job as a software engineer, but mostly with the intention of me becoming the 'research engineer' that I am now - i.e. I do some research, come up with lots if ideas, implement them as prototypes and hopefully they are good enough for our company to put into our main software. I'm neither an expert software engineer nor an expert researcher, I'm just quite good at combining the two in a useful manner.
Matlab was the tool that I was given to do most of this research in, though for many years I did so alongside also programming in C++ for long periods. When I started I had never even heard of Matlab. To this day I have never been on a single Matlab course or done any kind of official training, I have just learned on the job and continue to do so.
Right now I would say I am more of a 2nd tier expert if we accept that people like Stephen, Walter, Chad, John D'Errico are top tier experts. I have a good depth of knowledge in the areas I have used and am able to provide help and advice on those, but I still learn a huge amount from people like those named and others at the same time through browsing this forum.
As I began to produce prototype demos I made it a mission to try to learn at least one new thing in Matlab with every new prototype I created and always enjoy the software engineering design aspect in a language like Matlab. After many years of working in GUIs we began to start building ever more complex tools with multiple communicating windows, etc. At this point I decided it was time to learn Matlab OOP which was pleasingly easy. I completed a 2 week project using OOP for the first time in less time than my boss had expected it to take without knowing I was learning a whole new way of programming. It was one of the best Matlab decisions I have made. Now > 95% of the code I write is object-orientated and I believe our code base is vastly better for having taken that leap.
As for other stuff though, in addition to learning as I go through experimentation and the excellent documentation I started visiting this forum. From the outset I decided I wanted to give at least as much as I 'take' so I began answering questions before I asked my first. I found that I actually have a lot of knowledge that can be passed on to others and by doing so, as others said, I learn a huge amount. That is important because I am doing a full time job - whilst helping others is nice I only spend work time doing so because I learn a lot that improves my own programming too so my employers gain from that.
In addition to this forum Yair Altman's blog has regularly been a source of enlightenment for me, especially when I go 'off-piste' with my requirements and need to delve into java.
Finally, two of the biggest things that helped me learn Matlab:
  • The Matlab Command Window - use it! Experiment with syntax and try things out because it is easy
  • The debugger - allied with the Command Window debugging code and being able to play around on command line from within a debug session is invaluable.
John D'Errico
John D'Errico on 30 Mar 2017
Walter makes a good point. I've written up my thinking on hundreds of hands of bridge that I have played. Not MATLAB, but often just as difficult. What I found was that by writing out my thoughts in a clear, cohesive manner so that others can follow them, it forced me to actively think about the problem. It made concepts clear to me that otherwise were slightly fuzzy.
Walter Roberson
Walter Roberson on 3 Mar 2016
It is said that you do not really know something until you can explain it to someone else. Answering other people's questions helps a lot in learning yourself.
Chad Greene
Chad Greene on 6 Jul 2015
I've learned a tremendous amount by asking and answering questions on this forum. I probably learn more when I answer questions than when I ask.
The one thing that really stepped up my skills, though, was developing a habit of properly documenting the codes I write. I typically spend twice as much time writing documentation as I do actually writing the functions, but I am convinced it's worth it. The benefits of good documentation are multifaceted:
  1. I always start with a Syntax section. This is where I have to ask myself, "how will users try to use this function?" and "what are the simplest, most intuitive options the function can have?"
  2. Next comes a Description section. This is where I describe the different options listed in the Syntax section. This step forces me to think about what exactly the function is doing and why.
  3. The Example section is the big opportunity for learning. The process of writing a good set of examples serves quadruple duty as you'll think of all the ways your function can be used, you'll think of new options that your function should have, and you'll see the ways your function could be more user friendly. If you make examples to highlight every different way your function can be used, running those simple examples will be a great way to error check your code.
I am convinced that the best way to become a good coder is to write good documentation. Teaching is the best way to learn, and writing good documentation is teaching. You don't learn many tricks when you write documentation, but you learn how to think about problems, and you develop an intuition for how to make code more efficient and more user friendly. The more user-friendly your codes are, the less cluttered the user's mind will be, the more you'll understand your own code, the more efficient your codes will be, and the more repeatable your science will be.
In my view, the best way to become a better Matlab coder is to learn and use the publish feature. Syntax, Description, Examples. For everything you ever write, even if it's only for yourself.
Sulaymon Eshkabilov
Sulaymon Eshkabilov on 18 Jun 2021
Very Good Point on Documentation!
Stephen23 on 7 Jul 2015
+1 a very important point, and clearly explained.
bio lim
bio lim on 7 Jul 2015
Thanks. The publish feature sounds very useful. I will definitely look into it and start using!