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textbp: text with legend-style "best" placement

version (4.05 KB) by Peter Mao
automatically locates text annotation to minimize figure obscuration


Updated 21 Jun 2011

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Editor's Note: This file was selected as MATLAB Central Pick of the Week

Sometimes the exact location of some text annotation doesn't matter. This works just like TEXT (including the property calls) except one does not specify an X,Y location. The subroutine TSCAN (modified from the Matlab LSCAN routine) automatically places the text, with a preference for the bottom/left corner.

Cite As

Peter Mao (2021). textbp: text with legend-style "best" placement (, MATLAB Central File Exchange. Retrieved .

Comments and Ratings (25)

Andrejs Fedjajevs


Very nice function, undofrtunately it does not work for multiline strings in subplots.


André Guerra

Rodrigo Duran

and the error only happens sometimes, some 2 by 6 subplots worked just fine (each subplot uses textbp)

Rodrigo Duran

Very helpful function, however recently showing same error as Mathew Crema and Holger Hoffman have reported. 2 by 6 subplots

Undefined function or variable 'pop'.
Error in textbp>tscan (line 149)
minpop = min(min(pop));
Error in textbp (line 24)
pos = tscan(gca,width,height,TOL);

Richard Sims

There seems to be some issue if you use this in conjunction with reversing axis e.g set(gca,'YDir','reverse')

Holger Hoffmann

same issue as Matthew Crema
- no subplots
- the problem is "tscan"

"Undefined function or variable "pop".

Error in tscan (line 136)
minpop = min(min(pop));"

Matthew Crema

It does not work for me, and the error message is:

Undefined function or variable "pop".

I have a lot of subplots in one figure, which may make the task difficult.

Peter Mao

Ian -- legend tends to take the best upper-right position, while textbp looks for the best lower-left position. If your plot is fairly dense with data, they may decide on the same spot. textbp only pays attention to the data, it doesn't know where the legend is placed.

Alireza -- this is hard to debug without the error message. I'm going to guess that you put it somewhere where it's not in your path. Try "which textbp" or "path".


It doesn't work for me but maybe I'm doing something wrong. I added the folder in the toolbox folder of Matlab and I'm using textbp('some string') after I plot some data. Is that right?


This works well on its own, but it does not seem to play well with the legend command (MATLAB R2013a). Both legend and textbp choose the same overlapping 'best' spot.


Peter Mao

Jamal -- As I recall, that's related to a problem that occurs when translating between figure and axis normalized coordinates. I took it up w/ Mathworks years ago, with no satisfactory resolution, so there it stands.

Peter Mao

Adrien -- the trick is to rejigger TSCAN so it goes from top-left to bottom-right. I'll do that if I can find some time. It's been a long time since I looked at the code!


I can't figure out how to use this code. Does this need to be placed in each .m file I wish to use the textbp function in?


Problem : it does not seem to work with the function "hist". A solution ?

Faiz Mahdi

Jamal Said

A problem: the repeated using of the function - in its simplest form - causes the overall added texts to be shifted diagonally.


Useful. Should be a Matlab builtin.



Scott Foster

This is a great bit of code for what it does. Very easy to use, and exactly what I was looking for.

Bob Solimeno

Beautiful! This code does exactly what I want to achieve. A very nice, simple substiture for the MATLAB text command where hands-off annotation is desired!

Tak Kunihiro

This is a code that I was looking for. Since a command "legend" has similar functionality I even though that there might be a command already. I have been using "legend" to put all information in the plot, which was pain in the neck. Now I can make a plot with all experimental parameters.

MATLAB Release Compatibility
Created with R2006a
Compatible with any release
Platform Compatibility
Windows macOS Linux

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