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Format Tick Labels

version (3.23 KB) by Alexander Hayes
Replace Tick Label with Specified Formattable Objects.


Updated 20 Aug 2007

No License

Editor's Note: This was a File Exchange Pick of the Week

Will replace axes tick labels with formatted text objects that can include both Tex and LaTex interpreted strings. Primary example is to add degree symbols to labels. Inputs can be a cell array of strings or a single string to be appended to the end of each of the current labels. Header documentation includes several examples. Labels can also be rotated.

Cite As

Alexander Hayes (2021). Format Tick Labels (, MATLAB Central File Exchange. Retrieved .

Comments and Ratings (47)

Wladimir Alonso

Thanks for this. Nevertheless it seems that this function overrides the font color making it always black. Because the background of my GUI is also black, I am afraid I did not find a way of making it work for me

Jen-Hao Cheng

Jannis Reich

Jannis Reich


Very useful; couldn't understand what 'offset' is or get it to work, otherwise this really helped and very easy to use.

in order to avoid changing the font type in the ticks one should include the following line in lines around 323, 539:

Rong Yu

It is very helpful when I am making boxplots!!! Thank you!

Steve Peppin

Thanks! Very nice



I know it is an old file and coding standards have changed but this file is over 500 lines of code while it could be half the size

There is a lot of repetition which leads to errors out of copy pasted parts e.g.

line 212
elseif length(tickx) == 0;

should be

elseif length(tickposx) == 0;



it is not very good


Excellent function, works really well. I made a few changes that extends this program for semilogx, semilogy, and loglog plots. Check it out here:


Jakob Sievers

Great. Though I had to apply a segment of 'parent',h to all the text commands for it to work as intended when working with several plots in a subplot.

Alexandros Iliopoulos


Very helpful, thank you!


it appears that this function does not work with log-log plots...


Hi this is a very usefull tool. Is it possible to use it for color axis thick labels? I tried to give the color axis axis handle, but it doesn't work.



Great Tool,

but if try to use it on a Diagram with a logarithmic scaled y-axis the xlabels disapear. When using ist with a log scaled x-axis the ylabels disapear.


Hi!! Can I use Tick in 3D diagrams?


I tried for Semilog bar plot. But it is not functioning. All my values are positive, so no problem with semilog in Y axis. Once i change the scale to semilog and run this code, nothing appears in Xticks. Any help?



Worked first time!



To get it to work with log axes I replaced




Jay Cheng

I am working on 3D plots. How to add tickz......... please.


Thanks for the file!

But I found a small bug:
If I make my tick labels beforehand then use this version of the function:
It re-assigns my tick labels to the default.

I did a quick-fix by copying the lines tickposx = get(h,'XTick'); and
'set(h,'XTickLabel',tickposx);' (located around line 134), and pasting them into the preceding if-statement. then I deleted the extra 'set(h,'XTickLabel',tickposx); '. However, beware! This fix may have introduced other errors that I haven't caught...



It doesn't work with semilogx correctly.
check the Y label.

Murat Cihan Yüksek

Excellent contribution, easy to use, perfectly useful for thesis work... Thank you.. Sorry about my previous post. It was my first.. This contribution deserves full rating..


Good work. It could be improved by allowing to format the y axis only independently of the x axis. Default action should be to do nothing. There are also problems with log plots, ylabels move out of the figure sometimes and xlabels are formatted only in the exponent.


Great stuff, however I am finding that the rotated labels are not centered but are right-justified. For example:



In response to comment suggested by Eric above (Dated: 11 Feb 2009):
I tried copying unicode characters from word, and they show ok in the script editor, but on the figure, they show as "?".
Any one else has noticed this, and have a solution??
I dont want to download this script file just to write character π in the ticklabel.

Nicolas Ferlay

Dear fellows,

I did detect a small problem:
it works when I write as the ticklabel '$10^{3}$', or '$10^{+3}$', not with '$10^{-3}$' : the minus sign is not understood !
How can it be ?



A very useful program; however, it doesn't seem to work when I move the y-axis to the right with set(gca,'yaxislocation','right') - does anyone know how to do this?

The reason I ask is because I manually create colourbars with imagesc (so I have better control over the tick labels etc.) and I want the yaxis to sit on the right...

Any help is greatly appreciated.

Daniel Crispell

Very nice and very useful. One comment- I believe the 'if' statement on line 303 should be >=, not > so that if only one option is being set the block will be entered.


Great work. My only complaint is that the default behavior should be do nothing, not add degrees. But that was easy enough to fix in the mfile.

Patrick Toche

This is a very useful submission. I'm sorry that I submitted 1 star above, I tried to cancel but couldn't. I think it happened when I refreshed my browser. If someone knows how to cancel it, please by all means do. I meant to give 5 stars.

I just want to say that I made a minor extension to this script. It should appear under my name, it's a very trivial extension: I have Introduced a distinction between offsets for the horizontal axis offset_x and vertical axis offset_y. This is useful if your x-axis and y-axis do not cross at the origin. This extension gives you independent control of the offset for the x-axis labels and y-axis labels. If you're interested it should soon appear under my name. I don't have the reference now as I only just uploaded it. Thanks again to Alexander.

Patrick Toche


Obviously the alternative above is limited to the unicode character sets and is not as flexible as the TeX interpreter


If you have a word processor (like MS WORD) that allows you to insert special symbols like ½ ° µ you can just copy and paste them directly into MATLAB. If using an m file just copy paste these characters into your quoted character array and pass it to your call to set tick labels. The characters are not exactly the same as the TeX characters so make sure you are consistent with this strategy.

Ben Woodacre

You can fix the problem I described above by saving the text labels' positions and then restoring them after invoking format_ticks(). The following code could be shrunk a tad, but it's general enough in case you are using any type of units for the Position property.

% Save label positions
xl = get(gca,'xlabel');
yl = get(gca,'ylabel');
orig_label_units = get( xl, 'Units');
set([xl yl], 'Units','pixels');
xp = get( xl, 'Position');
yp = get( yl, 'Position');
% Generate the text object ticks (changing labels' Position):
[hx, hy] = format_ticks(gca,'{}','{}')
% Restore original label Position and Units properties:
set( xl, 'Position', xp);
set( yl, 'Position', yp);
set([xl yl], 'Units', orig_label_units);

Ben Woodacre

This is just what I have been looking for.

But when I add X and Y axis labels, they are positioned on top of the new text object ticks when MATLAB detects that the axis doesn't have proper axes ticks anymore.

Is there a way to turn off this last re-layout?

Oskar Vivero

This is a great submission! I only edited a couple of lines to fit my needs (turned off the latex interpreter in order to run the figure through laprint.m). Great job!

Ozgur Akman

Top-notch! Really useful function.

Martin Fischbach

Works like a charm!

Thanks for your effort!

John Nat

Great function. It worked flawlessly in my plots.
However, it pains me to see the great lengths the author had to go simply because Matlab lacks support for LaTeX rendering in the Tick Labels. I hope this support is included in future versions.

MATLAB Release Compatibility
Created with R2006b
Compatible with any release
Platform Compatibility
Windows macOS Linux

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