File Exchange

image thumbnail

Create and activate figures by name

version (2.92 KB) by Brett Shoelson
Finds and activates, or creates, figure with user-specified name.


Updated 08 Jan 2015

View Version History

View License

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

Finds and activates, or creates, figure with user-specified name.

If no name is provided, creates figure named "untitledn" (where n is incremented to result in a unique name).

togglefig('My Figure');
If figure named 'My Figure' exists, it will be activated (brought to the front and shown). Otherwise, it will be created.

h = togglefig('My Figure');
Also returns the handle to the specified or created figure.

Creates and activates new figure named untitled1, untitled2, ...
Note: You can subsequently activate these figures with, for instance, togglefig('untitled1').

NOTE: This example requires the Image Processing Toolbox
im = imread('cameraman.tif');
for ii = 1:10
thresh = ii/20;
title(sprintf('Threshold = %0.2f',thresh));
I've found this to be exceptionally useful in algorith-development
mode, particularly when iterating on cells in the cell-mode editor. (I
use this function in almost every mfile I write these days.)

Cite As

Brett Shoelson (2021). Create and activate figures by name (, MATLAB Central File Exchange. Retrieved .

Comments and Ratings (10)

Akshay Jain

This is so useful. Wish I had found it before.

ftsst tupamahu

oh my god thanks before cz very helpful :)

Owen Brimijoin

Only just found this function this morning - but it made my day.

Brett Shoelson

Danilo, thanks for finding the bug (and for suggesting a fix). New version addresses this!


Great idea and nice implementation !!!! I've just downloaded and I'm already loving it... :-)

Just a small bug found, when called without any arguments, I get:

>> togglefig
??? Input argument "clearfig" is undefined.

The problem is solved by adding the line

clearfig = 0;

just before

elseif nargin == 1


victor de lafuente

Thanks for this useful function.

I suggest a couple of extra lines to generate a unique figure number, so that other *.m files still using figure(1), figure(2), etc. do not overwrite the figures created by togglefig. It will pause for 10 ms each time a new figure is created, but this can be modified according to your computer platform (see 'pause' help).

if isempty(fig)
FigNum = round(sum(1000*clock));
fig = figure(FigNum);

John D'Errico

All fixed.

Brett Shoelson

ALL: To further follow up on John's comment, note that John correctly pointed out (via private email) that suppressing the handle if nargout == 0 does not disallow the reference-by-name functionality I wanted. I'm reposting the file to implement the modest change he suggested.

Brett Shoelson

Thanks for the comment, John. My first thought was to implement your suggestion; it would be trivially easy. But on reflection, I like TOGGLEFIG's forced issuance of a handle. In my workflow, I do things like:


This gives me painless (by-name) handling of my figures, and frees me from having to use the more unwieldy


You can still do

togglefig Fred;

(With the semicolon to suppress the display of the handle.)

Alternatively, I leave it to the user to modify the function to delete the function handle if not requested as an output.


John D'Errico

Its excellent, as I fully expect from Brett.

I don't know if this is being picky or not, but I'd add a couple of lines to the very end.

if nargout==0
clear fig

I think this is the standard for functions like plot or figure. When called as a command or with no output arguments, they do not try to return an output. Thus I'd expect to be able to do

togglefig Fred

and have a figure named "Fred" created, but without the handle itself ever returned. You should only get a handle when you ask for it. As it is now, togglefig now returns

= 1

when I call it as a command.

I'll rate this a 5 anyway.

MATLAB Release Compatibility
Created with R2007b
Compatible with any release
Platform Compatibility
Windows macOS Linux

Inspired: Cell Cycle Analysis, Cell Cycle Analysis

Community Treasure Hunt

Find the treasures in MATLAB Central and discover how the community can help you!

Start Hunting!