The MATLAB R2012b Desktop – Part 1: Introduction to the Toolstrip 58

Posted by Loren Shure,

Today I’d like to introduce a guest blogger, David Garrison, who is a MATLAB Product Manager here at MathWorks. Over the next few blog posts, David will take us through a series of posts describing some exciting features in the new R2012b MATLAB release:

  • Part 1: Introduction to the Toolstrip
  • Part 2: Customizing the R2012b MATLAB Desktop
  • Part 3: MATLAB Apps

Here is Part 1 of the series.


Wow! Things really look different!

By now many of you have downloaded and installed MATLAB R2012b and have noticed some big changes to the appearance and organization of the MATLAB Desktop. For those who haven't installed R2012b yet, here is a picture of the new Desktop:

The most notable change is the introduction of the MATLAB Toolstrip. The Toolstrip reorganizes the Desktop functions found in the menus and toolbars from previous versions of MATLAB. In this first post, I will focus on the Toolstrip and introduce some important concepts.

The Toolstrip organizes MATLAB functionality in a series of tabs. Tabs are divided into sections that contain a series of related controls. The controls are buttons, drop-down menus and other user interface elements that you use to do things in MATLAB. For example, the picture below shows the Home tab with sections for operations on Files, Variables, Code and so forth. The File section has controls to do file related operations including creating scripts (New Script), opening files (Open), and comparing two files (Compare).

You may have also noticed the light blue bar in the upper right corner. That's called the Quick Access Toolbar. We'll talk more about that in Part 2 of this series.

Global Tabs

When you open R2012b for the first time, you will notice three tabs -- the Home tab, the Plots tab, and the Apps tab. These three tabs are always there no matter what you are doing in MATLAB. For that reason, they are called global tabs. The Home tab, shown above, is where you go to do general purpose operations like creating new files, importing data, managing your workspace, and setting your Desktop layout.

The Plots tab, shown below, is where you go to create MATLAB Plots. The Plots tab displays a gallery of plots available in MATLAB and any toolboxes that you have installed. To create a plot from the gallery, you select the variables in the workspace that you want to plot and then select the type of visualization you want to use for that data. The downward facing arrow on the far right brings down the full extent of the plot gallery with many more choices. The gallery is smart, only showing plots that are appropriate for the data that you've selected. This is an example of how the toolstrip uses context to direct you to the best options.

The last of the global tabs is the Apps tab, shown below. It is the place you go to run interactive MATLAB applications. Some of those applications come from MathWorks -- you get them automatically with Toolboxes that you have installed. The Apps tab presents a gallery of apps that you have installed. The downward facing arrow on the far right brings down the full extent of the apps gallery with many more choices. You simply click on the icon for your favorite app (e.g. Curve Fitting) and the app starts. The Apps tab is one of my personal favorites because it replaces the old "Start" menu. I find it much easier to find and use the apps that are most important in my work.

You probably noticed the three buttons on the far left of the tab. These are used to get more apps (from the File Exchange), install a new app, or package your own apps for distribution to others. We'll talk more about these three buttons in Part 3 of this series.

Contextual Tabs

As we've seen, global tabs are always present regardless of what you are doing in MATLAB. In addition to global tabs, the Toolstrip also has contexual tabs. Contextual tabs only appear when you're doing certain things in MATLAB. Let's look at the Editor as an example. When you edit a file, three new tabs appear -- the Editor tab, Publish tab, and View tab. If the Editor is docked in the Desktop, those tabs related to the Editor appear next to the global tabs as shown below.

I like to work with my Editor undocked so I have more room to view my file. The nice thing about contextual tabs is that they go along with the window to which they belong. So here's what the Editor looks like when it is undocked.

The Editor tab, shown above, contains all the functions you need when you're editing your file. All of those great capabilities of the Editor are there organized in a way to make them easier to find and use. The Publish tab, shown below, is another tab associated with the Editor. The Publish tab takes all the formatting controls you need to create beautiful MATLAB documents with publishing and puts them in a single place.

Publishing is a very useful feature in MATLAB that has been in the product for several years. In spite of that, MATLAB users don't always find it. When we were doing early testing of the Toolstrip, I was amazed at the number of people who discovered publishing for the first time. We were pleased to see how the Toolstrip makes features more prominent so users can find them.

The View tab is the last of the Editor contextual tabs. It is where you go to control the layout and appearance of files in the Editor. You'll also find contextual tabs in the Variable Editor. I'll let you explore those on your own.

Other Context Specific Behaviors

As we've seen thus far, the Toolstrip tries to give you what you need, when you need it without presenting every possible function all the time. We saw that behavior with the Plots gallery and with contexual tabs. Let me show you one more example of contextual behavior that I really like. You may have observed that the Editor tab has no controls for debugging. That's because you don't need those controls until you are actively debugging your code. Let's see what happens when you enter the debugger. Here is the way the Editor tab normally looks.

If I put a breakpoint in my file and click Run, the Editor tab changes to this:

That whole Run section has been replaced with a new Debug section. The Debug section contains all the controls I need to debug my code. I love this one because the Toolstrip gives me what I need only when I need it.

Minimizing the Toolstrip

OK, given all the cool stuff when seen thus far, there's one remaining question to answer. How do I hide the Toolstrip? Like many of you, I often work on a laptop with limited screen real estate. As much as I like the Toolstrip, there are times when I want to maximize the vertical space I have available for the Command Window or the Editor. If there are times when you don't want to see the Toolstrip, just minimize it. You can do that by right-clicking anywhere in the Toolstrip and selecting "Minimize Toolstrip" or by double-clicking on any of the tabs. When the toolstrip is minimized it looks like this:

In this state, the toolstrip is stil there. Clicking on a tab will temporarily restore it so you can still get to important functions. You can restore the Toolstrip by right-clicking anywhere on the Toolstrip and selecting "Restore Toolstrip" or by double-clicking on any of the tabs.

Have you discovered any new MATLAB functionality?

One of the objectives of the Toolstrip is to make important MATLAB functionality easier to find and use. Have you tried out the Toolstrip? Have you discovered any new capabilities that you didn't previously know about? I'd love to hear your thoughts here.

Next up -- Part 2: Customizing the R2012b MATLAB Desktop

Well, that's all for now. Try out the new Desktop and become familar with the tabs and the contextual behavior of the Toolstrip. Next time, we'll talk about ways to customize the R2012b Desktop including using the Quick Access Toolbar and creating and managing shortcuts.

Get the MATLAB code

Published with MATLAB® R2012b

58 CommentsOldest to Newest

Eric replied on : 1 of 58

My thoughts:

1. I’ve never heard any Matlab user say “I wish it had Ribbons.” In 5 years, I’ve never heard anybody say they prefer the Ribbons introduced in Office 2007 to the old menu system.

2. Do we really need a button whose sole purpose is to enter two percent symbols?

3. Does the current directory box need to extend for the entire width of the screen? This just seems like even more wasted space. Whose directory structure is this deep? I was able to right-click on the current directory box and send it somewhere. Now it seems gone forever. Navigating the new help system looking for information on where it went has caused Matlab to crash.

4. Where did the button for “Evaluate entire file” go? I know the “Run” button is similar, but the former does not require me to change the current directory or modify the path.

5. I’m hoping the next blog entry will show me how to add the “Evaluate cell”, “Evaluate cell and advance”, and “Evaluate entire file” buttons to the Quick Access Toolbar. I looks as if I can only create buttons based on Matlab code.

6. I’ll likely stick with R2012a until a significant computational feature I would use is introduced.

Ben Martin replied on : 2 of 58

Looks like all other ribbon-based interfaces: absolutely appalling.

A good friend works at the Mathworks here in Cambridge and had been telling me for a while that Matlab was going to a ribbon interface. Stupidly, I thought he was pulling my leg. Surely, I thought, there was no way that the Mathworks would buy in to the ribbon nonsense. Unfortunately I was wrong.

I have no idea what metrics you’ve got that suggest ribbon interfaces increase productivity. I’ve no idea why you think that dumping on your non-Windows users with a particularly Windows-centric interface is a good idea. I have no idea why you’d f**k about with what was a perfectly good user experience.

What I *do* know is that both the Mathworks and Wolfram have, of late, undertaken the most bizarre software arms race imaginable. A plague on both your houses.

bobopi replied on : 3 of 58

Why ? I don’t understand, really. For many years, a majority of advanced users has been complaining about tabs and strips in Microsoft Office. Apparently, you don’t read newsgroups. It’s hard to find people claiming “wooh, this has greatly improved my productivity”. Personally, I almost never use menus in Matlab. Either there already is an icon in the toolbar for what I want (debug mode) or I know the keyboard combination to do it (indent and cell evaluation). It is not because the menus are useless that you have to put all their items into icons in the toolbar. This latter thus becomes full and busy, you lose the simplicity of the interface. Well, I will try it and try to stay positive before judging that interface. However, one has to explain to me why some choices such as toolstrips and bright screens are more and more widely made in the industry while most users endlessly complain about them.

Sean de Wolski replied on : 4 of 58

Eric: Two comments

3) Right clicking on the current directory bar gives you the option to dock it in the current directory window. Alternatively, you can also concatenate the quick access toolbar with it. If anything you do here causes a crash or hang, please contact tech support with reproduction steps.

5) Right click on any of these buttons to add them to the quick access toolbar. This was incredibly helpful to me.

Richard replied on : 5 of 58

Well, I’m just hoping you can now open a file in the editor while running a computation in matlab (using the File=>Open dialog). A feature that used to be present four years ago in r2008b, but not present in r2012a.

Dan Dolan replied on : 6 of 58

I strongly agree with the other posters: the toolstrip is NOT helpful. Show of hands: how many users keep the Desktop in “Command Window Only” mode (with the editor in a separate window, of course)? I don’t even like docking figures because it messes with sizing–why would I want to search through a fancy looking menu when the existing system is much easier?

David Garrison replied on : 7 of 58

We realize that the introduction of the Toolstrip is a big change in the MATLAB Desktop and that it will take some time to get used to the changes. We believe that in time, the Toolstrip will help people find and use MATLAB functionality more easily and effectively. The Toolstrip design is based on usability testing and feedback from a lot of different types of MATLAB users. One of our design goals was to keep the Toolstrip as unobtrusive as possible for people who primarily work through the Command Window. This post mentions the fact that you can minimize the Toolstrip. The next post will talk more about new ways to customize the R2012b Desktop to suit your use of MATLAB including added your own buttons to the Quick Access Toolbar.

Regarding the specific questions that from your responses:

1) Do we really need a button whose sole purpose is to enter two percent symbols?
Part of the rationale of putting functionality into the tab is so that people will find functionality that is broadly useful but not always found. In this particular case, it’s there to help people learn about sections and publishing in their MATLAB documents. This used to be in the Cell menu but people didn’t always find it.

2) Does the current directory box need to extend for the entire width of the screen?
Sean has already addressed this one and Part 2 of this series will show more about customization of the Current Folder toolbar.

3) Where did the button for “Evaluate entire file” go?
Good point. It is not in the Toolstrip right now. You’ve presented a good use case for having it there. In the meantime, you can create a command shortcut and put it into the Quick Access Toolbar. That shortcut would have the following lines of MATLAB code in it:

activeEditor = matlab.desktop.editor.getActive ;
eval(activeEditor.Text) ;

To learn more about the matlab.desktop.editor object go to this blog post about the MATLAB Editor API:

4) I’m hoping the next blog entry will show me how to add the “Evaluate cell”, “Evaluate cell and advance”, and “Evaluate entire file” buttons to the Quick Access Toolbar.
Yes, I’m going to talk about that in the next post. Sean beat me to it in his comment above.

Ratz replied on : 8 of 58

Whilst the previous matlab UI was never such a work of art, sparkling at the very zenith of perfection that it brought tears to the eyes of men, this mess makes me think someone simply skipped their medication. I sincerely hope there’s an option buried in this shambles of a UI which allows the user to put it back as it was. I handle the IT for a department in Oxford and thanks to this poorly conceived eyesore we’ve a choice of re-writing a large amount of teaching material or stick with 2012a. I think the latter is going to be better for all concerned. Let’s hope 2013a isn’t quite so awful.

S sharma replied on : 9 of 58

The new tool strip is so disgusting, that I am running matlab from the command prompt. What are you people thinking????? I plan on downgrading to r2012a…

Eric Magee replied on : 10 of 58

Boo, hiss; I hated the ribbon when MS came out with it. Much prefer the clean look of menus and shortcuts. Please, at least give me the option to use the old (read better) look. Until then, I see no reason to upgrade.

@David – the toolstrip has been around in MS Office for quite some time and I have yet to hear anyone who thinks it was a good idea. And BTW, if you minimize the toolstrip, it looks like you lose the shortcuts. I had a row of customized shortcuts to which I no longer have direct access. Mathoworks should keep in mind that they are alienating the technical user base to appease the occasional user. At least MS Office does not purport to be a technical application.

Jaromir Benes replied on : 11 of 58

I wish you first fixed all those things that, as I believe, matter most to 99% of Matlab users/developers before putting up all that vanity nonsense like ribbons. (What’s going to be next? Headbands? Wigs?)

There are tons of things in which the Matlab environment is now desperately lagging behind even the simplest freeware editors/IDEs. It’s really mind boggling that the Matlab editor/desktop still doesn’t have
* regexp find & replace,
* find and replace only within a text selection (it’s 2012, wake up!!!),
* at least very basic support for macros,
* replace (not only find) in files,
* support for documentation of larger projects,
I could go on and on…

Sad to say that, but to me, this is a total failure of your ability to prioritise.

You’re not losing me (I’ve been with Matlab for 19 years by now) but you’re making me really frustrated…



You can move your shortcuts toolbar to another location, near the current directory bar as Sean mentioned (and will be in another desktop post soon).

“Right clicking on the current directory bar gives you the option to dock it in the current directory window.”

So you can make it accessible without needing the full ribbon.

Sarah Zaranek replied on : 13 of 58

@Jaromir –

“Replace (not only find) in files” – My find has a replacement option. Maybe I can am misunderstanding what you wanted?

“regexp find & replace” – you can replace a string with a regular expression – with regexprep but you probably want more flexibility than that?


Eric Magee replied on : 14 of 58

Thanks Loren – I will do that, but I think you may have missed my point (or I was not clear enough). The point is that I have to waste precious time re-customizing to get rid of a “feature” that as far as I am concerned adds ZERO utility, and; based on the comments so far, I am not the only one who feels this way. In my experience, ribbons reduce productivity. I still cannot find what I used to be able to find easily in MS Office with the menus. Granted, I do not use the menus as frequently in Matlab, but I do use the shortcuts which used to be one click away by default.

I agree with Jaromir, a poor choice of priorities. What ever happened to the Projects feature? I beta tested that a couple years ago. Now THAT was a useful feature – ribbons, on the other hand, not so much.

Jaromir Benes replied on : 15 of 58


I wasn’t probably clear enough about that.

1. “Replace in files” means find & replace in files in a specified location (folders, subfolders) that are not necessarily open in the editor. Press Ctrl+Shift+F and you’ll see what I mean.

2. “Regexp find & replace” — of course, I didn’t mean the commands as part of the Matlab language (i.e. regexp and regexprep) but features of the Matlab editor. Press Ctrl+F and a find and replace dialog opens for the currently edited file. That’s exactly where I’d love to have a regexp option.


Dan Mac replied on : 16 of 58

Like most of the users I was pretty annoyed with the toolstrip (or is it a ribbon?). I’ve been playing with the prerelease and now release version for a while so I’m used to it.

What I really find to suck in R2012b is the change in documentation. It is harder to find what I’m looking for and for some reason it seems more sparse (is it just me or did they cut stuff out).

Andreas replied on : 17 of 58

While I do not agree with all the hate about the new GUI, it worries me that Mathworks invests time in eye candy for novices, instead of addressing things that matter to actual users:
– no line numbers for errors in evaluated sections (fix THIS if you want us to use sections, instead of adding a “%%” button)
– no breakpoints in evaluated sections
– built-in functions crash when something happens to their figures (e.g., newrb)
– rotating plots is horribly slow even on high-end workstations
– many built-in functions that would be trivial to parallelize still aren’t (arrayfun, network/sim, …)

Eric Magee replied on : 18 of 58

OK – So I have been playing with this a bit – using my precious time :) – and while I will admit, it is not as bad as I first thought, I still like the old layout better – so far. All you have really done is replace the menus with tabs and removed some toolbar options. If you minimize the toolstrip (ribbon) it looks very similar to a regular menu. At this point my biggest complaint is the reduction in flexibility of the toolbars.

While I was able to get my shortcuts back using the quick-access toolbar, I have found that in order to get back all of the shortcuts I typically use (including some Matlab built-in ones) there is not enough room to keep them all visible. What used to be essentially 3-4 customizable toolbars (MATLAB, Editor, Editor Cell Mode, and Workspace), has been reduced to 2, (Quick-Access and Current Folder), and the Current Folder toolbar has only limited options for adding shortcuts. I would be happy to see at least the Editor toolbar come back, even happier to see all 4. Where this bothers me most is when I am debugging. While I like having the toolstrip minimized (like the old menus), in order to have access to the debug shortcuts, I have to expand the Editor toolstrip, and click the desired shortcut. OK – 1 extra click, not such a big deal, except that after clicking, the toolstrip is minimized again. So I either need to restore the toolstrip every time I am debugging or add the debugging shortcuts to the quick-access toolbar – except that there is not enough room. While the current folder toolbar has plenty of room (I only have the address bar, and the up one level shortcut), I cannot add just any shortcut to that toolbar. If I had the Editor toolbar back, or if I could make the quick-access toolbar more than a single row, I could add editor specific shortcuts there.

Am I missing some customization option somewhere that would restore this flexibility? Can I add custom shortcuts to the Current Folder toolbar?

Jolle replied on : 19 of 58

For all the disappointments over the years, waiting in vain for the update to the graphics system and a proper gui builder–I actually though version 8.0 would be the one where some serious changes were introduced.

I expected major updates to the language, an a huge overhaul to the graphics system, which was outdated 20 years ago, and is worse than a travesty today.

Instead, version 8 just introduces ‘ribbons’, an ancient and obsolete design, which was a failure in MS Office, and seems a bad joke in 2012.

The last several updates have been disappointments, but this one is devastating.

Eric et al.,

This is my personal comment and does not necessarily represent the opinions of MathWorks.

I hated the MS Office ribbon when it came out, and I had a really hard time finding the functions that I used often before (and I was just a casual user of MS Office). I will say that now, I prefer the ribbon to the old menu system. Whether I’m in Outlook, Word, PPT, or Excel, most (>95%) of the things that I need to do are clustered in the Home tab. That means increased productivity for me.

When I saw the new R2012b interface long time ago when we were testing internally, I had a very similar response to yours. Actually, reading your comments brought back tons of memories. It was frankly painful for a while. I live and breathe MATLAB, so I had to retrain years of muscle and mental memory I had about MATLAB. But I did keep an open mind, because I knew how I adjusted with MS Office over time.

After some time (weeks to months), I’m seeing many benefits to the new interface, and I do feel some boost in productivity, especially the Editor tab and the contextual debug controls. I just know that it’ll take me a little while longer to adjust completely, and I trust in the light at the end of the tunnel. :)

Just my 2 cents.

Ben Martin replied on : 21 of 58

It’s thoroughly depressing (but utterly predictable, given my experience with the Mathworks) to hear user’s concerns about the ribbon interface dismissed so easily.

Here’s an idea: how about you cut that portion of the Mathworks middle management that chooses to justify their existence with rubbish such as a ribbon interface and use the money you’ve saved to hire some engineers with good JVM experience. I know of plenty of places (such as hedge/proprietary funds) that would *love* to be able to build upon the already great Java integration in Matlab by using it with new JVM languages like Scala.

There are, quite literally, hundreds of improvements that could be made to Matlab that are more important than a f**king ribbon.

Grant replied on : 22 of 58

Is everyone here really arguing that MSOffice 2003 > 2010? That is preposterous. The ribbon layout boosted productivity enormously, except perhaps for those too stubborn to adapt. UI design is a science and is evolving for a reason, and as David says, it’s “based on usability testing and feedback from a lot of different types of MATLAB users.”

Good grief people, get over it: the only constant is change.

Kevin Sharp replied on : 23 of 58

When Microsoft put introduced the ribbon in Office people hated it so much that third party apps were released to restore menus. I can’t believe Mathworks would force this interface on its users. I’ll be cancelling my maintenance contract and sticking with R2012a until a legacy mode for menus and the help browser are available.

Eric replied on : 24 of 58

I’m sure Clippy was “based on usability testing and feedback from a lot of different types of users” as well.

Bruce replied on : 26 of 58

While not a fan of the ribbon (or most anything that originated in Redmond), I’m getting used to it. One thing that I find missing (or maybe I just missed in the mess), is the ability to separate groups of things in the quick access toolbar with some sort of separator thingy (like a |, for example). With that, and the ability to customize the QAT (already there) I can mostly hide the ribbon and keep it that way.


Eric Magee replied on : 27 of 58

Bruce – I agree, a separator would be great – along with the ability to have multiple rows – or at least another toolbar like the editor toolbar in previous versions.

Malcolm Lidierth replied on : 28 of 58


If a TMW staffer needs “weeks to months” to get used to the ribbon it should tell you that it’s an ill-conceived design change- and those of us using MATLAB as a smaller part of our work don’t have the time to waste. Nor can we afford the lost-productivity while getting used to it.

I’ll stick with R2012a.

Ramiro Massol replied on : 29 of 58

The ribbon layout is fine with me, just needs time to get used to it. What I was expecting in this release is to see a major update to the graphics system and a proper GUI builder with full integration with Java capabilities. Importantly, if the ribbon/toolstrip layout is so wonderful idea, why didn’t you add this functionality to the GUI builder?

Jan Simon replied on : 30 of 58


Your statement, that you needed “weeks to months” before you’ve seen benefits and felt some boost, is a desasterous criticism. A high usability needs less than a second to be received, and in the optimal case a design feature is not even noticed consciously.

For many years I painfully miss modern UI-controls like fully functional and documented UITree, UITable and UITab. Even a AtariST allowed to create more powerful GUIs in 1986. Matlab has a lot of undocumented GUI-treasures already, but TMW hesitates to document them.
The multi-threading is supported weakly only, while all new computers have more and more cores.
On the other hand Matlab’s Help system has been the best and most useful I’ve ever seen. But the new layout of at least the online-documentation is a step backwards.

If you test Matlab 2014a already and TMW plans to replace the command window by tiles, I want to share my opinion that such stuff should be avoided.

I have the impression, that there is a large discrepancy between the current feedback and the results of the usability testing. This could be an evidence of a biased testing procedure.

I’m going to work with 2009a and 2011b. I have not been aware of it, but now I realize, that I’m very satisfied with the useful and usable IDE. The powerful and clear help texts and the active technical support or TMW are excellent and a unique selling point. Thanks!

Obviously TMW does not censor negative opinions in this blog and in the Answers forum. This is a strong indication of the high integrity and it gains my respect. Kudos!

Kind regards, Jan

Robert Cumming replied on : 31 of 58

I second @Malcolm comment that if it takes @Jiro “who lives and breaths Matlab” “weeks to months” to retrain then you have to question the wisdom behind this.

I work with a team whom 80% of people have migrated to work with Matlab, the others are slowly migrating (this is taking years…) – I fear if and when we migrate to r2012b we will lose them as they will only have just become competant in the old menu system and have no desire to learn the new…

Hey everybody – it’s Scott here. I’m the head of the MATLAB product management team, responsible for steering the overall direction for MATLAB. Many of you know me from my more active days on the file exchange, blogs, or personally from my years of traveling to meet with MATLAB users around the US and the world. (I also happen to be the dorky looking guy in the What’s new in MATLAB video, with a voice not nearly as charming as the legendary Scottish voice of MATLAB …)

I wanted to let you know that we are listening. We really appreciate all of your feedback, and particularly the passion that all of you bring to MATLAB.

I believe that we all have the same goals – we want MATLAB to be great, to continue to be adopted by more and more users around the world, everyone from experienced programmers to engineers who are limping by analyzing data with spreadsheets.

To this end, we have a large development team working on many different fronts. We are working on graphics, performance, language, libraries, GUI building, etc. Each of these moves forward on its own timeline, with capabilities released as soon as they are ready. It just so happens that our updates to the desktop and help system happened to be ready at 12b, while much of the work in other areas is still in progress.

I’ve seen some comments here and elsewhere on expectations for “version 8.” We decided to rev the version number to 8, mainly because we were tired of 7.1x … It doesn’t mean that you have to wait 8 more years for a “9” to see some of the other features you are hoping for. You’ve probably noticed that we’ve been de-emphasizing version numbers of the past several years as we’ve switched to releasing features as they are ready every 6 months instead of bundling up all big changes into a single major release. We are continuing with this approach.

I really hope that you will give the new release a real try before dismissing it. It’s been said before, but we tested this release a ton with users, including ones with lots of experience who use MATLAB very heavily. Keep in mind that the new version had to pass the muster of our own development organization, which is likely one of the largest groups of professional software developers using MATLAB in the world. There are a lot of features (which Dave will cover in subsequent blogs) that we put in specifically to ensure that power users could continue to have highly productive workflows in the MATLAB desktop.

We look forward to hearing your continued feedback, particularly from those of you who can find the time to invest energy in really trying out the new release. As you learn your way around, let us know what’s working (“hey, I never knew you could jump the debugger to the current line”) and what’s not (“I really want to be able to separate the items in my quick access toolbar”).

Thanks again. As always, I’m happy to communicate via the community, or privately if you prefer. My email address is listed on my File Exchange page, which I think should be linked from this comment.

@Malcom, Jan, Robert et al.,

Note: This is my personal comment and does not necessarily represent the opinions of MathWorks.

Just to clarify, I was initially exposed to R2012b during testing early in the year. It’s been “weeks to months” since then. But my day-to-day job is to eat and breathe the current version of MATLAB, which was R2012a. When I had some free time, I would open R2012b and tinker around to try to get used to the new interface. I would say it was kind of tricky during that period, since I was using R2012a most of the time, and R2012b the rest of the time, so going back and forth was awkward.

So I did not mean that it took me weeks and months of constantly using R2012b to get used to it. Sorry for the confusion. But I also did NOT say that I lost productivity during the ramp up. I had to find where the new controls were, but that’s true for anything that changes. Even for MS Office, I didn’t initially like the new ribbon system, but I didn’t become unproductive because of it while I learned the new interface.

All I’m saying is that don’t dismiss the release just because of your initial reaction.

Joseph Kirk replied on : 34 of 58

As a heavy MATLAB user, I have to say I disagree with most of the ribbon-bashing complaints. I have not lost any productivity over the new UI (other than the few seconds it took to add my shortcut icons to the quick access toolbar). I think the layout is intuitive, and there are many options for customizing it to fit my personal preferences.

The main features that have had a noticable impact on my productivity are shorcut keys and shortcut buttons (I make heavy use of both) and they remain functional/customizable. There are, of course, addtional features which I would like to see built in, so the new UI is by no means perfect, but I like it and I think in a short time most users will wonder how they ever got by with the menu-based UI.

rob campbell replied on : 35 of 58

Whilst the ribbon interface is pointless for me, its introduction will make no difference to how I work. On Linux I run with the -nodesktop flag so I have only a simple command line window. On Windows I have always closed all the extra panels and tool-bars around the command prompt. The new interface will just be more of the same. No extra work. If you don’t like it: switch off. It doesn’t take “precious time” it takes 5 minutes and it always did.

If the improved interface attracts or helps out new users then it can only be a good thing.

Thomas Marullo replied on : 36 of 58

Not sure about other people, but on my Dell R5400 workstation with Dual Intel Xeon E5405 2GHz Quad Core CPUs and 4GB RAM, the new GUI is incredible sluggish compared to R2012a and prior. It is unusable.

David Garrison replied on : 37 of 58


We have not heard much about performance problems with R2012b. Please contact Tech Support. This is definitely something that we will want to look into.

zardoz replied on : 38 of 58

The Help system: I’ve tried to study the new features in the online-version of the help system and discovered a serious bug: the index system (or expandable toc) on the left side has disappeared. This makes browsing for new information, new features, … nearly impossible. I wonder if anybody is able to find information in a satisfying manner. At the moment the pdf-versions are the only readable alternative, but lack on features for reading online (color, …).
If this “bug” is intentional: the old help system was really good and should be restored. I wonder why it had to be crippled (usually, I don’t browse through it on smart phones or anything like that!).

wei replied on : 39 of 58

@zardoz, 1) I like the index system too.
@Scott, 2) It would be useful to be able to save a couple of UI config so user may switch between laptop and multi-screen setups or for different work focus.
3) A new graphic system and UI development assist is high on my desire list.

David Garrison replied on : 40 of 58

It is possible to save Desktop configurations. Go to the Layout menu on the Home tab and select Save Layout. You can then provide a name for your layout. It will appear in the menu with all the layouts MATLAB provides. You can save as many Desktop layouts as you wish.

Chris w replied on : 42 of 58

I’m a long time MATLAB and mac user, and I’ve just installed 2012b on a new laptop and have been horrified by the new UI. The MATLAB interface has always been pretty awful on macs, sadly, but the ribbon takes it to a whole new level. The lost screen space is huge, particularly on a laptop, and hiding it is no solution because you need several mouse clicks where a single drag on a menu bar would have worked before. This is particularly mad on a mac, where we now end up with a big empty menu bar. Moreover, the ‘breadcrumb’ path bar is a disaster – I can’t type or paste in paths, and it’s not even associated with the ‘current folder’ panel any more.

While there do seem to be some positive changes, such as an acknowledgement of SOME mac interface elements (full screen mode), I just can’t believe this software has seriously made it through your internal quality control. Judging from the comments above, I’m not alone either. Our university has a campus-wide licence, and I sure hope that as part of that I’m going to be able to downgrade to 2012a.

Tom Leslie replied on : 43 of 58

A really basic issue:- on a 27in monitor, resolution 2560*1440, the toolstrip icons and associated text are too small and (so far) I haven’t been able to find any way to resize them. Changing monitor resolution to 1920*1080 makes them acceptable – but there must be a better way??

Dan Kominsky replied on : 44 of 58

Here’s a question for folks. Has anybody figured out how to dock a figure *without* having the toolbar getting dropped all they way over onto the ribbon? Even (especially?) when my figure is docked, I still want to be able to access the zoom functions and data tips without having to switch ribbon tabs. This functionality is in place for the current folder toolbar (it can be in the current folder browser), but I can’t find any way to do it for figures (where it is far more important to me). Any suggestions?


David Garrison replied on : 45 of 58


Have you had a chance to read Part 2 of the blog? It tells about how you can put frequently used items into the Quick Access Toolbar. You can then move the Quick Access Toolbar below the Toolstrip if you have a lot of entries in it.

Regarding the Current Folder Toolbar, you should be able to type and paste into the Toolbar. If you can’t, then that is an issue that we need to look into. You can right-click on the Current Folder Toolbar and select “Move Toolbar Inside Current Folder Panel” to put it back in Current Folder.

Harald replied on : 46 of 58

I second the comments above about the serious downgrade of the help browser. Not having the expandable index structure on the left any more makes the whole help system a lot less useful to me. Please reconsider this change asap!

Thomas R. Hoffend Jr., Ph.D. replied on : 47 of 58

I have complained elsewhere, but I am sufficiently upset about 2012b to complain here as well. I hold the opinion that for every person who is inspired to voice an issue, there are many more who remain silent. This is my own opinion and is not the opinion of my employer.

The ribbon interface and new help systems are absolute rubbish. I would like to hear some real justification from The Mathworks concerning their reasons for investing development funds to go in these directions rather than improving the functionality of core Matlab. Ultimately the development funds come from license purchases and maintenance fees; as a customer I would like to hold The Mathworks accountable for their budget and learn why this was done. I would also like to request that the rubbish be swept into the bin; give us the old interface. Also do not consider it to be “legacy”. Rather, consider the ribbon to be a foolish mistake.

I would also like to hear from The Mathworks regarding the VOC (Voice Of Customer) that it gathered regarding a ribbon interface and changing the help system and how the decisions were made to go in this direction. Gathering VOC data and making a Pugh matrix is pretty basic stuff for making decisions regarding product features, but I suspect that this was not done at all here. Either that or information from prospective customers was gathered only and/or assigned a higher weight than for long time customers and/or only software engineers but no people who actually use Matlab for real computational work were involved. I have been a long time licensee, but I was never contacted by someone from the Mathworks regarding a questionnaire. The irony is that at one time in my company every person in R&D was required to take training on this basic concept (gathering and analyzing VOC’s) and when it was presented I made the joke “I bet they aren’t going to diagonalize the matrix” (or do a SVD)…

Bernd replied on : 48 of 58

Is it possible to switch this nonsense off? If not, MATLAB 2012a will be the last version I use.

I would never have thought that the TheMathWorks would invest time and money in such productivity killers. What a mistake.

Jason replied on : 49 of 58

Extremely disappointed in this decision. What an absolute waste of Mathworks resources.

Looks like I will either have to downgrade or go back to ‘matlab -nodesktop -nosplash’ again. Shame.

Reza replied on : 50 of 58

This is a disaster. Taking the menu away and forcing the ribbon down our throats. What _is_ mathworks thinking?

Julian Stoev replied on : 51 of 58

Two things:

1. I don’t like the new interface. It was better to develop new core numerical/math/compsci functionality. However this is not that big problem for me. I use emacs interface to matlab and as long as this works, I am OK.

2. I am worried by the fact that the new version does not support 32 bit linux. This worry started some time ago when Solaris disapeared from the list of supported OS, but now things got really acute. This is an indicator for bad things and sloppy coding practices in Mathworks. Well written code should compile on any UNIX quite easy in 32/64 bit. The fact that decision was made to remove 32 bit linux indicates that it was too expensive to maintain the code for 32/64 bit. And this is an indicator for bad code.

While I understand that most Linux users are big server clients and they have migrated to 64 bit, I am quite sure there are quite a few users, who would prefer to have 32 bit linux version available.

In short – Mathworks starts to behave not like engineering company, but like a company run by MBA-s…. I am too old to swich the product, but I will advise any students reading this to consider and invest effort to learn alternatives to Matlab. There are alternatives.

A concerned engineer on the demise of Matlab replied on : 52 of 58

I was getting ready to update my Matlab and toolboxes, and then a friend showed me the “new” Matlab ribbon. It took me no more that 5 minutes before I was barfing, gagging, coughing and spewing forth big hunks of green chunky phlegm!

What moron could have possibly thought this was a GUI “improvement”? Its just absolutely ghastly and inexcusable! And believe it or not, I’m a pretty open minded guy (a Mac user for example).

But most importantly, it PROVES what I have been claiming now for a couple of years, that the Mathworks has lost their way, and that Microsoft C++ programers have taken over the Matlab product line and apparently also the company! These C++ programmers have no more idea than a goat what a REAL engineer needs for doing their work, and just like the fabled rhyme that “to one with a hammer, everything is a nail”, now too “to a bored C++ Programmer everything is an Object… and now also a Ribbon!”.

Mathworks, you need to take your company BACK from the C++ programmer minions and get control back in the hands of engineers! REAL engineers! Fire these people because they obviously have nothing productive to do or contribute. Get some real engineers and mathematicians back in there and let THEM program Matlab, and not these perpetrators of malice, inefficiency and confusion.

I have no other way of expressing my gross displeasure with the shear stupidity of Mathworks direction than to simply not renew my maintenance license. Maybe money will talk. I will stay with 2012a, and cherish it as long as possible as the last real Matlab.

Cleve, please help! Your company has been taken over by C++ zombies!

I teach classes using Matlab and run a research lab. I do most of my Matlab work–processing of electron microscope images–on a Mac laptop. I do everything I can to spare screen area so I can have the command window, editor and large enough figure windows up at the same time. The screen space lost to toolbars in the 2012b release is a catastrophe for me–and the Mac menu bar remains unused!

Micah Dombrowski replied on : 54 of 58

I want to chime in with Fred, above: this new interface is absolutely absurd on a Mac–an empty OS X menubar, with giant, ridiculous, less-finely-grained ‘tabs’ underneath. Why are you spending time on flashy shiny BS and not fixing bugs or adding new (code) features?! The old interface was standard, efficient, and usable! This is changing simply to change, and very out of touch with the ideals and workflow of the people who (try) to use Matlab for serious work.

HG replied on : 55 of 58

As a user who doesn’t use toolbars anyway, I like that by hiding the ribbon and docking the path to the ‘Current Folder’ window, less of my window is taken up by toolbars than before.

To echo some good suggestions from above for future upgrades:
1. Line numbers for errors in executed code blocks,
2. Break points in code blocks,
3. A decent GUI generator,
4. The ability to view and rotate large 3D point clouds without MATLAB dying,
5. Faster start-up time.

Mike replied on : 56 of 58

I’m fortunate enough to be a part of a university license. I’ll be uninstalling this “upgrade” and reinstalling 2012a.

The ribbon interface might be appropriate for people who are totally new to a command-prompt style interface… but for the rest of us, who structure our code and know what functions we’ve built and don’t need shortcuts to silly things like “comment this line”, the ribbon is totally pointless.

After a solid month of trying to like this new system, I’m jumping ship. The UI is sluggish, memory-hungry, and poorly laid-out. Mathworks, I challenge you to demonstrate that ACTUAL product testing was performed for this “feature”. If by “passed muster within our development organization” you mean “we asked around the office and people didn’t want to disagree with the bosses”, that doesn’t count.

Julios replied on : 57 of 58

The new desktop looks completely idiotic on Mac. The new help system is a complete disaster. Not only that it misses the expandable toc but it is also missing some content. The Matlab help system was really a distinctive feature against other software alternatives. Hopefully new releases will feature an option to switch back to the old interface and documentation otherwise Matlab era ends in 2012.

George replied on : 58 of 58

It is sad to see what has happened with 2012b, what a shame that an excellent product leaps off a cliff. I’ve tried it, but found it much less efficient than the previous versions. I cannot justify our continuing with it, both in terms of the learning curve and in the simple fact that it doesn’t work as well as the previous versions.

Investment of time and money is at a premium in this economic climate and wasting effort and budgets on unnecessary acclimatisation to less efficient software does not rank highly in the list of priorities any organisation will have. We will be reinstalling 2012a and hoping that at some point a reversion to the “classic” form will be available in future updates (but I’m not holding my breath on that…).

I note that the annual maintenance fees have increased – to help cover the cost of this debacle?

As said by others, there seems to have been a lack of consideration of what many scientific/technical users need, a straight-forward, functional, efficient system – of which continuity plays a substantial role. The flim-flam of ribbons is rather like some of the fashion trends of yesteryear, thought of as the pinnacle of style at the time, but merely an embarrassment with hindsight.

I hope there is a reversion back to the classical style that provides effective functionality for users rather than pandering to misguided trends of software purveyors. The development should be aligned with adding more algorithms and true functionality, not providing unwarranted interface changes.