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The Function Browser 9

Posted by admin,

I’d like to welcome guest blogger James Owen from the Desktop team. James will occasionally be blogging here on the Inside the MATLAB Desktop blog.

If you have MATLAB R2008b (version 7.7) check out the new Function Browser. It’s designed to help you search or browse for a function directly from where you are working (i.e. the Command Window or Editor). Once you’ve found the function you want, a simple double-click or Enter keystroke is all it takes to add the function at the caret.

Suppose you are writing a MATLAB file and you need to test the condition number of a matrix before performing further analysis. If you don’t know the function name, you can find it by opening the Function Browser from the button on the right of the Editor toolbar. When it opens for the first time it shows a hierarchical view of the functions in your installed products:

You could browse the hierarchy to find MATLAB’s condition number functions by expanding the “Mathematics” node, then “Linear Algebra”, then “Matrix Analysis”. An even easier way to find this function, would be to type a search word like “condition” into the search text box. When you do this you’ll see a list of matching functions and their summary lines:

If the summary lines don’t give you enough information, you can get more help by hovering over the function which will display a tooltip with the function description (the tooltip information comes straight from the help page for the function):

Once you have found the right function, you can double click it to insert it at the caret of the Command Window or Editor (the function will be inserted wherever you were last typing).
A few other things you might want to try with the Function Browser:

  • If you find the content of the help tooltip useful, try tearing it off using the gripper at the top:
    (the function browser gripper)

    to create a “sticky note”-esque window. You can have any number of these to help you compare the behavior of different functions.

  • You can drag and drop, or copy and paste, functions from the function browser to anywhere which supports dropping or pasting strings.
  • Try clicking on the button at the bottom of the Function Browser to modify the product scope from the Preferences. If you have a lot of products installed but only need functions from a subset of them, this can make searches faster.
  • Once you get used to using the Function Browser you might want to open it using the keyboard by typing “Shift-F1”. You can also use Editor and Command Window context menus , the desktop help menu , or the Command Window button.

  • -by James Owen, The MathWorks


Comments are closed.

9 CommentsOldest to Newest

George Kapodistrias replied on : 1 of 9

Hi Ken,

I am not sure if this is the proper forum but I have a couple of questions that are somewhat associated with the desktop so I will post them here:

1. Why there is no option to update an installation? Having to do a complete install (and a possible uninstall) every 6 months is annoying especially if the upgrade is not major.

2. How come you do not offer the option of saving and exporting all the settings (e.g. desktop/print setup, fonts, MLint preferences, paths, etc) to some file that can then be imported to the newly installed version? The aforementioned question 1 is annoying but having to go through all the setups after install is aggravating.

If there are ways to achieve these please post it. I know a lot of people who would appreciate it.



Mike replied on : 2 of 9


1) It is not so simple. From version to version we could have large foundational or architectural changes that go unnoticed by users, as well as new features. In addition we qualify all our products together in one release so that the R2008b Image Processing Toolbox works with the R2008b version of MATLAB. We wouldn’t be able to guarantee reliability and quality if your install was only partial.

2) When a new version is installed, the installer looks at versions already installed and imports as many old settings as is compatible into the new version. If that does not happen automatically for you, then it is possible your set-up is not one we account for, and you should contact technical support.

Thanks for the great questions.

George Kapodistrias replied on : 3 of 9

Hi Mike,

Thank you for your response and all your posts.

Regarding the setup export/import: It would also be useful to have when working on multiple computers (e.g. a desktop and laptop home/office/travel) or upgrading computers and start installation from scratch.

Something to consider if your list of enhancements ever gets small :-)



Felix Fernandez replied on : 4 of 9

Dear All,

two questions in this regard:

1. Does the function browser support own (self written) functions?

2. Are there alternatives to maintain/organize self written functions (type of repository)?

Felix Fernandez

James replied on : 5 of 9

Hi Felix:

In response to item 1, we are considering an enhancement request for adding user functions to the Function Browser. It would require authoring an html function reference page, including that reference page in the search index, and updating the xml file which defines the hierarchy of functions displayed in the Function Browser.

dustin replied on : 6 of 9

hey there !
i have the version R2008a 7.6.0 and can’t see the function browser icon. i was wondering, is this feature available for this version as well? , if not then how can i get it ?


Jaya replied on : 8 of 9

The function browser is a very helpful feture. But unfortunately Im using MATLAB 7.3.0 (R2006b).
Is there a possibility to find the format of a particular function like we have in function browser?

Mike replied on : 9 of 9


I am not sure what exactly you mean. You can always type help(‘functionname’) or doc(‘functionnname’) to see the function’s syntax