## Loren on the Art of MATLABTurn ideas into MATLAB

Note

Loren on the Art of MATLAB has been archived and will not be updated.

# Scalar Roulette

A while ago, Steve posted an article entitled Functional Design Clunkers on his blog. Well, I have a confession to make too. Have you ever been bitten by the ambiguity in the contour function?

### Two Syntaxes That Can Clash

Here are the two syntaxes that can class for contour:

• contour(Z,n)
• contour(Z,v)

From the documentation:

contour(Z,v) draws a contour plot of matrix Z with contour lines at the data values specified in the monotonically increasing vector v. The number of contour levels is equal to length(v). To draw a single contour of level i, use contour(Z,[i i]).

Time for the confession. I thought at the time we were designing contour that asking for a single contour would be rare enough to warrant having the "convenient" syntaxes that could clash. And I even know the work-around for programmers. If they wanted to specify the contour levels, they simply needed some code like this:

         if length(mycontours) == 1
mycontours(2) = mycontours;
end
% now call the contour function

So, why don't I like this now? The code is harder to read, the intent is harder to discern, and it just feels clunky.

### Possible Solutions

I can think of a bunch of possible solutions, were we to design the contour function today. These include (but certainly aren't limited to):

• two functions, 1 for number of contours, 2 for values of contours
• control number vs. level behavior with param/value pairs or some similar device
• have one of the inputs (perhaps scalar level number) be in a cell array or some other class that differs from the class for the level values input

### Have You Been Bitten?

Has the ambiguity in contour bitten you? Or one in some other MATLAB functionality? What solution do you prefer? Let me know here.

Published with MATLAB® 7.10

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