A Comprehensive Guide on Creating Lists in MATLAB - Usage and Application

Discover the intricacies of list generation, manipulation, and application within the MATLAB environment. Explore its importance and role in data visualization, programming, and scientific computing. …

Updated October 10, 2023

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Discover the intricacies of list generation, manipulation, and application within the MATLAB environment. Explore its importance and role in data visualization, programming, and scientific computing. With examples and code snippets, we will delve into the key concepts required to work effectively with lists in MATLAB.


MATLAB is an indispensable tool for scientists, engineers, and researchers who deal with data analysis, numerical computations, and visualizations in various disciplines. One of its important features is list manipulation. Lists are crucial to many applications in scientific computing as they enable efficient data organization and provide a means to perform array-oriented programming. In this article, we will delve into the realm of lists in MATLAB, exploring their usage, application, and the various ways they can be generated and manipulated.

Understanding Lists in MATLAB

Lists are data structures that consist of multiple elements organized sequentially. They form an essential component for storing and processing data in MATLAB. There are two primary types of lists: vectors (1-D arrays) and matrices (2-D or multi-dimensional arrays). Vectors represent 1-D arrays, while matrices comprise collections of multiple vectors arranged in rows and columns.

MATLAB provides various functions to handle these data structures efficiently. The following sections will outline the primary list manipulation operations for both vector and matrix types.

Creating Vectors in MATLAB

Vectors in MATLAB can be created using different approaches, such as manually entering values or using predefined functions that create a sequence of elements with a specified property. Here are some common ways to create vectors:

  1. Manually entering element values: This method involves providing individual elements in the desired order. For example, consider creating a vector of 5 random numbers between 0 and 10: numbers = [3, 8, 7, 2, 6].

  2. Using built-in MATLAB functions: There are several predefined functions that can generate specific types of vectors with ease. For instance, one can use the linspace function to create a vector representing evenly spaced values within a specified range. For example, if you want a vector containing 50 equally spaced numbers from 1 to 500: x = linspace(1, 500, 50).

  3. Using arithmetic operations: Arithmetic operations such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division can be used on vectors or scalars to create new vectors. For example, if you have a vector A = [1, 2, 3] and want the double of each element, you can use the multiplication operation to form the vector B = A * 2.

  4. Appending elements: The ones, zeros, and repmat functions generate vectors filled with specific elements. Using ones, you can create a vector of all ones: C = ones(3, 5). With zeros, you can create a vector of zeros: D = zeros(20, 10). Lastly, the repmat function repeats a given matrix or array along various dimensions. For example, if you want to replicate an array E = [1, 2; 3, 4] into a vector with two copies of each element: F = repmat(E, 2, 1).

  5. Extracting sub-arrays: To create a sub-array, you can use a subset of existing vectors or matrices. For instance, if you have the vector V = [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6], you can extract the elements from positions 3 to 6 using the sub2part function: W = sub2part(V, [3 4 5 6]).

  6. Using logical indexing: Logical indexing involves selecting elements of a vector based on a boolean condition. For example, if you have the vector A = [1, 3, 7, 9, 5] and want to select elements that are greater than 4, use the following syntax: B = A(A > 4).

Working with Matrices in MATLAB

Matrices represent a collection of vectors arranged in rows and columns. The following sections demonstrate various methods for creating matrices in MATLAB, including common manipulations.

  1. Initializing matrices using brackets: By manually specifying the elements within square brackets, you can initialize any matrix with desired dimensions. For example, C = [1 2; 3 4] defines a 2-by-2 matrix containing the elements as specified.

  2. Using built-in functions for generating sequences: Similar to creating vectors, MATLAB provides various functions that create specific types of matrices with defined properties:

    • meshgrid generates a 2-D array containing evenly spaced values for the given number of rows and columns. For example, if you want a matrix X with 10 rows and 15 columns containing equally spaced numbers from 0 to 9: [X, Y] = meshgrid(0:9/10:9, 0:4:14).
    • eye creates an identity matrix with the specified number of rows and columns, where all diagonal elements are ones and off-diagonal elements are zeros. For example, Z = eye(4).
    • rand generates a random matrix with values between 0 and 1 (or any range specified). To create an 8-by-9 matrix of random values: R = rand(8, 9).
  3. Appending rows or columns: Similar to creating vectors, you can also append rows or columns to a matrix using the ones, zeros, or repmat functions. For example, you can create an identity matrix with one more column and row by adding new elements with the following code: A = eye(2); A = [A, zeros(1, 3), ones(4, 1)];.

  4. Extracting sub-arrays or portions of matrices: Like vectors, MATLAB allows you to extract subsets from matrices using logical indexing or the sub2part function. For instance, if you have the matrix M = [[1 4; 3 7] [8 5; 6 9]] and want to extract the first two columns from the second half of the matrix: N = sub2part(M, [1 2], [3 4]).

  5. Using logical indexing: The same concept applies for matrices as with vectors. If you have a matrix, A = [1 2; 3 4] and want to select elements where the first row is greater than zero and the second row is less than two: B = A(A > 0 & A < 2).


In this comprehensive guide on making lists in MATLAB, we have covered various methods for generating vectors and matrices. We demonstrated the importance of list manipulation within the MATLAB environment by exploring creation techniques, manipulating elements, and working with subsets of data. These skills are crucial for effectively handling complex datasets, implementing algorithms, and tackling problems encountered in scientific computing, data analysis, and programming applications. By mastering these concepts, you will be well-equipped to tackle the demands of MATLAB’s list manipulation capabilities for a multitude of real-world use cases.