Menu box

By default, the menu box contains the 8 items shown in this figure. Some or all of these items may be missing if they were specifically excluded by using the 'Options' argument in the calling sequence. The name of each menu box items are chosen to identify the action when you left click on the item. The action corresponding to a right click are less obvious, but a quick look at the plt menu (see below) will remind you what these actions are.

See pltquiv.m  for an example of how you can change one of the menu box items to perform an alternate function.

Details about each menu box item follows:


On Windows systems when you left or right click on the the Help tag, plt will display the file plt.chm. On Unix and other systems the browser will be opened to display the file plt.htm (since these systems don't support the chm file format). The left click behavior may be modified by including the 'HelpFile' parameter on the command line and the right click behavior may be modified by including the 'HelpFileR' parameter. Those parameters are described here.


Left-clicking this tag changes the x-axis scale from linear to logarithmic. The name of the tag itself also toggles between LinX and LogX so that it the tag name always matches the current x-axis scaling type. Left-clicking again toggles it back to LinX.

Right-clicking this tag swaps the x and y data for all the traces which has the effect of displaying the inverse function of the original display. This swapping works best when only a single axis is being used. For multiple axes (i.e. with a right hand axis or with subplots) the effect might not quite what you expect.


The y-axis scale changes from linear to logarithmic. This tag also changes to LogY so that it always matches the current scaling of the y-axis. Clicking again toggles it back to LinY. Right-clicking on this tag opens the plt HardCopy dialog box. See the description of the HardCopy dialog box below (under the Print menu item).


Left-clicking on the Grid tag alternates between no grids (tick marks only) and full grids on both x and y axes. By default, the grids are solid dim grey lines. (This may be modified by the GRIDc and GridStyle parameters.) Grid lines with high contrast colors and brightness (such as what you get with the native Matlab plot command) makes it more difficult to observe the main data traces.

Assuming the grid style has not been modified with the GRIDc or GridStyle parameters, right-clicking on the Grid tag will alternate between the following two grid modes:


Each left click of the Zout (Zoom out) tag expands the x and y axes by 40% (20% at each end). This approximately doubles the area of the Cartesian plane displayed within the axis limits. (1.42 = 1.96). Right-clicking on the Zout reverses the effect of a left click (i.e. zooms in).


Each click on the XY (XYrotate) tag cycles the x and y axis limits to the next display expansion stored in a history list. (The axis limits from the last four zooms or pans are saved in this list). After all the display limits in the history list are used, the next click autoscales both axes so that all the data is displayed. The next click again uses the first display expansion in the history list. Right-clicking on this tag skips the rotation through the history list and directly autoscales the axes to show the full x and y extent of the trace data.


Note that the Print tag does not appear in the menu box by default. It will only appear if enabled by an 'Options' argument in the calling sequence. This is done to reduce clutter and is justified since the Hardcopy dialog box shown below was developed for older versions of Matlab and is now mostly obsolete. You can now accomplish pretty much the same things from the File menu in the menu bar. But this dialog box remains and you can access it by clicking on the "Print" tag in the menu box, or by right-clicking on the LinY tag (mentioned above) as well a from the Hardcopy selection in the plt menu of the menu bar. (If you don't see the menu bar, click on the Menu tag in the menu box to make the menu bar visible.)

This is what the hardcopy dialog looks like when opened. The primary use of this dialog box is to create BMP bitmapped images of the plt window. You will see from the popup menu, that you can select other graphics formats as well, although not all of them are well tested. (This image shows the dialog setup for making a windows meta file format.) For all file types except BMP, the colors are inverted if the background is dark. On most printers this makes the copy far more readable and saves large amounts of toner.

You can also print directly to the default windows printing device from the HardCopy dialog, although an easier (and possibly more reliable) way of doing this is to select "print" from the File menu. And for a bitmapped image, yet another method is to use the screen capture facility (via the PrintScreen key on Windows based systems). Before capturing your bit map you may want to right-click on the y-axis label to hide the menu box and cursor objects so these objects won't distract from the basic plot data. Right-clicking on the y-axis label a second time re-enables the cursor objects.


When you left-click on the Mark tag, a square marker is placed at the current cursor location and a marker string is added to the plot containing the x and y coordinates of the cursor location. The text string will be the same color as the active trace. If the text label is not positioned where you want it, click on the label and drag it to the location you want.

If you right-click on the marker string (which is (7.675, 2.95902) in this example), a new dialog box will appear which allows you to change any or all of the properties of both the trace marker (with the left popup and edit box) and the marker string (with the right popup and edit box). The two pictures below show the Marker and String properties respectively that you can edit.

Note that you can have many of these Edit Marker dialog boxes open at same time - as many as one per text string (or even more, although there is probably little benefit to that). All these dialog boxes will be deleted automatically if the main plot window is deleted.

Once you select one of the 8 marker properties, or one of the 10 string properties, the current value of the property appears in the respective edit box. To change the property value, click in the edit box, and type in a new value.

Note that both the Marker and the String popups have delete as one of the options. This is useful if you want to add a marker without a string or a string without a marker. You may delete all the markers you have added this way by selecting delete and then typing all into the edit box below the popup. The same trick works for deleting all the strings added to the figure via the Mark tag. If you want to delete all the markers and all the strings at once choose the "Delete cursor annotations" selection in the plt menu of the menu bar. (See below, and also note the mouse shortcut for this function.)

Note that when you select the color property, the property value is a set of three numbers corresponding to red, green, and blue respectively. Each number is an intensity value and must range from zero (off) to 1.0 (full intensity). You may change the color by entering the desired rgb values. When you press <Enter> the new value will be accepted and you will see the marker or string change to the new color. However since it is often difficult to predict exactly what these colors look like, plt provides an easier way to select new colors. Instead of left-clicking on the rgb triple, use a right click. A new color selection box will appear. The use of the color selection box (also called a ColorPick pseudo object) appears below.


Left-clicking on this tag toggles the menu bar on or off. (See the description of the menu bar below). Note that the initial state of the menu bar is off unless the (unless 'options','Menu' appears in the argument list).

Right-clicking on the Menu tag opens up a new window similar to this one shown called the Cursor Data Window . This window shows the x and y values of all visible plot traces. The down arrows (vvvvvv) highlighted in the middle of this window indicate that the cursor is currently pointing to the 200th data element of the trace whose trace ID is "Line 1". As you move the cursor around (by any of the many methods) the cursor data window will automatically be updated so that arrows always point to the current cursor location. The cursor index will always be shown near the middle of the window but you can use the scrollbar on the right side of the figure to view any of the data values that appear on the plot.

The first column heading is always "index" and the index column will contain all the integers between 1 and n, where n is the data length of the longest visible trace. The second column heading is always "X" which indicates that this column contains the Xdata values of the first visible trace. The 3rd column will contain the y values of the first visible trace and the column heading will be the traceID. The 4th column will again have a heading of "X" and will contain the x data for the 2nd visible trace except (as in this example) when the x values are the same as for the previous trace in which case the X column is omitted. In this example all 3 traces had the same x vector so only one column is needed for it. However if the 3 traces each had different x vectors then the column headings would have been "index,X,Line1,X,Line2,X,Line3".

If the characters are two big or small for your taste you can adjust the size with the fontsize popup. Click the save button to create a text file that contains the exact text that appears in the list box (from index 1 all the way to the end of each plotted array). The column headings will appear at the very top of the text file.

Note that if you are using subplots, some of the column headings may be blank since the subplot traces do not use TraceIDs. However if a subplot has a y-axis label then that label will be used as column heading for the trace inside the subplot.

Menu Bar

Usually you will select the desired menu with the mouse. However you may also use the keyboard. The underlines shown in this figure and in the drop down menus below only appear when you press the ALT key. When you press the ALT key followed by one of the underlined characters, the respective dropdown menu will appear. You can then select one of the dropdown menu items with the mouse or by pressing one of the underlined characters in the dropdown menu.

One of the most useful functions of the menu bar is Print (the last item under the File menu). This is probably the easiest and most reliable way to make a hardcopy of the plt window.

As you can see from the figure to the right, plt adds the following two items to the File menu:

The last menu item (plt) is unique to plt. When you click on this menu item you will see these thirteen submenus.

The accelerator keys for selecting one of these submenus are shown in parentheses. For example to select the "Save figure colors" submenu using the keyboard, you would first press ALT key followed by the p key (to select the plt menu) and finally press the s key to select the "Save figure colors" submenu. (You don't have to release the ALT key before the p key is pressed if you prefer.)

Note that all but three of these submenus have some blue text after them. These are directions for selecting the submenu action without using the menu bar (which may be easier, especially when the menu bar is hidden). For example, the first submenu (Edit line) contains the string Rclick Mark. This means that you can invoke the Edit line function by right-clicking on the Mark tag inside the menubox. The next submenu (Edit all lines) contains the string Delta+Rclick Mark. What this means is that you can invoke this menu by first left-clicking on the Delta (∆) button and then right-clicking on the Mark button. The third submenu (Edit figure colors) contains the string Rclick Properties in Ypopup. This means that you should right-click on the Properties selection that appears in the Yedit popup (that opens when you right-click on the Ycursor edit box). Of course you won't remember these shortcuts unless you use them often, but you can always use this menu as a reminder.

These twelve submenus are described in order below:

1.) Edit line Rclick Mark or Lclick Properties in Yedit popup

To change the color or other property of a trace or of its associated cursor, first click on the trace that you want to modify (i.e. make the trace active) and then click on the Edit line submenu. You will see a new figure similar to the this one.

The left side of the Edit Line dialog box controls the properties of the active trace and the right side controls the properties of the cursor attached to that trace. The properties that appear in both these popups are the same as those under "Marker properties" in the Edit Marker dialog box shown above. Note that one can edit the data plotted by selecting and editing the Xdata or Ydata line properties. This works well for simple traces with less than a few dozen data elements. For longer sequences you will be better off using  the data editing technique described in the data editing section. Note that (for example) if you modify the Ydata property by removing or adding data elements that the line will disappear until you also modify the Xdata property by removing or adding the same number of points. This is because the line object can't be rendered unless the lengths of the Xdata and Ydata properties are the same.

2.) Edit all lines Delta+Rclick Mark

When you select the Edit all lines submenu a dialog box such as this will appear. When you change the popup menu to select a new property, the edit box will be updated to show the current value of that property for the active trace just as before. However if you then change the property value in the edit box, this property will get changed for all the traces on the plot, not just the active trace. This is probably not appropriate for the color property, but it may be useful for some of the other trace properties, such as linewidth. You can also use this dialog box to make all the cursors larger or a different shape for instance.

3.) Edit figure colors Rclick Properties in Yedit popup

When you select this submenu this dialog box will appear which allows you to change all of the figure colors which are not accessible from the edit lines dialog boxes described above.

This shows the eight items that you can modify from this dialog box. After selecting one of these items, the current color of that item appears in the edit box below the popup as a set of three intensity numbers corresponding to red, green, and blue respectively. You may change the color by left-clicking the edit box and entering the desired rgb values or by right-clicking the edit box which will bring up the color selection box described at the bottom of this page.

Note that the three property editing windows shown above for the first three submenus may also be opened from the "Properties" selection that appears when you right-click on the Yedit cursor. (See Data editing.)

4. Save figure colors

Changing colors inside the plt figure using the color selection box is not permanent (i.e. those colors will be forgotten once the application is closed). However you can make the changes permanent by selecting this submenu which will save the current colors to the file (which we call a "color selection file"). You will find the rules that plt uses to determine the color file name in the description of the 'ColorFile' parameter here.

When plt starts, the color for each screen element is determined as follows: These color selection files are in a consistent format so a color file generated in one application can be used in another application by renaming the color file, or by using the name of the desired color file explicitly with the 'ColorFile' parameter. More detailed instructions about how to modify a color selection file are given in the Default colors section.

5.) Cursor Data Window Rclick Menu

This submenu opens a cursor data window which is described above under the right click action of the Menubox Menu tag.

6.) Swap X/Y axes Rclick LinX

This submenu performs the action described above under the right click action of the Menubox LinX tag.

7.) Hardcopy Rclick LinY

This submenu menu opens a dialog box used for printing and creating screen captures of plt figures. The use of this dialog box is described above in the description of the menubox Print tag.

8.) Toggle line smoothing Rclick "o"

This submenu toggles the line smoothing property of all plot traces from off to on or visa versa. This is described in more detail here: The Cursor button group

9.) Delete cursor annotations Delta+Rclick "o"

If you have added many plot annotations (with the menubox Mark tag) you can delete them one by one by selecting delete for the string and/or marker from the Edit Marker window. However this would be tedious if you have had many annotations. This submenu provides a way to delete all of them with one simple action.

10.) Set dual cursor

The dual cursor mode allows you to simultaneously cursor two traces on the same plot. Usually this is set up using the 'DualCur' parameter. (see Dual Cursor). However you may also use this menu to set the dual cursor interactively. Simply put the cursor on the trace that you want as the dual cursor (by clicking on it) and then select this submenu. After that the Dual Cursor will become active on the selected trace. This submenu acts as a toggle, which means that if the dual cursor was already enabled, it will be disabled.

11.) Toggle Reposition mode Rclick Delta

The reposition mode a key feature of plt's GUI building tool set which allows you to move and resize screen objects with the mouse. This submenu toggles between the normal GUI mode and the reposition mode and back. The reposition mode is described in more detail here: GUI building with plt

12.) Reposition Grid size Delta+Rclick Delta

This submenu brings up a small auxiliary figure titled SnapTo containing two sliders, one for controlling the x step size and the other controlling the y step size of the GUI object repositioning mode. An example of what this figure looks like and what the values mean can be found here: GUI building with plt

The Color Selection box

When using the "Edit Marker", "Edit line", "Edit all lines", or "Edit figure colors" dialog boxes described above, if you right-click on an edit box containing an rgb triple, the color selection box will appear.

As with the rgb triples, the three sliders represent the intensity values (except in percent) and will initially be set to the same values that were in the edit box. You can move the sliders (or type in new values) to give the proportion of each color that you want. Only integer values between 0 and 100 are accepted giving you more than a million different colors (101 cubed). As you move the sliders, the color of the marker, line, or figure element selected is continually adjusted to reflect the slider settings. The color of the large rectangular patch to the right of the red slider (called the "current color patch")  is also adjusted at the same time which makes it easier especially for the smaller screen elements.

To make it easier to find the most pleasing color, the 11 by 11 grid of colors is also updated every time a slider is moved. What this grid shows you are the colors that result when the intensity value of the active slider is mixed with 1 of 11 different intensity values of the two inactive sliders. The active slider (i.e. the slider that was last moved) is shown highlighted in yellow.

So for example, in the figure above, the bottom slider (blue) is active and happens to be set to 0%. This means that all 121 squares of the grid are made up of colors containing no blue. Each row of the grid contains a different intensity percentage of red (0% for the bottom row, 10% for the next row, and 100% for the top row). Likewise each column of the grid contains a different intensity percentage of green (0% for the left column and 100% for the right column). Thus, the upper right square in this example then would be yellow (rgb = [1 1 0]).

When you see a color in the grid that you like, just click on it. The screen element selected as well as the current color patch will instantly change to be the same as the color you clicked on. Of course the two inactive sliders move to show the intensity values of the color you just selected. If you can't find a better color, you can revert to the color in effect when you right-clicked on the rgb triple by clicking on the current color patch.

All this may sound somewhat complicated, however it is far easier to do than to explain. Generally you can pick any of the three sliders, move it around a bit, and you will quickly see the color you want in the grid. By the way, clicking on the slider trough area moves the slider by 10%, so if you want to limit yourself to the 1,331 colors formed with the intensities 0,10,20,30,...100%, then you can see all such colors after just 10 clicks of the mouse.