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34.2 Manipulating Classes

There are a number of basic classes methods that can be defined to allow the contents of the classes to be queried and set. The most basic of these is the display method. The display method is used by Octave when displaying a class on the screen, due to an expression that is not terminated with a semicolon. If this method is not defined, then Octave will printed nothing when displaying the contents of a class.

Function File: display (a)

Display the contents of an object.

If a is an object of the class "myclass", then display is called in a case like

myclass (…)

where Octave is required to display the contents of a variable of the type "myclass".

See also: class, subsref, subsasgn.

An example of a display method for the polynomial class might be

function display (p)
  a = p.poly;
  first = true;
  fprintf ("%s =", inputname (1));
  for i = 1 : length (a);
    if (a(i) != 0)
      if (first)
        first = false;
      elseif (a(i) > 0)
        fprintf (" +");
      if (a(i) < 0)
        fprintf (" -");
      if (i == 1)
        fprintf (" %g", abs (a(i)));
      elseif (abs(a(i)) != 1)
        fprintf (" %g *", abs (a(i)));
      if (i > 1)
        fprintf (" X");
      if (i > 2)
        fprintf (" ^ %d", i - 1);
  if (first)
    fprintf (" 0");
  fprintf ("\n");

Note that in the display method, it makes sense to start the method with the line fprintf ("%s =", inputname (1)) to be consistent with the rest of Octave and print the variable name to be displayed when displaying the class.

To be consistent with the Octave graphic handle classes, a class should also define the get and set methods. The get method should accept one or two arguments, and given one argument of the appropriate class it should return a structure with all of the properties of the class. For example:

function s = get (p, f)
  if (nargin == 1)
    s.poly = p.poly;
  elseif (nargin == 2)
    if (ischar (f))
      switch (f)
        case "poly"
          s = p.poly;
          error ("get: invalid property %s", f);
      error ("get: expecting the property to be a string");
    print_usage ();

Similarly, the set method should taken as its first argument an object to modify, and then take property/value pairs to be modified.

function s = set (p, varargin)
  s = p;
  if (length (varargin) < 2 || rem (length (varargin), 2) != 0)
    error ("set: expecting property/value pairs");
  while (length (varargin) > 1)
    prop = varargin{1};
    val = varargin{2};
    varargin(1:2) = [];
    if (ischar (prop) && strcmp (prop, "poly"))
      if (isvector (val) && isreal (val))
        s.poly = val(:).';
        error ("set: expecting the value to be a real vector");
      error ("set: invalid property of polynomial class");

Note that as Octave does not implement pass by reference, than the modified object is the return value of the set method and it must be called like

p = set (p, "a", [1, 0, 0, 0, 1]);

Also the set method makes use of the subsasgn method of the class, and this method must be defined. The subsasgn method is discussed in the next section.

Finally, user classes can be considered as a special type of a structure, and so they can be saved to a file in the same manner as a structure. For example:

p = polynomial ([1, 0, 1]);
save userclass.mat p
clear p
load userclass.mat

All of the file formats supported by save and load are supported. In certain circumstances, a user class might either contain a field that it makes no sense to save or a field that needs to be initialized before it is saved. This can be done with the saveobj method of the class

Function File: b = saveobj (a)

Method of a class to manipulate an object prior to saving it to a file.

The function saveobj is called when the object a is saved using the save function. An example of the use of saveobj might be to remove fields of the object that don’t make sense to be saved or it might be used to ensure that certain fields of the object are initialized before the object is saved. For example:

function b = saveobj (a)
  b = a;
  if (isempty (b.field))
     b.field = initfield (b);

See also: loadobj, class.

saveobj is called just prior to saving the class to a file. Likely, the loadobj method is called just after a class is loaded from a file, and can be used to ensure that any removed fields are reinserted into the user object.

Function File: b = loadobj (a)

Method of a class to manipulate an object after loading it from a file.

The function loadobj is called when the object a is loaded using the load function. An example of the use of saveobj might be to add fields to an object that don’t make sense to be saved. For example:

function b = loadobj (a)
  b = a;
  b.addmissingfield = addfield (b);

See also: saveobj, class.

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