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A.1.2 Matrices and Arrays in Oct-Files

Octave supports a number of different array and matrix classes, the majority of which are based on the Array class. The exception are the sparse matrix types discussed separately below. There are three basic matrix types:


A double precision matrix class defined in dMatrix.h


A complex matrix class defined in CMatrix.h


A boolean matrix class defined in boolMatrix.h

These are the basic two-dimensional matrix types of Octave. In addition there are a number of multi-dimensional array types including


A double precision array class defined in dNDArray.h


A complex array class defined in CNDArray.h


A boolean array class defined in boolNDArray.h


8, 16, 32, and 64-bit signed array classes defined in int8NDArray.h, int16NDArray.h, etc.


8, 16, 32, and 64-bit unsigned array classes defined in uint8NDArray.h, uint16NDArray.h, etc.

There are several basic ways of constructing matrices or multi-dimensional arrays. Using the class Matrix as an example one can

These types all share a number of basic methods and operators. Many bear a resemblance to functions that exist in the interpreter. A selection of useful methods include

Method: T& operator () (octave_idx_type)
Method: T& elem (octave_idx_type)

The () operator or elem method allow the values of the matrix or array to be read or set. These methods take a single argument, which is of type octave_idx_type, that is the index into the matrix or array. Additionally, the matrix type allows two argument versions of the () operator and elem method, giving the row and column index of the value to get or set.

Note that these functions do significant error checking and so in some circumstances the user might prefer to access the data of the array or matrix directly through the fortran_vec method discussed below.

Method: octave_idx_type numel (void) const

The total number of elements in the matrix or array.

Method: size_t byte_size (void) const

The number of bytes used to store the matrix or array.

Method: dim_vector dims (void) const

The dimensions of the matrix or array in value of type dim_vector.

Method: int ndims (void) const

The number of dimensions of the matrix or array. Matrices are always 2-D, but arrays can be N-dimensional.

Method: void resize (const dim_vector&)
Method: void resize (nrows, ncols)

A method taking either an argument of type dim_vector, or, in the case of a matrix, two arguments of type octave_idx_type defining the number of rows and columns in the matrix.

Method: T* fortran_vec (void)

This method returns a pointer to the underlying data of the matrix or array so that it can be manipulated directly, either within Octave or by an external library.

Operators such as +, -, or * can be used on the majority of the matrix and array types. In addition there are a number of methods that are of interest only for matrices such as transpose, hermitian, solve, etc.

The typical way to extract a matrix or array from the input arguments of DEFUN_DLD function is as follows

#include <octave/oct.h>

DEFUN_DLD (addtwomatrices, args, , "Add A to B")
  if (args.length () != 2)
    print_usage ();

  NDArray A = args(0).array_value ();
  NDArray B = args(1).array_value ();

  return octave_value (A + B);

To avoid segmentation faults causing Octave to abort, this function explicitly checks that there are sufficient arguments available before accessing these arguments. It then obtains two multi-dimensional arrays of type NDArray and adds these together. Note that the array_value method is called without using the is_matrix_type method. If an error occurs when attempting to extract the value, Octave will print a message and throw an exception. The reason to prefer this coding structure is that the arguments might be a type which is not an NDArray, but for which it would make sense to convert them to one. The array_value method allows this conversion to be performed transparently when possible. If you need to catch errors like this, and perform some kind of cleanup or other operation, you can catch the octave_execution_error exception.

A + B, operating on two NDArray objects returns an NDArray, which is cast to an octave_value on the return from the function. An example of the use of this demonstration function is

addtwomatrices (ones (2, 2), eye (2, 2))
      ⇒  2  1
          1  2

A list of the basic Matrix and Array types, the methods to extract these from an octave_value, and the associated header file is listed below.

TypeFunctionSource Code

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