UI Revolution in MATLAB 8 (R2012b): Is It Worth an Update?

· IMHO, Programming

Finally, after at least 13 years of slow GUI evolution from MATLAB 5, The MathWorks decides to break with the past and offer a graphical revolution for MATLAB 8. MATLAB 8 – R2012b comes with a fresh ribbon style GUI known from MS Office. Another interesting change is the publishing of so-called Apps. After Apple and Google in the cell phone market and Microsoft in Windows 8, The MathWorks starts promoting small programs: Apps. As we saw in my previous post, Microsoft did a great job integrating apps. How did The MathWorks do?

Screenshot of Matlab 8 (R2012b)

Ribbon (toolstrip)

As we can see in the screen shot, MATLAB now features an MS Office style ribbon, or toolstrip like The MathWorks calls it. The cool thing is that these buttons are context sensitive and show e.g. plots if relevant for the data:

This way, it is a lot easier to identify the plot you want from the large gallery of plots:

I like this. I would wish a quick preview on hovering over the icon. But, I leave this for The MathWorks next revision.


Now, MATLAB has a new method for packaging and distributing Software: Apps. The apps have their own place in the toolstrip (ribbon) and this way, they are easily accessible:

The “Get More Apps” button is connected to “MATLAB File Exchange” where users contribute files and after a review from The MathWorks, the apps are published. It is not entirely clear what kind of review The MathWorks performs. But, I think that this way the Apps might be virus proof to some extend.

Apps are always UI centric MATLAB programs, usually created with the GUI builder from MATLAB: “guide”. It is sad, that “guide” still misses features like tree views or HTML export. But, it does what it should: It helps creating basic GUIs.

Currently, this app market contains 60 apps. This is not much compared to the 16.000 other files on file exchange or millions of apps for phones. But, this will change quickly since the new apps are very convenient.


There are significant speed-ups in MATLAB 8 (R2012b) resp. its Parallel Computing Toolbox (PCT). The GPU now passes my benchmark about 2x faster on both my GPUs (GeForce GTX 275 and GTX 550 Ti). The speed-up advantage of Accelereyes Jacket is melting. But, Jacket is still 2x faster than the new PCT.


The new MATLAB 8 is a very useful update. The introduction of a ribbon is late, but it feels great. The new apps deliver an easy way packaging 3rd party functionality and deploying it to other MATLAB users. Other minor improvements and a major speed improvement of the Parallel Computing Toolbox with GPUs complete this new version.

1 Comment

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  1. Jezebel

    Hahahahaha, no the ribbon interface is a UI nightmare (what’s the right icon for “New File…” – let me tell you – a big plus ain’t it). Look, even after 5 years a lot of people still find the MS Office Ribbon cumbersome and obfuscating. Words sometimes are better than pictures!

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