Octave Commands Cheat Sheet

Author: Alberto Negron
Version: 0.9.0
Last Update: 17th May 2013


  1. Management & Help
  2. Shell Commands
  3. Special Operators
  4. Workflow
  5. Vectors & Matrices
  6. Linear Algebra
  7. Plotting
  8. Math Functions
  9. Stats Functions
  10. Constants
  11. Logical Operators
  12. Auxiliary Functions
  13. String Functions
  14. Import & Export Data
  15. Defining Functions
  16. Statements
  17. Other Cheat Sheets

Management & Help

Task Command
exits software quit or exit
list variables who/whos
deallocate variable(s) clear varname
displays search path path
Adds path to search addpath
clear screen clc
displays help for function help funname
Parse and execute the contents of FILE source(“.octaverc”)
List installed packages pkg list
Install packages pkg install [-auto or -noauto] pkg_name.tar.gz
Describe packages pkg describe pkg_name
Load/Unload package pkg load/unload pkg_name
Uninstall package pkg uninstall pkg_name

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Shell Commands

Task Command
change working directory to dir cd dirname
print working directory pwd
print directory listing ls
return value of named environment variable getenv (string)
execute arbitrary shell command string system (cmd)

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Special Operators

Definition Operator Example
comment % % Initialising
wildcard * clear p*
array [ ] [1 2; 3 4]
Cell Arrays { } p = { 10 , 15 , “rectangle” }; p{1} =10
ranges start:step:stop (default step=1) 1:10 or 1:10:100
variable assignment = A=magic(3);
do not display ; a=1;

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Task Command
Suspend the execution of the program. pause; or pause(5)
print string to the stout fprintf(“Hello World”)

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Vectors & Matrices


  • Square brackets delimit literal matrices.
  • Commas separate elements on the same row.
  • Semicolons separate rows.
  • Commas may be replaced by spaces, and
  • semicolons may be replaced by one or more newlines.
  • Elements of a matrix may be arbitrary expressions, provided that all the dimensions agree.
  • Optional: Matrices are denoted by uppercase letters A,B,X etc while vectors by lowercase letters a,b,y etc.
Example Expression
enter a row vector [ x, y, … ]
enter a column vector [ x; y; … ]
enter a 2×2 matrix [ w, x; y, z ]
Return a row vector with N linearly spaced elements between BASE and LIMIT linspace (BASE, LIMIT, N)
Similar to linspace except that the values are logarithmically spaced logspace(BASE, LIMIT, N)
Higher Dimensional Arrays B(z,y,z)=1
Sorting arrays sort(A); or sort(A, ‘descend’);
Return true if any element in array is non-zero any(A)
Return true if all element are non-zero all(A)
Return a vector of indices of a matrix [i , j] = find(A<0.5)

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Array Operations

Task Function
select elements of a vector A(i)
select elements of a matrix A(i,j)
select rows (columns) corresponding to the elements of a range A(1:2,1); A(1:2,1:5);
select all rows (columns) A(:,1); A(3,:);
Delete a row/column of a matrix A(2,:)= [] or A(:,5) = []

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Linear Algebra

Task Function
dimensions of the array size
returns larger dimension length
allocates array with 0’s zeros
allocates array with 1’s ones
transpose array
Compute the determinant of A. det(A)
inverse of matrix inv
pseudo inverse of matrix pinv
Calculate Eigenvalues / Eigenvectors of matrix A eig(A) or [V,L] = eig(A)
Identity matrix eye
Compute the rank of a Matrix rank(A)
returns the lower triangular part of A tril(A)
returns the upper triangular part of A triu(A)
Create an N-by-N magic square magic
Compute the dot product of two vectors dot(A,B)
Compute the vector cross product of two 3-dimensional vectors X and Y cross(X,Y)

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Task Command Example
2-D plot plot plot(x,y); plot(x, a+b+c);
Surface plot surf surf(theta0, theta1, J);
Contour plot contour contour(theta0, theta1, J, logspace(-2, 3, 20))
Specify x-, y-, or z-axis labels for the current axis [x,y,z]label xlabel(‘k lags’)
Set a plot window to plot window N figure figure;plot(x, a);
close figure window(s) close close [(N),all,all hidden]
new graphic objects are added to the plot hold hold on;plot(x, b);
Clear plot and restore default graphics settings hold hold off;
Display a legend for the axes legend plot(X,Y);legend(‘Temperature’, ‘Gas Demand’);

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Math Functions

Type Function Examples
Sum of elements along dimension DIM sum sum([1 2 3 4])
Product of elements along dimension DIM prod prod([1 2 3 4)]
Trigonometric sin, cos, tan floor((1+tan(1.2)) / 1.2)
Inverse Trigonometric asin, acos, atan  
Natural Logarithm log  
Base 10 Logarithm log10 log10(100)/log10(10)
Exponentiation exp exp(0)
Absolute value abs abs(-3)
Square Root sqrt sqrt(3\^2 + 4\^2)
X raised to the Y power power(X,Y) power(3,2)
Real part of complex number real real(3+5I)
Imaginary part of complex number imag imag(3+5I)
Evaluate polynomials polyval polyval([2 10.1 0 6],0)
Write formatted polynomial polyout polyout([2 -3 1],”x”)
Return the largest integer not greater than X floor floor(1.9)
Return the smallest integer not less than X ceil ceil(3.7)
Return the integer nearest to X round round(1.9)
Truncate fractional portion of X and return the integer portion fix fix(pi)

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Stats Functions

Task Example Function  
Uniform random numbers btw 0 and 1 (both excluded) rand rand(3,5)  
Normal(0,1) random numbers randn randn(1,3)  
Gamma distribution randg randg randg(3,3)
Exponential distribution rande rande(1,10)  
Poisson distribution randp randp(0.5,3,3)  
Min value by column min min(A)  
Max value by column max max(A)  

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Name Expression
Default Variable ans
Pi pi
Euler’s number e
Imaginary number i, j and I
Infinity inf
Not a Number NaN
machine precision eps
true/false logical 1/0

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Logical Operators

Expression Operator
is greater than >
is less than <
is greater than or equal to >=
is less than or equal to <=
is equal to ==
is not equal to ∼= or !=
AND with short circuiting &&
with short circuiting ||
OR |

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Auxiliary Functions

Task Function
Check a scalar isscalar(a)
Check a vector isvector(b)
Check a matrix ismatrix(b)
is func available is TAB TAB
Type info typeinfo(b)

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String Functions

Task Function Example
Compare 2 strings strcmp strcmp(“hello”,”Hello”)

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Import & Export Data

Task Command Example
Read the matrix DATA from a text file dlmread (FILE, SEP, R0, C0) dmlread(“virus.dat”,”,”,1,1);
Write data to a text file dlmwrite (FILE, M, DELIM, R, C) dlmwrite(“out.txt”,yhat,”;”,1,1);
Read the csv files csvread (FILENAME, DLM_OPTS) csvread(“input.csv”);
Write csv files csvwrite (FILENAME, X, DLM_OPTS) csvwrite(“output.csv”, yhat);

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Defining Functions

Simplest Form

  function name


  function wakeup
        printf ("\a");

Passing Params

  function name (arg-list)


  function wakeup (message)
        printf ("\a%s\n", message);

  wakeup ("Rise and shine!");

Return Single Value

  function ret-var = name (arg-list)


  function retval = avg (v)
        retval = sum (v) / length (v);   

Return Multiple Values

  function [ret-var1,ret-var2,,ret-varn] = name (arg-list)


  function [mu,sigma] = basicStat(X)
    mu = mean(X);
    sigma = std(X);

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Statements -

IF Statement

  if (condition)
    elseif (condition)


   if (rem (x, 2) == 0)
       printf ("x is even\n");
     elseif (rem (x, 3) == 0)
       printf ("x is odd and divisible by 3\n");
       printf ("x is odd\n");

Note that the elseif keyword must not be spelled else if, as is allowed in Fortran. If it is, the space between the else and if will tell Octave to treat this as a new if statement within another if statement’s else clause

SWITCH Statement

    switch (X)
       case 1
         do_something ();
       case 2
         do_something_else ();
         do_something_completely_different ();


     A = 7;
     switch A
       case { 6, 7 }
         printf ("variable is either 6 or 7\n");
         printf ("variable is neither 6 nor 7\n");

One advantage of using the switch statement compared to using if statements is that the labels can be strings

  switch (X)
       case "a string"

### WHILE Statement

  while (condition)


     fib = ones (1, 10);
     i = 3;
     while (i <= 10)
       fib (i) = fib (i-1) + fib (i-2);

DO-UNTIL Statement

     until (condition)


     fib = ones (1, 10);
     i = 2;
       fib (i) = fib (i-1) + fib (i-2);
     until (i == 10)

FOR Statement

     for var = expression


  fib = ones (1, 10);
     for i = 3:10
       fib (i) = fib (i-1) + fib (i-2);

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Other Cheat Sheets / Documentation

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