Experiences with release 2012b
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Did you try 2012b already? What do you like, what has still potential for further improvements, what makes working with Matlab harder than with earlier releases?
How large is the overlap between the new features and the list of wished changes: Answers: what-is-missing-from-matlab?
Why has the menu system survived for so long in so many software packages? Because it is a triumph of design and function. File->Open, Edit->Paste were ubiquitous. When I downloaded a trial of a software package I had not used before, I knew immediately how to get started.
Ribbons are a retrograde step. They leave both new and "veteran" users of software struggling to find the right button. They are triumphs of style over substance.
More Answers (43)
Yair Altman on 13 Sep 2012
I must say that I expected more from ML8 than a Desktop facelift. Yes, I know it's anything but "simple", and I am aware of the few incremented upgrades (a few of which I like, particularly the static Java classpath/librarypath thingy that I wrote about in my latest post). Still, I would have liked a major version upgrade to include major changes to the figure window and GUI controls (anyone mention HG2?), upgraded JIT engine, better memory management and monitoring tools, improved start-up speed, and better use of modern multi-core and GPU capabilities. Please don't try to sell me stories that the small set of incremental improvements are worthy of a major release.
When MTW last added a major engine upgrade (JIT), they called the new release 6.5, not even a full major version mind you. Calling this new version 8.0 is perhaps only a marketing ploy, but I think many ardent Matlabers, who eagerly await a serious upgrade for many years now, might even be offended. I for one was disappointed.
I know it's not the same engineering skill-set and I understand the business tradeoffs and the different TTM for engine upgrades vs. facelift upgrades. Still, I thought I'd share my personal 0.02.
Michelle Hirsch on 19 Sep 2012
(cross-posting a comment I just submitted on Loren's blog)
Hey everybody – it’s Scott here. I’m the head of the MATLAB product management team, responsible for steering the overall direction for MATLAB. Many of you know me from my more active days on the file exchange, blogs, or personally from my years of traveling to meet with MATLAB users around the US and the world. (I also happen to be the dorky looking guy in the What’s new in MATLAB video, with a voice not nearly as charming as the legendary Scottish voice of MATLAB …)
I wanted to let you know that we are listening. We really appreciate all of your feedback, and particularly the passion that all of you bring to MATLAB.
I believe that we all have the same goals – we want MATLAB to be great, to continue to be adopted by more and more users around the world, everyone from experienced programmers to engineers who are limping by analyzing data with spreadsheets.
To this end, we have a large development team working on many different fronts. We are working on graphics, performance, language, libraries, GUI building, etc. Each of these moves forward on its own timeline, with capabilities released as soon as they are ready. It just so happens that our updates to the desktop and help system happened to be ready at 12b, while much of the work in other areas is still in progress.
I’ve seen some comments here and elsewhere on expectations for “version 8.” We decided to rev the version number to 8, mainly because we were tired of 7.1x … It doesn’t mean that you have to wait 8 more years for a “9″ to see some of the other features you are hoping for. You’ve probably noticed that we’ve been de-emphasizing version numbers of the past several years as we’ve switched to releasing features as they are ready every 6 months instead of bundling up all big changes into a single major release. We are continuing with this approach.
I really hope that you will give the new release a real try before dismissing it. It’s been said before, but we tested this release a ton with users, including ones with lots of experience who use MATLAB very heavily. Keep in mind that the new version had to pass the muster of our own development organization, which is likely one of the largest groups of professional software developers using MATLAB in the world. There are a lot of features (which we will cover in subsequent blogs) that we put in specifically to ensure that power users could continue to have highly productive workflows in the MATLAB desktop.
We look forward to hearing your continued feedback, particularly from those of you who can find the time to invest energy in really trying out the new release. As you learn your way around, let us know what’s working (“hey, I never knew you could jump the debugger to the current line”) and what’s not (“I really want to be able to separate the items in my quick access toolbar”).
Thanks again. As always, I’m happy to communicate via the community, or privately if you prefer. My email address is listed on my File Exchange page.
Oleg Komarov on 13 Sep 2012
Edited: Oleg Komarov on 13 Sep 2012
I already let TMW know but I'll be posting here as well:
- I miss the previous edit configurations window. Now I have to create separate m-files (which I did not want to do) and call them instead of keeping my testing suite hidden in the configurations for the specific function (script).
Thinking whether to feedback this as well:
I personally DO NOT like the ribbon, it takes way too much space. Nowadays wide screens are the standard format and giving so much space to a ribbon is inefficient. Hiding the ribbon on the other hand forces me to remember all the shortcuts by heart. One single line toolbar was perfect. Maybe I am just averse to significant changes.
Ian on 14 Sep 2012
Edited: Ian on 14 Sep 2012
As usual, a lot of disappointment. I'm sure the UI refactoring is useful to some people, but the ribbon is a conceptual reassignment of function locations, which at best offers greater discoverability for new users, and at worst a disorienting experience for those used to a menu paradigm (in which case, keyboard shortcuts are your friend). As an OS X user, the ribbon adds nothing of value. Nevertheless overall this really is a minor change (do people really twiddle with the UI for most of the time in Matlab, are they really saving substantial time clicking through ribbon tabs than a menu?). Matlab has a number of core features used daily that are in desperate need of updating:
- Graphics are still rendered without anti-aliasing and robust alpha opacity support with the default renderer. We have a hodge-podge of 3 different renderers each with a set of drawbacks (i.e. opacity support in OpenGL causes vector export to fail!!!). Where is the modern graphics support, something like a native PDF or SVG engine, per item opacity and full anti-aliasing without compromises? Pixellated klunky graphing is embarrassing for a suite for which visualisation is a core component...
- Guide is a bug ridden, slow and hugely limited mess. The UI toolkit is already very limited in Matlab, but then Matlab wraps that in a really dated, slow UI editor. It falls over when dealing with anything more than simplistic UIs (try multiple selecting groups of components and arrow-key positioning them; or try changing tab order, and watch Matlab brought to its knees). Give us a modern UI toolkit (it is already mostly there under the surface, see undocumented matlab), and build a UI editor that doesn't suck. Why does TMW hide things like HG2 for years!?!?
- Editor is still very basic. I'd realy like to see better/smarter completions for things like class properties, and a structure browser for methods/subfunctions. Something like "Go to anything..." (fuzzy find any file/function/class/method anywhere in the path) in Sublime Text 2 would be awesome.
- More robust parallelization; The parallel computing toolbox is very useful, but it would be really helpful to have some of that core functionality within Matlab itself, these should be language features, not added extras.
- Better platform integration: On OS X we still are waiting for clipboard support for vector graphics (OS X had PDF built-in, this is not difficult), and even simple Applescript abilities would allow very powerful integration with other apps (like Excel for example). I'm sure gnome/kde would benefit from similar changes too. TMW seems to only really support Windows platform specific features and technologies, and the other platforms are second-class citizens (but we don't get financial discounts for reduced functionality)...
- EDIT: Serialisation for Matlab objects, very important when communicating among several Matlab instances.
So another 6 month wait and we can only dream we will get a release that is more than tweaks to the UI.
My biggest gripe with the ribbon interface is the enormous amount of screen space it wastes. But the ability to hide it and put my favorite buttons in the quick access toolbar and the ability to put the quick access toolbar and current folder toolbar on the same line helps considerably. I do miss the "Execute entire file" button since it doesn't force you to change the current directory the way the Run button does.
Also, it would be nice if the Mathworks would admit this is a ribbon and use the Ctrl+F1 keyboard shortcut to allow hiding it. If you're going to copy Office's interface, you might as well copy their keyboard shortcuts as well.
A bigger concern for me is that this is where the Mathworks is choosing to apply its resources. They are clearly more concerned about bringing in new users than adding functionality.
This reminds me a lot of what happened to Mathcad when it was bought by PTC. PTC's first full release of Mathcad, Mathcad Prime, actually had reduced functionality compared to Mathcad 15. Many of my documents from Mathcad 14 actually would not work with Mathcad Prime because of this. Mathcad Prime introduced the ribbon interface as well. Maybe Mathcad Prime 2.0 has restored all of the functionality that had previously been lost, but I wouldn't know as I no longer use the program.
That's not to say this is necessarily a bad decision by the Mathworks. They're just optimizing to a different metric. Maybe alienating a few advanced users and allowing the functionality to stagnate is worth it if you can bring in a significant number of new users.
Yair Altman on 27 Sep 2012
Not less importantly than the documentation layout, many online doc pages have changed URLs, and the old URLs no longer work. I see this as a serious regression problem. I strongly urge MathWorks to redirect all the previous URLs to the new ones (server side redirect - http "301 Permanently Moved") so that old links, of which there are tons across the net, are not broken. I fail to see how this has gotten past the QA phase.
Alex on 14 Sep 2012
I agree with the majority here that the Ribbon is a very disappoint UI change.
At the very best the UI wastes screen real estate, at worst it requires more clicks without adding functionality.
Why are the icons trip height taking up more valuable room in the vertical direction while half the strip is gray empty space in the horizontal direction?
Previously, the icons for various actions were in the window they pertained to (i.e. step, step into, continue, etc. were in the editor window), now one must to go to the top of the screen, click a tab, then click the button.
Poorly conceived. Time would have been better spent on real enhancements to the language.
Star Strider on 16 Sep 2012
In addition to the Shortcut porting problem IA noted, I find ‘Help’ to be significantly less helpful than in previous releases. (I use Help often because of all the complexities in the various functions and function changes between versions.) In addition to Kevin's comments about Help for the Editor having disappeared, the toolbox ‘tree’ in the left panel of Help that I always found so useful no longer exists. That makes browsing — and discovering new ways to do things — more difficult.
It is also more difficult to actually read the Help entries. The various topic titles within each Help entry seem to be the same size and font as their descriptions, making it a challenge to find the various topics. The titles blend in with the descriptions.
Please bring back the 2012a version of Help!
sfreeman on 4 Oct 2012
To add perhaps a few further views on the R2012b discussion:
1. Well I am also not in favor of ribbons, however when I invest some time in getting my shortcuts on the fastlaunch bar, it does not bother me to much (like MS Office - do a ribbon which suits you and fine).
2. When you adapt ribbons, please do not only copy - go further!
a) allow users to choose icon sizes, fontsize etc. in the ribbons
b) allow users to define ribbons height - not only minimizing/maximizing
c) do not only allow shortcuts but also to allow individual icons (if you now think of apps - please see below)
3. Completely packaged apps are nice, however there is quite some use for preference files or user individual application extensions. (e. g. I use a "macro" system for one of my internal company applications, which allow users to add active buttons by placing a m-file in a certain folder) Afaik this is not possible with apps.
4. Biggest issure in my eyes is however the new help:
It started already years ago with the omission of the index tab - MATLAB and all its toolboxes are a large coding environment with an exceptional function envelope. However you can only make use of it, if you have the idea, that the function in question exists. While searching the help via the index, it was always a good occation to learn about so far unknown functions. No index, no chance to step over completely different functions.
Another opportunity to learn more MATLAB "vocabulary" was the content browser. "was" - with the new help system. With the new "table of contents" open topics do not stay open when I go to one item, the performance is lausy and even cross-browsing of different tollboxes is not possible.
After years of training new colleagues with MATLAB, where the first sentence was "MATLAB has the best help system ever!", this has now come to an end. Sad days...
________ /me sticks with the R2009a help...
Doug Hull on 19 Sep 2012
EDITOR NOTE: In the interest of putting these comments in the right place (answers to the question where they can be voted on) I am moving the comments (positive and negative) into the answers section, just like I do for other questions.
This new release is HORRIBLE.... All MatLab textbooks are now broken...Is there a way to use the old workspace ???
At the monent I am having to backup a release so we can use it...
BAD and a horrible roll-out
Also because of this horrible new interface I am cancelling orders for 5 new systems.....
Dan K on 5 Oct 2012
- When I dock a figure, it makes the figure toolbar virtually useless, since it becomes a tab on ribbon. For me there are a few specific issues with this. One I dock my figures on the right hand side of my screen (which means that the zoom, pan, etc controls are all on the far side of the screen from my figures) And, I often want access to both those tools and the editor tab of the ribbon at the same time! There should be an option to doc the figure toolbar in the figure window. I know this seems minor to some, but IT IS SERIOUSLY IMPACTING MY ABILITY TO GET MY WORK DONE! (Sorry, I'm done shouting now).
- Has space become so precious that there's no longer room for the undock icons in the environment tabs?
- The new help system stinks (I know others have said it and I've voted for every one of those posts too.) I mean, seriously: a pop up contents directory tree (and it's slow to boot)!
- I'm not vision impaired! I don't need my icons to be nearly 10% of the vertical space on my monitor! I actually have a use for that space.
- I don't know if anybody else has this problem but the report buttons on the current folder toolbar don't work (although the reports accessed from the drop down menu do).
Daniel Shub on 14 Sep 2012
I will preface my answer with I haven't tried 2012b yet, but I have read the release notes and some reviews. The disappointment in the major version release not including much new functionality and "only" a major interface overhaul, makes me want to express why I "buy" MATLAB. I should point out that technically I have never paid for MATLAB out of my own pocket, but I have paid for it from my grants and advocated my university to buy a TAH license.
I "buy" software maintenance for MATLAB because of the IDE. I believe the MATLAB IDE is miles ahead of any IDE, especially of any FOSS IDEs, for Python and Octave (languages that I think are comparable to MATLAB). The MATLAB IDE is so good, that I rarely use Emacs anymore when writing MATLAB code (which is not the case for any other language that I write in). The last feature addition to the MATLAB language that I have really benefited from is the overhaul to OO system that occurred 5+ years ago and before that it was the ability to use JAVA (my guess is the MEX interface was also huge, but MEX was already/always there by the time I needed it). I can imagine the move to HG2, when and if it happens, might be of similar importance. I would happily pay for they upgrades. The improvements to the JIT, memory management, multi-core processing and the additional functions are nice, but none would make me upgrade. The IDE seems to be continuously getting better and every release in the 7.x series seemed to make the IDE just a little bit slicker.
So while I wish TMW would improve the MATLAB language (or ideally make it open source), I appreciate there efforts to improve the IDE. I can only hope that the ribbon is not a step back.
Image Analyst on 15 Sep 2012
I can't figure out how to get my shortcuts transferred over. I did right click and tell it to display the shortcut ribbon, but my shortcuts from R2011b are not there. I tried the trick I gave in http://www.mathworks.com/matlabcentral/answers/44254-how-can-i-save-my-matlab-shortcuts about copying over the shortcuts.xml file from C:\Users\ImageAnalyst\AppData\Roaming\MathWorks\MATLAB\R2012a to C:\Users\ImageAnalyst\AppData\Roaming\MathWorks\MATLAB\R2012b, but it didn't work this time. I have 6 or 7 shortcuts and I'd rather not recreate them by copying and pasting. Any ideas?
Yuri K on 25 Sep 2012
Edited: Yuri K on 25 Sep 2012
It took me a while to figure out how to do "Paste to Workspace" in the new version. No menu, no good help about it.
I could do it with
and finally found that Ctrl-V is just focus dependent.
Another twist was when I tried to paste a column of strings with IDs, like 'ID6', 'ID15', 'ID23' etc. (copied to clipboard from an Excel file), to get a cell array. To my surprise I got the output as a cell array of doubles with ID prefix cut away. There is no option to eliminate such behavior. A good example of over-smart system, isn't it?
I know I can code to read the file with xlsread to control it better. But sometime you need a quick and dirty way just to get data in. Worked perfectly fine in older versions. (Well, I've updated from 2011a.)
I'll be happy to learn if I miss something obvious.
Todd Welti on 8 Oct 2012
Edited: Todd Welti on 9 Oct 2012
I have been using the Office ribbons for several years. I remember hearing when they came out that "It sucks at first, but you'll get used to it, and learn to like it". Five years later and I still hate it. i won't repeat all the points made in previous posts here but I have a question. Do software engineers ever do an analysis of how many clicks are required to complete a given action (with and wothout ribbon)? It just seems to me that with the Office ribbon, I'm generally finding myself making one or two more clicks (and more mouse movement around the screen) for each task than I did before. That might not sound like much but it is a real annoyance when you are trying to go fast. I personally dont like the idea of being a software tester for Mathworks to "see if it is better". I'll be sticking with the old version or possibly switching to a Matlab clone rather than use the ribbon
Quite honestly folks, I feel a bit insulted that Mathworks thinks I need a pretty icon to help me find a menu command. I can read, plus I know where they are (were). It just adds visual distraction, which there is enough already.
I would love to see Mathworks listen to their customer base, and ASK them if they want an Office ribbon. How about a poll, guys???
Clay Fulcher on 7 Dec 2012
I am going to return to R2012a. I have told people for years that Matlab is the best software invented by man, and that the Help system in Matlab was one of the best features of the code. I have to eat my words, because the new system stinks. Sorry, but that's the way I see it.
Matt Tearle on 13 Sep 2012
I've had quite a while to play with it. There was a little reorientation time, but I really like it now. I admit that I have a nice big screen at work, so the real estate issue Oleg mentioned isn't a problem for me.
I like the default location -- at the top -- of the filenames in the Editor (when you have multiple files open). I don't like the default location of the Quick Access Toolbar; I moved it to "Below Toolstrip", and that makes me happier.
There are still a few actions that I'm getting used to. Saving a file, for some reason, still messes with me! I guess I just got so used to the save button at the top of the Editor.
OK, I'll say it: I like Apps. Having a way to share GUIs with a single file and run with a single click is nice. Even nicer is that you don't have to monkey with paths or changing directory.
But the biggest plus for me is the new Import Tool. I may forget how to use textscan. And I won't be sad. I'll use those neurons for something more fun, like memorizing the entire Peruvian tax code.
I've done my share of complaining, so here are a few things I do like:
1. The new "Go to" dialog is great. I used to use the "Show functions" button with class definition files. I never noticed before that with a script file you could hit Ctrl+G and get a list of cell titles. Of course somebody who knows to hit Ctrl+G to bring up the list of cell titles will now be disappointed that the new Ctrl+G dialog box only brings up an option for line numbers. I'm not sure why that dialog box needed to change. TMW giveth and TMW taketh away, I guess.
2. I can see using Apps if it works well. I've got a couple exceptionally-large, general purpose GUIs that I distribute. Currently I compile them for distribution. Creating Apps seems like a good distribution method as well. I'll have to test this out and make sure I can also distribute the ancillary files easily and without changing my code. I'm concerned that the directory structure I assume for compiled files will not be maintained with Apps.
3. I generally don't use the canned GUIs from the toolboxes, but perhaps I'm more likely to now after seeing them all in one place in the Apps toolstrip.
4. I generally don't use the Publish tool, either. I have my own class definition files for generating reports in Word and PowerPoint. However, I'm perhaps more inclined to use the Publish functionality with the ribbon. Since I didn't use Publish much, I wasn't aware of the markup options.
Sean de Wolski on 14 Sep 2012
My favorite two new features that I really love
Now accepts multiple arguments. I can't say how many times I've typed:
doc something somethingelse
And gotten the: Error using doc Too many input arguments.
Only to have to go back and fill in docsearch.
Undefined function 'doic' for input arguments of type 'char'.
Did you mean:
>> doc fmincon
Why yes! I did! Thank you. It did take some getting used to though as my instinct is to press the up arrow ruining all of typo correction's hard work.
Edited: Malcolm Lidierth on 15 Sep 2012
For those that want it, here's a quick way to add custom functions to the tool strip using a JToolbar. Improvements welcome (and probably needed)
then add buttons using
customToolbar.add(mylabel, callback, tooltip)
customToolbar.add(pathtoMyIcon, callback, tooltip)
panel.add(customToolbar.toolbar, java.awt.BorderLayout.NORTH); com.mathworks.mde.desk.MLDesktop.getInstance.getMainFrame().getToolstrip().addActionsPanel(customToolbar.toolbar);
function button=add(imageFile, callback, toolTip)
set(button, 'MouseClickedCallback', callback);