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Ways to Build Apps

You can use MATLAB® to build interactive user interfaces that can be integrated into various environments. There are two types of user interfaces you can build:

  • Apps — Self-contained interfaces that perform operations based on user interactions

  • Live Editor tasks — Interfaces that can be embedded into a live script and that generate code as users explore parameters

The way that you build and share these interfaces, as well as the main file type for the interface, differs depending on the interface type. This table shows the differences.

TypeWays to BuildFile TypeSharing Options
AppInteractively, using App Designer.mlapp
  • Distribute the main interface file and supporting files directly

  • Package as a single file

  • Deploy as a web app that can run in a web browser (requires MATLAB Compiler™)

  • Create a standalone desktop application (requires MATLAB Compiler)

Programmatically, using MATLAB functions.m (MATLAB script, function, or class file)
  • Distribute the main interface file and supporting files directly

  • Package as a single file

  • Create a standalone desktop application (requires MATLAB Compiler)

Live Editor taskProgrammatically, using the matlab.task.LiveTask base class.m (MATLAB class file)
  • Distribute the main interface file and supporting files directly

Build an App

To create a self-contained user interface, build an app. You can build an app in multiple ways:

  • Interactively, using App Designer

  • Programmatically, using MATLAB functions

Each of these approaches offers a different workflow and a slightly different set of functionalities. The best choice for you depends on your project requirements and how you prefer to work.

Use App Designer to Build Apps Interactively

App Designer is a rich interactive environment introduced in R2016a, and it is the recommended environment for building apps in MATLAB. It includes a fully integrated version of the MATLAB Editor. The layout design and code views are tightly linked so that changes you make in one view immediately affect the other. A larger set of interactive components is available, including date picker, tree, and image components. There are also features like a grid layout manager and automatic reflow options to make your app detect and adapt to changes in screen size. For more information, see Develop Apps Using App Designer.

Weather visualization app in App Designer Design View

Use MATLAB Functions to Build Apps Programmatically

You can also code the layout and behavior of your app entirely using MATLAB functions. In this approach, you create a figure to serve as the container for your UI by using either the uifigure or figure function. Then, you add components to it programmatically. Each type of figure supports different components and properties. The uifigure function is the recommended function for building new apps because it creates a figure that is specifically configured for app building. UI figures support the same types of modern graphics and interactive UI components that App Designer supports. For more information, see Develop Apps Programmatically.

Code for a mortgage calculator app in the MATLAB Editor, and a UI figure window with the running app

Build a Live Editor Task

To create an interface that can be embedded into a live script, build a Live Editor task. Live Editor tasks represent a series of MATLAB commands that are automatically generated as users explore parameters. Tasks are useful because they can help reduce development time, errors, and time spent plotting.

You can create a Live Editor task programmatically by defining a subclass of the matlab.task.LiveTask base class. Then, you programmatically add components to the task to configure the user interface, and you write code to generate the MATLAB commands and output for the task. For more information, see Develop Live Editor Tasks.

Normalize Vector Data Live Editor task in a live script with generated code, and the Live Editor task gallery with the Normalize Vector Data task in the "My Tasks" section

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