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TUTORIAL: Why Variables Should Not Be Named Dynamically (eval)

Stephen23
Stephen23 il 26 Set 2016
Summary:
Dynamically accessing variable names can negatively impact the readability of your code and can cause it to run slower by preventing MATLAB from optimizing it as well as it could if you used alternate techniques. The most common alternative is to use simple and efficient indexing.
Explanation:
Sometimes beginners (and some self-taught professors) think it would be a good idea to dynamically create or access variable names, the variables are often named something like these:
  • matrix1, matrix2, matrix3, matrix4, ...
  • test_20kmh, test_50kmh, test_80kmh, ...
  • nameA, nameB, nameC, nameD,...
Good reasons why dynamic variable names should be avoided (click the links to jump to the "answers" below):
There are much better alternatives to accessing dynamic variable names:
Note that avoiding eval (and assignin, etc.) is not some esoteric MATLAB restriction, it also applies to many other programming languages as well:
MATLAB Documentation:
If you are not interested in reading the answers below then at least read MATLAB's own documentation on this topic Alternatives to the eval Function, which states "A frequent use of the eval function is to create sets of variables such as A1, A2, ..., An, but this approach does not use the array processing power of MATLAB and is not recommended. The preferred method is to store related data in a single array." Data in a single array can be accessed very efficiently using indexing.
Note that all of these problems and disadvantages also apply to functions load (without an output variable), assignin, evalin, and evalc, and the MATLAB documentation explicitly recommends to "Avoid functions such as eval, evalc, evalin, and feval(fname)".
The official MATLAB blogs explain why eval should be avoided, the better alternatives to eval, and clearly recommend against magically creating variables. Using eval comes out at position number one on this list of Top 10 MATLAB Code Practices That Make Me Cry. Experienced MATLAB users recommend avoiding using eval for trivial code, and have written extensively on this topic.

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