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By Loren Shure, MathWorks

Anonymous functions let you create simple functions as variables without having to store the functions in a file. You can construct complex expressions by combining multiple anonymous functions. Here are some sample combinations.

In this example we will create a single function by having one function call another.

Suppose we want to compute the standard deviation of the mean of some data—for example, `std(mean(x))`

. We can construct separate anonymous functions to compute the mean and standard deviation and then combine them:

f = @mean; g = @std; fCompg = @(x) g(f(x));

To ensure that the function composition works as expected, we evaluate the first function and use its output as input to the second. We then check that this two-step process is equivalent to the one-step evaluation of the result that we obtained from function composition:

x = rand(10,4); fx = f(x); gfx = g(fx); gfx2 = fCompg(x); gfsEqual = isequal(gfx,gfx2) gfsEqual = 1

We could create a generalized composition operator *g(f)* and use that instead:

compose = @(g,f)@(x)g(f(x)) fCompg2 = compose(g,f) gfcx = fCompg2(x); gfcEqual = isequal(gfx, gfcx) gfcEqual = 1

Now let’s look at a more complicated composition. Suppose that we want to compute the expression:*y = sin(x) – mean(x) + 3*, but we don’t always want to subtract the mean or add 3. We dynamically build one function to compute *y*, which subtracts the mean or adds 3 only when we want it to.

Let’s start by building function handles for computing the sine, subtracting the mean, and adding 3:

x = 0:pi/100:pi/2; myfunc = @sin; meanValue = @mean; three = @(x) 3;

While the variable containing each function handle retains its name, the function it describes can change. Note that this example works only when *x* is a row or column vector. For multidimensional data, the expressions would be more complicated, and we would use `bsxfun`

.

We combine these functions conditionally. For simplicity, let’s say we want to add 3 but don’t want to subtract the mean. In a more realistic example, we would use logical comparisons to determine which functions to apply:

if false myfunc = @(x) myfunc(x) - meanValue(x); end if true myfunc = @(x) myfunc(x) + three(x); end

Let’s try this on the data *x* that we created earlier:

mf3mean = myfunc(x);

Whatever functions we combine with the original function, we always have a function handle to evaluate. We can use it to specify additional information as we build up an appropriate function for our calculation.

Using anonymous functions is a versatile technique that you might find useful in a wide range of calculations, from the simplest to the most complex. We’ve looked at just two examples. In fact, the number of possibilities is limitless.

Published 2011 - 91953v00