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Understanding Python and MATLAB import Commands

The import statement does not have the same behavior in MATLAB® as in Python®. In Python, you must use the "import pythonmodule" statement before you can access functions from pythonmodule. In MATLAB, to call a function functionname from pythonmodule, type py.pythonmodule.functionname.

In MATLAB, use the statement "import py.pythonmodule.functionname" to eliminate the need to type py.pythonmodule. wherever you call the function in the remainder of the code. However, only use import when functionname is not the name of an existing MATLAB function.

Load Python Module in MATLAB

Python code uses the import statement to load and make code accessible. MATLAB automatically loads Python when you type py. in front of the module name and function name. This code shows how to call a function wrap in Python module textwrap.

Python CodeMATLAB Code
import textwrap
pS1 = textwrap.wrap('This is a string')
S1 = py.textwrap.wrap('This is a string');


In MATLAB, do not type:

import pythonmodule


import py.*

If you do, then whenever there are MATLAB and Python functions with the same name, MATLAB calls the Python function. This can cause unexpected behavior.

If by mistake you type this import command, then you must call the MATLAB command:

clear import

Shorten Class or Function Names

The Python from...import statement lets you reference a module without using the fully qualified name. In MATLAB, use the import function. This code shows how to reference function wrap in Python module textwrap. Since there is no MATLAB function called wrap and hence no danger of name collision, you can shorten the calling syntax using the import function. After calling this command, you do not need to type the namespace (py) and module (textwrap) names.

Python CodeMATLAB Code
import textwrap
pS1 = textwrap.wrap('This is a string')
from textwrap import wrap
pS2 = wrap('another string')
S1 = py.textwrap.wrap('This is a string');
import py.textwrap.wrap
S2 = wrap('another string');
import mymod as mm
mm = py.importlib.import_module('mymod');
% Use mm as an alias 
% to access functionality 
% in mymod

Help for Python Functions

For a complete description of Python functionality, consult outside resources, in particular, There are different versions of the Python documentation, so be sure to refer to the version corresponding to the version on your system. Many examples in the MATLAB documentation refer to functions in the Python standard library.

To use functions in a third-party or user-defined Python module, refer to your vendor product documentation for information about how to install the module and for details about its functionality.

The MATLAB command displays the Python help found at Help for modules and classes can be extensive and might not be useful when displayed in the MATLAB command window.

  • Module'textwrap')
  • Class'textwrap.TextWrapper')
  • Method of a class'textwrap.TextWrapper.wrap')
  • Function'textwrap.fill')

If MATLAB displays an error message beginning with Python Error:, refer to your Python documentation for more information.


Tab completion does not display available Python functionality.

You cannot use the interactive Python help — calling without input arguments — in MATLAB.

Call Python Method With MATLAB Name Conflict

If a Python method name is the name of a sealed method of a MATLAB base class or reserved function,​ then MATLAB renames the method. The new name starts with the letter x and changes the first letter of the original name to uppercase. For example, MATLAB renames the Python method cat to xCat. For a list of reserved methods, see Methods That Modify Default Behavior.

If a method name is a MATLAB keyword,​ then MATLAB calls matlab.lang.makeValidName to rename the method. For a list of keywords, see iskeyword.

If a generated name is a duplicate name, then MATLAB renames the method using matlab.lang.makeUniqueStrings.

Call Python eval Function

This example shows how to evaluate the expression x+y using the Python eval command. Read the help for eval.'eval')
Help on built-in function eval in module __builtin__:

    eval(source[, globals[, locals]]) -> value
    Evaluate the source in the context of globals and locals.
    The source may be a string representing a Python expression
    or a code object as returned by compile().
    The globals must be a dictionary and locals can be any mapping,
    defaulting to the current globals and locals.
    If only globals is given, locals defaults to it.

To evaluate an expression, pass a Python dict value for the globals namespace parameter.

Create a Python dict variable for the x and y values.

workspace = py.dict(pyargs(x=1,y=6))
workspace = 
  Python dict with no properties.

    {'y': 6.0, 'x': 1.0}

Evaluate the expression.

res = py.eval('x+y',workspace)
res = 7

Alternatively, to add two numbers without assigning variables, pass an empty dict value for the globals parameter.

res = py.eval('1+6',py.dict)
res = 

  Python int with properties:

    denominator: [1×1]
           imag: [1×1]
      numerator: [1×1]
           real: [1×1]


Execute Callable Python Object

To execute a callable Python object, use the feval function. For example, if instance obj of a Python class is callable, replace the Python syntax obj(x1, ..., xn) with one of the following MATLAB statements:

feval(obj,x1, ..., xn)
obj(x1, ..., xn)

How MATLAB Represents Python Operators

MATLAB supports the following overloaded operators.

Python Operator SymbolPython MethodsMATLAB Methods
+ (binary) __add__, __radd__plus, +
- (binary) __sub__, __rsub__ minus, -
* (binary) __mul__, __rmul__mtimes, *
/__truediv__, __rtruediv__mrdivide, /
==__eq__eq, ==
>__gt__gt, >
<__lt__lt, <
!=__ne__ne, ~=
>=__ge__ge, >=
<=__le__le, <=
- (unary)__neg__uminus, -a
+ (unary)__pos__uplus, +a

The following Python operators are not supported.

Python Operator SymbolPython Method
%__mod__, __rmod__
**__pow__, __rpow__
<<__lshift__, __rlshift__
>>__rshift__, __rrshift__
&__and__, __rand__
^__xor__, __rxor__
|__or__, __ror__
// (binary) __floordiv__, __rfloordiv__
+= (unary) __iadd__
-= (unary) __isub__
*= (unary) __imul__
/= (unary) __itruediv__
//= (unary) __ifloordiv__
%= (unary) __imod__
**= (unary) __ipow__
<<= (unary) __ilshift__
>>= (unary) __irshift__
&= (unary) __iand__
^= (unary) __ixor__
|= (unary) __ior__
~ (unary) __invert__

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