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GNU Octave Manual Version 3
by John W. Eaton, David Bateman, Søren Hauberg
Paperback (6"x9"), 568 pages
ISBN 095461206X
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11.7 Function Files

Except for simple one-shot programs, it is not practical to have to define all the functions you need each time you need them. Instead, you will normally want to save them in a file so that you can easily edit them, and save them for use at a later time.

Octave does not require you to load function definitions from files before using them. You simply need to put the function definitions in a place where Octave can find them.

When Octave encounters an identifier that is undefined, it first looks for variables or functions that are already compiled and currently listed in its symbol table. If it fails to find a definition there, it searches a list of directories (the path) for files ending in ‘.m’ that have the same base name as the undefined identifier.(6) Once Octave finds a file with a name that matches, the contents of the file are read. If it defines a single function, it is compiled and executed. See section 11.8 Script Files, for more information about how you can define more than one function in a single file.

When Octave defines a function from a function file, it saves the full name of the file it read and the time stamp on the file. If the time stamp on the file changes, Octave may reload the file. When Octave is running interactively, time stamp checking normally happens at most once each time Octave prints the prompt. Searching for new function definitions also occurs if the current working directory changes.

Checking the time stamp allows you to edit the definition of a function while Octave is running, and automatically use the new function definition without having to restart your Octave session.

To avoid degrading performance unnecessarily by checking the time stamps on functions that are not likely to change, Octave assumes that function files in the directory tree octave-home/share/octave/version/m’ will not change, so it doesn't have to check their time stamps every time the functions defined in those files are used. This is normally a very good assumption and provides a significant improvement in performance for the function files that are distributed with Octave.

If you know that your own function files will not change while you are running Octave, you can improve performance by calling ignore_function_time_stamp ("all"), so that Octave will ignore the time stamps for all function files. Passing "system" to this function resets the default behavior.

Built-in Function: mfilename ()
Built-in Function: mfilename ("fullpath")
Built-in Function: mfilename ("fullpathext")
Return the name of the currently executing file. At the top-level, return the empty string. Given the argument "fullpath", include the directory part of the file name, but not the extension. Given the argument "fullpathext", include the directory part of the file name and the extension.

Built-in Function: val = ignore_function_time_stamp ()
Built-in Function: old_val = ignore_function_time_stamp (new_val)
Query or set the internal variable that controls whether Octave checks the time stamp on files each time it looks up functions defined in function files. If the internal variable is set to "system", Octave will not automatically recompile function files in subdirectories of octave-home/lib/version if they have changed since they were last compiled, but will recompile other function files in the search path if they change. If set to "all", Octave will not recompile any function files unless their definitions are removed with clear. If set to "none", Octave will always check time stamps on files to determine whether functions defined in function files need to be recompiled.

ISBN 095461206XGNU Octave Manual Version 3See the print edition