MATLAB Language Input a string, modify it in C, and output it


In this example, we illustrate string manipulation in MATLAB MEX. We will create a MEX-function that accepts a string as input from MATLAB, copy the data into C-string, modify it and convert it back to mxArray returned to the MATLAB side.

The main objective of this example is to show how strings can be converted to C/C++ from MATLAB and vice versa.


#include "mex.h"
#include <cstring>

void mexFunction(int nlhs, mxArray *plhs[], int nrhs, const mxArray *prhs[])
    // check number of arguments
    if (nrhs != 1 || nlhs > 1) {
        mexErrMsgIdAndTxt("StringIO:WrongNumArgs", "Wrong number of arguments.");

    // check if input is a string
    if (mxIsChar(prhs[0])) {
        mexErrMsgIdAndTxt("StringIO:TypeError", "Input is not a string");

    // copy characters data from mxArray to a C-style string (null-terminated)
    char *str = mxArrayToString(prhs[0]);

    // manipulate the string in some way
    if (strcmp("theOneString", str) == 0) {
        str[0] = 'T';  // capitalize first letter
    } else {
        str[0] = ' ';  // do something else?

    // return the new modified string
    plhs[0] = mxCreateString(str);

    // free allocated memory

The relevant functions in this example are:

  • mxIsChar to test if an mxArray is of mxCHAR type.
  • mxArrayToString to copy the data of a mxArray string to a char * buffer.
  • mxCreateString to create an mxArray string from a char*.

As a side note, if you only want to read the string, and not modify it, remember to declare it as const char* for speed and robustness.

Finally, once compiled we can call it from MATLAB as:

>> mex stringIO.cpp

>> strOut = stringIO('theOneString')
strOut = 

>> strOut = stringIO('somethingelse')