# Making Choices

Last updated on 2023-04-26 | Edit this page

Estimated time: 40 minutes

## Overview

### Questions

- How can programs do different things for different data values?

### Objectives

- Construct a conditional statement using if, elseif, and else
- Test for equality within a conditional statement
- Combine conditional tests using AND and OR
- Build a nested loop

Our previous lessons have shown us how to manipulate data and repeat things. However, the programs we have written so far always do the same things, regardless of what data they’re given. We want programs to make choices based on the values they are manipulating.

The tool that MATLAB gives us for doing this is called a conditional statement, and it looks like this:

### OUTPUT

```
not greater
done
```

The second line of this code uses the keyword `if`

to tell
MATLAB that we want to make a choice. If the test that follows is true,
the body of the `if`

(i.e., the lines between `if`

and `else`

) are executed. If the test is false, the body of
the `else`

(i.e., the lines between `else`

and
`end`

) are executed instead. Only one or the other is ever
executed.

Conditional statements don’t have to have an `else`

block.
If there isn’t one, MATLAB simply doesn’t do anything if the test is
false:

### MATLAB

```
num = 53;
disp('before conditional...')
if num > 100
disp('53 is greater than 100')
end
disp('...after conditional')
```

### OUTPUT

```
before conditional...
...after conditional
```

We can also chain several tests together using `elseif`

.
This makes it simple to write a script that gives the sign of a
number:

### MATLAB

```
%CONDITIONAL_DEMO Demo script to illustrate use of conditionals
num = 53;
if num > 0
disp('num is positive')
elseif num == 0
disp('num is zero')
else
disp('num is negative')
end
```

One important thing to notice in the code above is that we use a
double equals sign `==`

to test for equality rather than a
single equals sign. This is because the latter is used to mean
assignment. In our test, we want to check for the equality of
`num`

and `0`

, not *assign* 0 to
`num`

. This convention was inherited from C, and it does take
a bit of getting used to…

During a conditional statement, if one of the conditions is true, this marks the end of the test: no subsequent conditions will be tested and execution jumps to the end of the conditional.

Let’s demonstrate this by adding another condition which is true.

### MATLAB

```
% Demo script to illustrate use of conditionals
num = 53;
if num > 0
disp('num is positive')
elseif num == 0
disp('num is zero')
elseif num > 50
% This block will never be executed
disp('num is greater than 50')
else
disp('num is negative')
end
```

We can also combine tests, using `&&`

(and) and
`||`

(or). `&&`

is true if both tests are
true:

### OUTPUT

`one part is not true`

`||`

is true if either test is true:

### OUTPUT

`at least one part is true`

In this case, “either” means “either or both”, not “either one or the other but not both”.

### True and False Statements

The conditions we have tested above evaluate to a logical value:
`true`

or `false`

. However these numerical
comparison tests aren’t the only values which are `true`

or
`false`

in MATLAB. For example, `1`

is considered
`true`

and `0`

is considered `false`

.
In fact, *any* value can be used in a conditional statement.

Run the code below in order to discover which values are considered
`true`

and which are considered `false`

.

### MATLAB

```
if ''
disp('empty string is true')
else
disp('empty string is false')
end
if 'foo'
disp('non empty string is true')
else
disp('non empty string is false')
end
if []
disp('empty array is true')
else
disp('empty array is false')
end
if [22.5, 1.0]
disp('non empty array is true')
else
disp('non empty array is false')
end
if [0, 0]
disp('array of zeros is true')
else
disp('array of zeros is false')
end
if true
disp('true is true')
else
disp('true is false')
end
```

### Close Enough

Write a script called `near`

that performs a test on two
variables, and displays `1`

when the first variable is within
10% of the other and `0`

otherwise. Compare your
implementation with your partner’s: do you get the same answer for all
possible pairs of numbers?

Another thing to realize is that `if`

statements can also
be combined with loops. For example, if we want to sum the positive
numbers in a list, we can write this:

### MATLAB

```
numbers = [-5, 3, 2, -1, 9, 6];
total = 0;
for n = numbers
if n >= 0
total = total + n;
end
end
disp(['sum of positive values: ', num2str(total)])
```

### OUTPUT

`sum of positive values: 20`

With a little extra effort, we can calculate the positive and negative sums in a loop:

### MATLAB

```
pos_total = 0;
neg_total = 0;
for n = numbers
if n >= 0
pos_total = pos_total + n;
else
neg_total = neg_total + n;
end
end
disp(['sum of positive values: ', num2str(pos_total)])
disp(['sum of negative values: ', num2str(neg_total)])
```

### OUTPUT

```
sum of positive values: 26
sum of negative values: -6
```

We can even put one loop inside another:

### OUTPUT

```
1a
1b
2a
2b
3a
3b
```

### Nesting

Will changing the order of nesting in the above loop change the output? Why? Write down the output you might expect from changing the order of the loops, then rewrite the code to test your hypothesis.

Currently, our script `plot_all.m`

reads in data, analyzes
it, and saves plots of the results. If we would rather display the plots
interactively, we would have to remove (or *comment out*) the
following code:

And, we’d also have to change this line of code, from:

to:

This is not a lot of code to change every time, but it’s still work
that’s easily avoided using conditionals. Here’s our script re-written
to use *conditionals* to switch between saving plots as images
and plotting them interactively:

### MATLAB

```
%PLOT_ALL Save plots of statistics to disk.
% Use variable plot_switch to control interactive plotting
% vs saving images to disk.
% plot_switch = 0: show plots interactively
% plot_switch = 1: save plots to disk
plot_switch = 0;
files = dir('data/inflammation-*.csv');
% Process each file in turn
for i = 1:length(files)
file_name = files(i).name;
% Generate strings for image names:
img_name = replace(file_name, '.csv', '.png');
% Generate path to data file and image file
file_name = fullfile('data', filename);
img_name = fullfile('results', img_name);
patient_data = readmatrix(file_name);
% Create figures
if plot_switch == 1
figure('visible', 'off')
else
figure('visible', 'on')
end
subplot(2, 2, 1)
plot(mean(patient_data, 1))
title('Average')
ylabel('Inflammation')
xlabel('Day')
subplot(2, 2, 2)
plot(max(patient_data, [], 1))
title('Max')
ylabel('Inflammation')
xlabel('Day')
subplot(2, 2, 3)
plot(min(patient_data, [], 1))
title('Min')
ylabel('Inflammation')
xlabel('Day')
if plot_switch == 1
print(img_name, '-dpng')
close()
end
end
```

### Key Points

- Use
`if`

and`else`

to make choices based on values in your program.