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Current axes or chart




ax = gca returns the current axes (or standalone visualization) in the current figure. Use ax to get and set properties of the current axes. If there are no axes or charts in the current figure, then gca creates a Cartesian axes object.


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Plot a sine wave.

x = linspace(0,10);
y = sin(4*x);

Set the font size, tick direction, tick length, and y-axis limits for the current axes. Use gca to refer to the current axes.

ax = gca; % current axes
ax.FontSize = 12;
ax.TickDir = 'out';
ax.TickLength = [0.02 0.02];
ax.YLim = [-2 2];

Output Arguments

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Current axes, returned as an Axes object, a PolarAxes object, a GeographicAxes object, or a standalone visualization such as a heatmap.

More About

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Current Axes

The current axes is the default target object for many graphics commands, such as plot, title, and xlim. The following types of objects can become the current axes. Typically, it is the last one of these objects that is created, clicked on, or plotted into.

  • An Axes object.

  • A PolarAxes object.

  • A GeographicAxes object.

  • A standalone visualization, which is a chart designed for a special purpose that works independently from other charts. For example, a heatmap is a standalone visualization for observing the interaction between two variables in tabular data.

The CurrentAxes property of a figure stores its current axes.


  • User interaction can change the current axes or chart. It is better to assign the axes or chart to a variable when you create it instead of relying on gca.

  • Changing the current figure also changes the current axes or chart.

  • Set axes properties after plotting since some plotting functions reset axes properties.

  • To access the current axes or chart without forcing the creation of Cartesian axes, use dot notation to query the figure CurrentAxes property. MATLAB® returns an empty array if there is no current axes.

    fig = gcf;
    ax = fig.CurrentAxes;

Version History

Introduced before R2006a

See Also