Running external commands without going through a shell?

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The Matlab system() command allows the user to run external commands. To do this, it spawns a shell, and uses it to run the provided command. (see
This behavior is great for interactive use. However, for production code, it can cause issues with special characters as the shell will have a tendancy to over-interpret the given commands. So, for example, a directory with parenthesis in its name can cause shell errors and prevent the command from executing properly.
In the Python world, the subprocess module has a way to run commands directly, without spawning a shell (the "shell" argument):
Does Matlab have an equivalent? I know people have proposed various regular expressions to escape strings, but that is just not robust enough.

Accepted Answer

Jan on 16 Dec 2020
Maybe this works for you:
runtime = java.lang.Runtime.getRuntime();
process = runtime.exec('program arg1 arg2'); % non-blocking
% Continue Matlab processing in parallel to spawned process ...
% ...or:
rc = process.waitFor(); % block Matlab until external program ends
rc = process.exitValue(); % fetch an ended process' return code
  1 Comment
Joël Schaerer
Joël Schaerer on 21 Dec 2020
Thanks! I didn't get a chance to try it yet, but will try to report back when I do.

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More Answers (1)

Nitin Kapgate
Nitin Kapgate on 16 Dec 2020
You can execute operating system commands from the MATLAB command line using the ! operator as an alternative to the system function. The exclamation point character (!), sometimes called bang, is a shell escape. The ! character indicates that the rest of the input line is a command to the operating system.
Use ! to call utilities or other executable programs without quitting MATLAB.
For example, the following code opens the Microsoft Excel on a WINDOWS platform:
After the external program completes or you quit the program, the operating system returns control to MATLAB.
To run the application in background mode or display the output in a separate window, add & to the end of the line.
For example, the following statement opens the Microsoft Excel program and returns control to the command prompt so that you can continue running MATLAB commands:
!excel.exe &
  1 Comment
Joël Schaerer
Joël Schaerer on 21 Dec 2020
Hi, I don't think the bang operator changes anything regarding my problem.

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