Force scientific notation in axes

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pfb on 15 Oct 2014
Commented: Thomas Gillis on 5 Feb 2019
Sometimes, when the "raw" values in the yticks are very small, matlab y axis automatically toggles to scientific notation, whereby the power of ten giving the order of magnitude appears in the top left corner, and the yticks are given in units of that power. The threshold for this behavior seems to be 1e-3, but I can't seem to find a property for forcing it on larger yticks.
I have found a few questions roughly on the same topic, but none of the relevant answers seem to apply to my case. Some people simply wanted to get rid of the scientific notation, other wanted it directly in the tick labels.
I like the "order of magnitude" format, but I am unable to force it (for instance, I'd like to have it for yticks of the order of 1e-2, for graphical homogeneity with a different plot).
Before downloading or creating an "ad hoc" code, I wanted to ask whether any of you knows a (perhaps undocumented?) way of toggling the "order of magnitude" notation.
Thanks a lot
Francesco
Thomas Gillis on 5 Feb 2019
The answer of phb worked for me, except that there is a small problem in the exponent computation.
It should be
e = floor(log10(abs(yl(2))));
e=log10(yl(2));
e=sign(e)*floor(abs(e));

Steven Lord on 24 Sep 2015
Take a look at the new axis customization functionality introduced in release R2015b and described in this post on Loren's blog. You may find some of the techniques described in that post useful.

David Sanchez on 15 Oct 2014
pfb on 15 Oct 2014
Hi David,
thanks a lot for your prompt reply. I missed the stack overflow very neatly posed question, but stumbled upon the one in matlab answers it points to. Ccook's "no-go" reply was conditioned to setting YTickLabel ("If you set YTickLabel, then there is no (documented) way to get MATLAB to automatically put in the exponent the same way.") I think that's pretty obvious... How can matlab know about the order of magnitude if you set the tick labels, which are strings? Perhaps he meant "YTick". By the way that's what prompted me to ask about "possibly undocumented" ways to do that.
It's a bit frustrating that there is no toggle for this behavior. After all, somewhere in the code for the figure there must be some check on the order of magnitude for the plot range. It seems to me that changing the default threshold for that check would do the trick.
I am not even able to get a handle for the text giving the order of magnitude, so it must be something in the axes structure (as opposed to a simple bit of text).
1) my statement of the problem is not very precise. Of course the order of magnitude behavior does not apply only to "very small" plot ranges, but also to "very large" ones. It seems to me that the lower and upper bounds are 1e-3 and 1e+4.
2) I have checked that changing the ylim (which sets YLimMode to "manual") does not remove the scientific notation, provided that the new range is compatible with the above thresholds.

Iain on 15 Oct 2014
Edited: Iain on 15 Oct 2014
Here's a really simple option.
Change the units of the axes. Plot time, in, for example, hs, cs, ds, Ds, ms, ks ...
pfb on 18 Apr 2015
Hi lain,
Have you read my comment? Let me quote myself
"Your method requires specifying the units... This can be done in the figure caption or perhaps in the axes labels"
If someone asked "So what are the units?" I could reply "Pay attention! Look at the axes label and the figure caption"

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