matlab – Read .mat files in Python

The Question :

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Is it possible to read binary MATLAB .mat files in Python?

I’ve seen that SciPy has alleged support for reading .mat files, but I’m unsuccessful with it. I installed SciPy version 0.7.0, and I can’t find the loadmat() method.

The Question Comments :

The Answer 1

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An import is required, import

mat ='file.mat')

The Answer 2

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Neither, nor work for MATLAB arrays version 7.3. But the good part is that MATLAB version 7.3 files are hdf5 datasets. So they can be read using a number of tools, including NumPy.

For Python, you will need the h5py extension, which requires HDF5 on your system.

import numpy as np
import h5py
f = h5py.File('somefile.mat','r')
data = f.get('data/variable1')
data = np.array(data) # For converting to a NumPy array

The Answer 3

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First save the .mat file as:

save('test.mat', '-v7')

After that, in Python, use the usual loadmat function:

import as sio
test = sio.loadmat('test.mat')

The Answer 4

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There is a nice package called mat4py which can easily be installed using

pip install mat4py

It is straightforward to use (from the website):

Load data from a MAT-file

The function loadmat loads all variables stored in the MAT-file into a simple Python data structure, using only Python’s dict and list objects. Numeric and cell arrays are converted to row-ordered nested lists. Arrays are squeezed to eliminate arrays with only one element. The resulting data structure is composed of simple types that are compatible with the JSON format.

Example: Load a MAT-file into a Python data structure:

from mat4py import loadmat

data = loadmat('datafile.mat')

The variable data is a dict with the variables and values contained in the MAT-file.

Save a Python data structure to a MAT-file

Python data can be saved to a MAT-file, with the function savemat. Data has to be structured in the same way as for loadmat, i.e. it should be composed of simple data types, like dict, list, str, int, and float.

Example: Save a Python data structure to a MAT-file:

from mat4py import savemat

savemat('datafile.mat', data)

The parameter data shall be a dict with the variables.

The Answer 5

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Having MATLAB 2014b or newer installed, the MATLAB engine for Python could be used:

import matlab.engine
eng = matlab.engine.start_matlab()
content = eng.load("example.mat", nargout=1)

The Answer 6

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Reading the file

mat =

Inspecting the type of MAT variable

#OUTPUT - <class 'dict'>

The keys inside the dictionary are MATLAB variables, and the values are the objects assigned to those variables.

The Answer 7

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There is also the MATLAB Engine for Python by MathWorks itself. If you have MATLAB, this might be worth considering (I haven’t tried it myself but it has a lot more functionality than just reading MATLAB files). However, I don’t know if it is allowed to distribute it to other users (it is probably not a problem if those persons have MATLAB. Otherwise, maybe NumPy is the right way to go?).

Also, if you want to do all the basics yourself, MathWorks provides (if the link changes, try to google for matfile_format.pdf or its title MAT-FILE Format) a detailed documentation on the structure of the file format. It’s not as complicated as I personally thought, but obviously, this is not the easiest way to go. It also depends on how many features of the .mat-files you want to support.

I’ve written a “small” (about 700 lines) Python script which can read some basic .mat-files. I’m neither a Python expert nor a beginner and it took me about two days to write it (using the MathWorks documentation linked above). I’ve learned a lot of new stuff and it was quite fun (most of the time). As I’ve written the Python script at work, I’m afraid I cannot publish it… But I can give some advice here:

  • First read the documentation.
  • Use a hex editor (such as HxD) and look into a reference .mat-file you want to parse.
  • Try to figure out the meaning of each byte by saving the bytes to a .txt file and annotate each line.
  • Use classes to save each data element (such as miCOMPRESSED, miMATRIX, mxDOUBLE, or miINT32)
  • The .mat-files’ structure is optimal for saving the data elements in a tree data structure; each node has one class and subnodes

The Answer 8

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from os.path import dirname, join as pjoin
import as sio
data_dir = pjoin(dirname(sio.__file__), 'matlab', 'tests', 'data')
mat_fname = pjoin(data_dir, 'testdouble_7.4_GLNX86.mat')
mat_contents = sio.loadmat(mat_fname)

You can use above code to read the default saved .mat file in Python.

The Answer 9

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To read mat file to pandas dataFrame with mixed data types

mat=sio.loadmat('file.mat')# load mat-file
mdata = mat['myVar']  # variable in mat file 
ndata = {n: mdata[n][0,0] for n in mdata.dtype.names}
Columns = [n for n, v in ndata.items() if v.size == 1]
d=dict((c, ndata[0]) for c in Columns)

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