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How is the number of bins chosen with the auto binning algorithm in histcounts?

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When I call the function histcounts as following:
[N,edges] = histcounts(data)
It returns a number of bins with the corresponding bin edges. How is the number of bins determined? At it is says "...uses an automatic binning algorithm...".
What is this for an algorithm and where can I find some documentation about it?
Weiqiang Zhao
Weiqiang Zhao on 9 Oct 2020
I agree, there isn't any reference to the "automatic binning algorithm", which is confusing to users.

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Accepted Answer

Anton Semechko
Anton Semechko on 10 Jul 2018
'histcounts' first estimates width of the histogram bins using 'scottsrule':
rawBinWidth = 3.5*std(data)/(numel(data)^(1/3));
It then passes this info along with the minimum and maximum values of input data (xmin and xmax, resp.) to the 'binpicker' function which first adjusts rawBinWidth depending on its order of magnitude:
powOfTen = 10.^floor(log10(rawBinWidth)); % next lower power of 10
relSize = rawBinWidth / powOfTen; % guaranteed in [1, 10)
if relSize < 1.5
binWidth = 1*powOfTen;
elseif relSize < 2.5
binWidth = 2*powOfTen;
elseif relSize < 4
binWidth = 3*powOfTen;
elseif relSize < 7.5
binWidth = 5*powOfTen;
binWidth = 10*powOfTen;
and then computes the total number of bins and positions of the left- and right-most histogram edges:
leftEdge = min(binWidth*floor(xmin ./ binWidth), xmin);
nbinsActual = max(1, ceil((xmax-leftEdge) ./ binWidth));
rightEdge = max(leftEdge + nbinsActual.*binWidth, xmax);
Remaining bin edges are distributed uniformly between leftEdge and rightEdge at binWidth intervals. You can inspect source code for the 'binpicker' function by typing:
edit histcounts
into your command prompt.
I imagine the reason Mathowrks does not describe how the bin edges are determined by 'hiscounts' is because the process involves several steps, and isn't based on a simple formula.

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