# How to check if one of output variables is not called

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KAE on 16 Aug 2019
Edited: KAE on 20 Aug 2019
If I have a function which can return multiple outputs, how can I tell from inside the function that some of the output variables are not called? One application is skipping a long calculation of an unused output variable.
Here is a non-working example. Can it be made to work?
% This would perform both calculations
% This would only perform the addition to get the 1st output
% This would only perform the multiplication to get the 2nd output
[~, multIt] = test_empty_function_outputs1(2,3);
function varargout = test_empty_function_outputs1(x,y)
if ~isempty(varargout{1}) % Only calculate if 1st output is called
% Gives an error: Undefined function or variable 'varargout'
varargout{1} = x+y;
end
if ~isempty(varargout{2}) % Only calcluate if 2nd output is called
varargout{2} = x*y;
end

Stephen Cobeldick on 16 Aug 2019
Edited: Stephen Cobeldick on 16 Aug 2019
You can use nargout to detect how many output arguments are requested:
if nargout>0
varargout{1} = x+y;
end
if nargout>1
varargout{2} = x*y;
end
There is no direct way to detect which of those outputs are allocated to variables:

KAE on 19 Aug 2019
Sorry I missed those answers. Checking for non-called outputs seems useful so I will put in a feature request.
KAE on 20 Aug 2019
In response to my feature request, Matlab support provided a workaround adding some flag arguments to control which output should be calculated:
function [out1, out2, out3] = example(in1, in2, flag)
%define all outputs%
out1 = -1;
out2 = -1;
out3 = -1;
%calculate the output according to flag%
if flag(1) == 1
out1 = 1;
end
if flag(2) == 1
out2 = 1;
end
if flag(3) == 1
out3 = 1;
end
end
To invoke the function:
%here, skip output2%
[a, ~, c] = example(11, 22, [1,0,1])