# Applying the vec operator

How to apply the $\operatorname{vec}$ operator in Mathematica? For example, how can I transform a $2 \times 2$ matrix into a $1 \times 4$ matrix as follows? $$\operatorname{vec}\left( \begin{bmatrix} a_{1,1} & a_{1,2} \\ a_{2,1} & a_{2,2} \end{bmatrix} \right) = \begin{bmatrix} a_{1,1} \\ a_{2,1} \\ a_{1,2} \\ a_{2,2} \end{bmatrix}$$

• vector and matrix are vague terms in Mathematica so please add input and expected output in terms of Mathematica code in order to make the question clear. – Kuba Feb 16 '17 at 10:31
• Thanks for the Accept. Please see the additional example of Flatten that I added afterward. – Mr.Wizard Feb 16 '17 at 13:59

Use Flatten to do this in a single operation.

in = Array[a, {2, 2}]

Flatten[in, {2, 1}]

{{a[1, 1], a[1, 2]}, {a[2, 1], a[2, 2]}}

{a[1, 1], a[2, 1], a[1, 2], a[2, 2]}


In Mathematica there are only vectors (lists), not column vectors and row vectors. However if you wish to convert a vector into an array with rows of length one for output the computationally fastest method is typically Partition:

Partition[{a[1, 1], a[2, 1], a[1, 2], a[2, 2]}, 1]

{{a[1, 1]}, {a[2, 1]}, {a[1, 2]}, {a[2, 2]}}


If that is your goal from the start you can also do that in a single operation using Flatten:

Flatten[{in}, {3, 2}]     (* note the extra {} around in *)

{{a[1, 1]}, {a[2, 1]}, {a[1, 2]}, {a[2, 2]}}


• Unless OP sees column vector as: List /@ {a[1, 1], a[2, 1], a[1, 2], a[2, 2]} – Kuba Feb 16 '17 at 13:34
• @Kuba Good point. There is no such thing as a column vector in Mathematica as you know, but that doesn't mean the OP doesn't potentially want a series of one element rows... – Mr.Wizard Feb 16 '17 at 13:37
{{1, 2}, {4, 5}} // MatrixForm


\begin{bmatrix} 1 & 2 \\ 4 & 5 \end{bmatrix}

ArrayReshape[Transpose[%], {4, 1}] // MatrixForm


\begin{bmatrix} 1 \\ 4\\ 2\\ 5 \end{bmatrix}

Thanks to @cyrille.piatecki for the use of Transpose[].

I propose this simple module

vec[mat_] :=
Module[{a = mat},
ArrayReshape[Transpose[
a], {Dimensions[mat][[1]] Dimensions[mat][[2]], 1}]]


apply with

aa = Table[Subscript[a, i, j], {i, 1, 2}, {j, 1, 2}]


this gives the expected result

vec[aa] // MatrixForm