During the execution of the following code a column of three lists and two sliders are displaying in output. The first list updates if either a or b changes. The second list updates only if the value of a is changed. Similarly, the third list updates only if the value of b is changed.

a = 0;
b = 0;
  Dynamic[{a, b}, TrackedSymbols :> {a,b}],
  Dynamic[{a, b}, TrackedSymbols :> {a}],
  Dynamic[{a, b}, TrackedSymbols :> {b}],
  Slider[Dynamic[a], {0, 1}],
  Slider[Dynamic[b], {0, 1}]

Next I would like to replace {a,b} by a list x with two elements:

x = {0, 0};
  Dynamic[{x[[1]], x[[2]]}, TrackedSymbols :> {x}],
  Dynamic[{x[[1]], x[[2]]}, TrackedSymbols :> {x[[1]]}],
  Dynamic[{x[[1]], x[[2]]}, TrackedSymbols :> {x[[2]]}],
  Slider[Dynamic[x[[1]]], {0, 1}],
  Slider[Dynamic[x[[2]]], {0, 1}]

It is easy to check that now only the first list updates. Please help me to solve this problem.

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ My first thought is that x[[1]] is not a Symbol. The dynamic updating system probably only tracks symbols, not parts of them, so probably you can't do it the second way. $\endgroup$
    – Michael E2
    Sep 17, 2013 at 15:09
  • $\begingroup$ I believe TrackedSymbols must be taken strictly; i.e., it accepts only symbols, not expressions. $\endgroup$
    – m_goldberg
    Sep 17, 2013 at 16:00
  • $\begingroup$ I presume you are aware that you can write {a, b} = {0, 0} in your first example, so I ask: why doesn't that work for you? $\endgroup$
    – m_goldberg
    Sep 17, 2013 at 16:10
  • $\begingroup$ @m_goldberg, thank you for your comment. I want to write a code, which manipulates a big list (say 20 elements). I want to display the list and update it only when its first element is changes. Moreover, I don't want to use additional "tester" variables like Dynamic[x[[1]], (x[[1]] = tester = #1) &] ... TrackedSymbols :> {tester} $\endgroup$ Sep 17, 2013 at 16:53

2 Answers 2


You can create your own list of symbols with Unique.

nVars = 20;
x = Table[Unique[x], {nVars}];
vars = Map[Hold, OwnValues@x, {-1}][[-1, -1]]
(# = 0.) & /@ x; 

(* {Hold[x$363], Hold[x$364], ...} *)

It's convenient to store the held variables, since once they are initialized, it's tricky to get the symbols unevaluated. We can get at the symbols via various tricks:

vars[[2]] /. Hold[var_] :> (TrackedSymbols :> {var}
(* --> TrackedSymbols :> {x$364} *)

Dynamic @@ vars[[3]]]
(* --> Dynamic[x$364] *)

Here's an example like the one in the question.

  {Table[Dynamic[x, #] &[vars[[i]] /. Hold[var_] :> (TrackedSymbols :> {var})],
     {i, Length@x}],
    Table[Slider[Dynamic @@ vars[[i]]], {i, Length@x}]}

Here's the output for nVars = 4, where each slider has been clicked once in turn:

Screenshot of output

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for your smart trick. I would like to ask you, what is the role of the Refresh function ? Namely, why you don't use shorter possibility like this Table[Slider[Dynamic @@ vars[[i]]], {i, Length@x}] Table[Dynamic[x, Evaluate[vars[[i]] /. Hold[var_]:> (TrackedSymbols :> {var})]], {i, Length@x}] $\endgroup$ Sep 17, 2013 at 22:28
  • $\begingroup$ Actually what confuses me is why I seem to have to inject TrackedVariables in there twice. Doing it once does not always work. In any case, your example does not work for me from a fresh kernel in V9.0.1. For the first Dynamic[x,...], I get symbols x$363 etc. that are never updated. Of all the variations I tried, only the one with Refresh worked in all cases. I'm afraid I have not completely figured out why yet. $\endgroup$
    – Michael E2
    Sep 17, 2013 at 22:55
  • $\begingroup$ It is amasing, but I got such problem with your version. By the way, if I evaluate the code twice, the symbols are starting to uptate. I use also V9.0.1. In my example the sliders are constructed first. Maybe they initialize the sybols and the updating becomes possible ? $\endgroup$ Sep 17, 2013 at 23:11
  • $\begingroup$ @VahagnPoghosyan Oops, I forgot to copy the initialization line -- your comment made me notice. Now it should work. I'm not sure why the symbols need initialization. For instance {Dynamic@y, Slider[Dynamic@y]} does not need to have y initialized beforehand. $\endgroup$
    – Michael E2
    Sep 18, 2013 at 1:11
  • $\begingroup$ I must be missing something; why don't you merely define vars = Hold /@ x ? $\endgroup$
    – Mr.Wizard
    Sep 18, 2013 at 2:28

Using the ideas/tricks/solutions given in comments, I arrived to the following compact code, which uses only the variables x, x1, x2, ...

nVars = 10;
Clear @@ Names["x" ~~ DigitCharacter ...]
x = Table[ToExpression["x" <> ToString[i], InputForm], {i, 1, nVars}]

ToExpression["x" <> ToString[i], InputForm, Hold] /. Hold[var_] :>
    Dynamic[Evaluate[x], TrackedSymbols :> {var}]
, {i, 1, nVars}]]

ToExpression["x" <> ToString[i], InputForm, Hold] /. Hold[var_] :> Slider[Dynamic[var]]
, {i, 1, nVars}]]
  • $\begingroup$ Feel free to unaccept mine and accept your own. I think it is better, and future visitors would appreciate having the best answer marked. Unless someone else posts an even better solution. $\endgroup$
    – Michael E2
    Sep 18, 2013 at 13:08
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelE2, this answer is based on the ideas of your answer and comments. Both answers are acceptable for me. $\endgroup$ Sep 18, 2013 at 13:15

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