Plotting Programs  


It's a sad reality, but you're not going to be able get by with plotting data in Excel. Sure, it good to initially see trends in the data, but eventually you'll want it to be publication quality, and that's something Excel doesn't give. Once you have the scripts set up, it takes the same amount of time to generate each plot so why not make them publication quality ALL the time?

There's a number of great plotting programs out there and we'll summarize their attributes. Which one to pick? If you already know a programming language (link to article) then it might have its own plotting module. Packages such as IDL, Matlab, etc. aren't included in the list but make quality plots. Otherwise, most free programs are capable of the same quality and flexiblity of those you pay for, so just pick one you like and have a go.

Gnuplot: Publication quality with work. Lots of documentation and widely used. Command-line driven to make quick plots. Free.

Pyplot/Matplotlib: Publication quality. Good amount of documentation. Slow to develop scripts but capable of generating any imagable plot. Free, a Python module.

Tioga: Wonderful quality. Fair amount of documentation. Slow to develop scripts. Free, a extension of the Ruby language.

cTioga2: The quality of Tioga but in a command-line format. Not much documentation or functionality yet, but makes fast, pretty, plots.

Sigma plot:

SuperMongo (SM):