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developerWorks: Visualize Your Data with Gnuplot

Jul 27, 2004, 05:30 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Nishanth Sastry)

Gnuplot is a freely distributed plotting tool with ports available for nearly every major platform. It can be operated in one of two modes: when you need to adjust and prettify a graph to 'get it just right,' you can operate it in interactive mode by issuing commands at the gnuplot prompt. Alternately, gnuplot can read commands from a file and produce graphs in batch mode. Batch-mode capability is especially useful if you are running a series of experiments and need to view graphs of the results after each run, for example; or when you need to return to a graph to modify some aspect long after the graph was originally generated. While it is hard to capture the mouse-clicks that you would use to prettify a graph in a WYSIWIG editor, you can easily save gnuplot commands in a file and load them up to re-execute in an interactive session six months later.

"Gnuplot was originally developed in 1986 by Colin Kelley and Thomas Williams. A number of contributors added support for different 'terminals,' creating variants. In 1989 and 1990, these were merged into gnuplot 2.0. And in April 2004, version 4.0 was announced. This tutorial will apply to version 4.0, but most of the commands introduced here should apply to other versions as well. Where possible, I will mention the major differences..."

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