[PYTHON MATRIX-SIG] Plotting packages

Jim Hugunin hugunin@mit.edu
Fri, 7 Mar 1997 14:58:57 -0500

Recent posts have started me thinking about plotting and NumPy again.  This 
seems to be the weakest link in the package at the moment (since I've only 
been receiving minimal bug reports for the first beta release).  I'd really 
like people to be able to type:


and have something reasonable happen.  While I continue to avow that this 
is not considered a basic part of NumPy, the current state of affairs 
regarding plotting packages is rather embarrassing.  In the Windows world 
I'm rather tempted to buy a nice plotting OCX (like an X widget) and just 
use that.  Still, I'd much prefer a public domain system that worked across 

Here are my brief comments on the major packages out there, and why I don't 
use them:

1) Narcisse - Cool package used somewhat at Livermore, not publicly 

2) Gist - Completely tied to Xlib.  Requires patches to python interpreter 
to use.

3) PGPlot - Basic code is FORTRAN.  Not something I'd want to hack to get 
working with Windows, and not something that most users of NumPy can be 
expected to be able to even compile.

4) PLPlot - The best option I've seen, the basic distribution even comes 
with a python module.  It's driver model also looks good, I could easily 
see adding Windows support.  On the other hand, installation is really a 
pain.  I just spent 45 minutes trying to get it up and running under Sun 
Solaris with no luck.  I'm also unsure of whether or not it is missing 
important features that these other packages have.

Am I missing any packages?  Am I wrong in my comments about any of these? 
 It sounds to me like the Astronomers among us are only interested in 
PGPlot.  Is this for historical reasons, or are there some features in this 
package that are not supported by the others?

I have no intention (or really ability) to legislate a single plotting 
package for NumPy.  Nonetheless, I'd be happiest if there could be a 
consensus on a good system for general use.  I'd even be willing to write 
the interface code to such a system to help get things off on the right 

Looking for opinions - Jim

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