[OS X TeX] XY plots (probably OT)

Thomas Schröder hydrochlorix at gmx.net
Tue May 25 12:26:17 EDT 2004

Hi everybody,

Many of you are scientists like myself or engineers, so maybe you can 
help me out. I'm looking for a nice program to produce plots of my 

I usually have rather simple XY diagrams where I plot intensity against 
angle for an XRD diffractogram, or I plot concentration against time or 
temperature for reaction diagrams. For reaction diagrams I sometimes 
have to plot more than 10 different species in different concentration 
ranges or things like pressure and temperature in the same diagram so 
if said program could use more than 2 Y axes that would be a hoot! The 
software that comes with my mass spectrometer can use 4 Y axes which is 
where I got the idea, but unfortunately I can only use it for 
evaluation of my data not for producing XY plots :-(

I often use the same data for different things, like my thesis, 
reports, journals, posters and for each of these the diagram obviously 
has to look different: different fonts, font sizes, colour or black and 
white, with or without markers, you get the picture. Therefore I'd like 
to be able to produce different looking output for different occasions 
without too much hassle.

So, these are some of the features I'd like:

- handling of big data files (10-12 columns, >10000 lines)
- support for 4 Y axes
- good output quality
- direct output of EPS and/or PDF
- decent support for user defined diagram types
- some basic math support (greek symbols, fractions, subscripts and 
- support for Lucida Bright and maybe Latin Modern fonts

Right now I use Excel which for some aspects is actually quite OK but 
its output isn't that great and it can't directly save diagrams as EPS 
or PDF and you usually get a lot of white space when you use the 
printing trick for getting PDF files. And while it supports user 
defined types of diagrams that's not that great because you still have 
to do quite a bit of formatting work to get a series of diagrams to 
have the absolute same look and oftentimes the title or something else 
gets messed up or things begin to overlap when you change a diagram's 
type. Or when I change the paper size usually everything gets messed up 
and font sizes become too big or too small. To cut a long story short, 
Excel requires too much manual extra work IMO. And it doesn't support 
more than 2 Y axes.

I've tried several other programs like Excel whenever I could get a 
demo version, like DeltaGraph or KaleidaGraph and also a few free 
software programs but either I didn't really understand them or I had 
to do even more formatting work or charts were even less great looking. 
And none had support for more than 2 Y axes.

Actually, I'd prefer something that works in a similar way that TeX 
does i.e. I run my data through a processing engine that automagically 
procudes a nice layout which can be defined by means of a style file 
(columns 1+2 go to Y column 1, column 3 should be red, output size 
should be A6, the description for Y column 1 should go here, etc.). 
That way I could produce different kinds of plots for any occasion from 
the same data without having to reformat everything over and over 
again, every time there's a new project or the boss decides once again 
to have all 147 diagrams redesigned.

Maybe you can do something like this with MetaPost, PStricks or 
gnuplot, but before I dig any further, I thought I'd ask some savvy 
people who might have a little more experience with this, i.e. you :-)

I know, this is probably a bit OT (maybe not, when it can be done with 
MetaPost or PStricks) and as always when coming from me, a bit 
esoteric, but I guess (also as always :-) that I'm not the only one 
here with this or a similar problem and that quite a few people out 
there might actually profit from a good solution :-)

Thanks in advance for any help!

    Bye, Thomas

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