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Home page Version 2.42   May 2013


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• Prefabs handbook             • Script handbook             • pl(1) man page


Ploticus is a free GPL software utility that can produce various types of plots and graphs like shown here and here. Data input is usually csv files or text files such as used with sort, awk, etc. Output options are GIF, PNG, PostScript, SVG and some others. HTML imagemaps are supported. Ploticus can produce just-in-time plots in dynamic web content systems, or in batch production settings. It can be invoked from your command line, in shell scripts, via system() calls in web content environments and other programs, or via the libploticus API.

pie graphs   curve fitting       distributions

There are two distinct usage approaches depending on what you're doing:

1. Prefabs   produce quick one-off graphs without a lot of customization. All desired parameters are supplied directly on the command line, with everything else falling back to sensible defaults. For instance, to produce a scatterplot (GIF) on fields 2 and 3 of dataset 'mydata' you might do eg: pl -prefab scat data=mydata x=2 y=3 -gif -o out.gif

2. Scripts   develop more elaborate customized graphs or unattended production applications. The developer writes a script in a text editor. The script is essentially a sequence of plotting procedures along with some attribute specifications for each, indicating how to get the data, set up a scaled plot region and axes, and render one or more plots and graphs. More control over the order that things get drawn, and access to many more detail attributes. Other things fallback to sensible defaults. To run it (producing an SVG result in this example) do eg: pl myscript -svg -o out.svg


Requirements: gcc or similar C/C++ compiler. Can be built without requiring any specific libraries. A ready-to-run Linux x86-64 binary also available. [Build info]


Ploticus strengths:
  • variety of standard graphs and plots supported
  • lots of control over minutae of displays, graphical elements, labelling
  • production-oriented features eg. automatic cropping of output images
  • fairly flexible, semi-automatic legends
  • pretty good clientside imagemap support for tooltips and clickthru
  • work with numeric, categorical, date and time data
  • some statistical, curvefit, summarizing, and data manipulation capabilities built-in
  • small footprint, fast performance
  • both vector (PS, SVG) and raster (GIF, PNG) output formats with decent consistency
  • full documention and lots of examples available;
  • can be invoked using pl(1) command or via libploticus API
  • mature stable GPL package with many public contributions and improvements over the years

    Ploticus weaknesses:
  • command line tool with no interactive/GUI approach;
  • sprawling package with substantial learning curve to get the most out of it;
  • no direct connectivity with DBMS
  • limited superscript, subscript, special character support
  • no formula or equation support
  • generic build GD fonts somewhat ugly
  • old-school installation method; some may find it hard to get going
  • lacks 3-D effects, embedded logos and other marketing-oriented niceties
  • various capacity limitations
  • Script language is non-standard and inelegant
  • C code mostly written 10 yrs ago or more, not much ongoing new development



    Ploticus data display utility © 1999-2013 Steve Grubb


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    Ploticus 2.42 ... May 2013 Terms of use / GPL