Erwin Müller Blog

Redfox Plot

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Introduction

Gnuplot is a very popular command-line application that can plot two- and three-dimensional plots of data and data fits. It is mostly used in the scientific community for publication-quality graphics and education. It runs on all popular computer systems, like GNU/Linux, Unix, Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X. It uses a C like syntax to setup plot options, like the title and the axis ranges, load the data and plot the data. The distinct feature is the many options to export the plotted data, for example as Png, Svg, but also as LaTeX source.

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The limitations of Gnuplot are twofold. Firstly, Gnuplot have only three possible data sources.

  • from text file;
  • from binary file;
  • read from standard input;

The text file is expected have a simple comma separated values (CSV) format for the columns and rows, the binary file is platform dependent and contains the values as a matrix of rows and columns. Those limitations are tolerated in the scientific community for publication-quality graphics and education, but are a hindrance for average users. The average user is using more user friendly spreadsheet application like Excel, OpenOffice and LibreOffice and is using spreadsheet file formats like XLS, XLSX and ODS. Secondly, as a command line application Gnuplot have no graphical user interface to easy and fast create basic plots.

The Redfox Plot project is a graphical user interface for Gnuplot that aims to remedy both of the limitations mentioned above. It will provide easy access to spreadsheet file formats, databases and calculated data and provide users with the option to create common plot types easy and fast like in spreadsheet applications. Further, it will allow users to leverage a high level template engine and programming language to generate complex Gnuplot scripts.

Vision of the Solution

Vision Statement

The Redfox Plot will give a graphical frontend for Gnuplot to allow the average users to create plots easy and fast, and allows use of spreadsheet file formats, databases and calculated data. Redfox Plot is aiming to broaden the user base of Gnuplot to the average user.

Major Features

F1. Setup Assistant,

(also known as a wizard) to open a spreadsheet file, database or calculated data to be used as a data source, to set up the plots and plot options;

F2. Usage of Spreadsheet File Formats,

opens OpenDocument ODS and Microsoft Excel XSL and XSLT file formats to provide the plot data;

F3. Load Data from Database,

connect to a database via JDBC and retrrieve the data with a select statement;

F4. Calculated Data,

use high level programming language for numerical computations, like Octave or MATLAB, to provide the plot data;

F5. Template Engine,

use a template engine like StringTemplate to generate the Gnuplot script;

F6. General Purpose Programming Language,

provide the power of a general purpose programming language to generate the Gnuplot script;

Dependencies

The Redfox Plot relies on the following technologies and dependencies.

D1. Java Swing,

the underlying technology of the project;

D2. Gnuplot,

the underlying technology to plot the data;

D3. JDBC,

to connect to and retrieve data from a database;

D4. jOpenDocument,

to load OpenDocument spreadsheet files;

D5. SVG-Salamander,

to show a preview of the plot;

Related Projects

There are many projects that use Gnuplot to plot data, like GNU Octave and statist, but there are not many graphical frontends to Gnuplot.

JGNUplot

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is a Java based graphical frontend to Gnuplot is JGNUplot with the latest update was from 2013-04-16. JGNUplot is basically a graphical user interface that exposes the most used Gnuplot script statements to the user and thus have the same limitations as Gnuplot itself.

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