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Plotting: Which software do you find best to produce beautiful plots?

  1. Nov 14, 2011 #1
    Which mainstream mathematical/scientific software do you think produces the best plots/graphs (aesthetically)?
    A few choices are: Mathematica, Matlab, Python (Matplotlib), Gnuplot etc. etc.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 16, 2011 #2
    As gently and politely as I can put this, I don't think "beautiful" and "aesthetically" are going to have a large, possibly only an empty, intersection with "mainstream" and "mathematical/scientific software."

    If you really need beautiful and aesthetic then I suspect your best approach will be to pound out a result in any of the math/scientific software tools, stare at that for a while, hit the delete key and create from scratch what you want to see using the best tools that Adobe will sell you.

    I do realize the software vendors in the last 20 years have convinced everyone that they cannot scribble on a Post-It(r) without needing desktop publishing and reverse italic super and subscripts in the font of their choice.

    Again and again in this forum and elsewhere people post "Why isn't double and a half sub and italic superscripts working?" or "Why can't I make this plot look look the way I see in a textbook?"

    I tend to think you will find that for some things that you can accomplish this formatting with only 2-10 times the effort it took to calculate the un-formatted answer. For other things it will be an exponential multiple or even there does not appear to be any upper bound on how much energy and stomach acid you can expend trying to force the desktop published result to be in the form that you desire using mainstream math software.

    Mathematica has been used, I suspect in conjunction with a number of other tools hidden in the background, to write textbooks. With a little background you can recognize those on sight. But I don't believe you can find an example where that has produced an AMS paper with a graph that looks like any "standard" AMS paper.

    There was one thin book, perhaps in the late '90s, that tried to describe how to use Mathematica for publishing. I had a copy in my hands for a few minutes once, but I've forgotten the title. And as far as I am aware that is the only published attempt at trying to explain how to produce publishable quality material using Mathematica.

    Toby Segaran and Jeff Hammerbacher's "Beautiful Data" has some information on tools to produce quality presentations.
  4. Nov 16, 2011 #3
    Hi Bill,

    Thanks for your nice reply. I had not thought like that. Your opinion makes sense.
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