14 Excellent Free Plotting Tools

A plotting tool is computer software which helps to analyze and visualize data, often of a scientific nature. Using this type of software, users can generate plots of functions, data and data fits. Software of this nature typically includes additional functionality, such as data analysis functions including curve fitting.

A good plotting tool is very important for generating professional looking graphics for inclusion in academic papers. However, plotting tools are not just useful for academics, engineers, and scientists. Many users will need to plot graphs for other purposes such as presentations.

Fortunately, Linux is well endowed with plotting software. There are some heavyweight commercial Linux applications which include plotting functionality. These include MATLAB, Maple, and Mathematica. Without access to their source code, you have limited understanding of how the software functions, and how to change it. The license costs are also very expensive. And we are fervent advocates of open source software. The purpose of this article is to help promote open source plotting tools that are available.

To provide an insight into the quality of software that is available, we have compiled a list of 14 excellent plotting tools. Many of the applications are very mature. For example, gnuplot has been in development since the mid-1980s.

The choice of plotting software may depend on which programming language you prefer. For example, if your leaning towards Python, matplotlib is an ideal candidate as it’s written in, and designed specifically for Python. Whereas, if you’re keen on the R programming language, you’ll probably prefer ggplot2, which is one of the most popular R packages. With good reason, it offers a powerful model of graphics that removes a lot of the difficulty in making complex multi-players graphics. R does come with “base graphics” which are the traditional plotting functions distributed with R. But gpplot2 takes graphics to the next level.

Hopefully, there will be something of interest for anyone interested in producing high quality graphs. We highly recommend matplotlib, gnuplot, ggplot2, and ROOT, but the other 10 applications are all worthy of investigation.


Now, let’s explore the 14 plotting tools at hand. For each title we have compiled its own portal page, a full description with an in-depth analysis of its features, a screenshot of the software in action, together with links to relevant resources.

Plotting Tools
matplotlibPython based plotting system in a style similar to Matlab
gnuplotCommand-line driven interactive plotting program
ggplot2Powerful R package for declaratively creating graphics
ROOTSolves the data analysis challenges of high-energy physics
VeuszScientific plotting and graphing program
PLplotScientific plotting library
OctaveBuilt-in plotting and visualization tools
CtiogaCommand-line plotting utility
DataMeltProduces professional graphics with libraries for data manipulation
LabPlotData plotting and function analysis tool for KDE
GLEGraphics Layout Engine
SciDAVisScientific Data Analysis and Visualization
RLPlotGenerate publication quality graphs
GeniusEducational tool in mathematics and for research
Return to our complete collection of recommended free and open source software including our latest additions.
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