Data Visualization

matplotlib – Python 2D plotting library

matplotlib is a pure Python 2D plotting library designed to bring publication quality plotting to Python with a syntax familiar to MATLAB users. All of the plotting commands in the pylab interface can be accessed either via a functional interface familiar to MATLAB users or an object oriented interface familiar to Python users.

The library uses numpy for handling large data sets and supports a variety of output backends including GTK GTKAgg, GTKCairo, FltkAgg, QtAgg, TkAgg and WXAgg.

matplotlib is designed with the philosophy that you should be able to create simple plots with just a few commands, or even just one. It was originally conceived with MatLab’s users in mind. It’s the oldest plotting library but is still under active development.

Features include:

  • Extremely powerful – matplotlib can create almost any visualization.
  • Generate:
    • Plots;
    • Histograms;
    • Power spectra;
    • Bar charts;
    • Error charts;
    • Scatter plots and more.
  • Designed to be usable as MATLAB.
  • Object-oriented API for embedding plots into applications.
  • Procedural “pylab” interface based on a state machine.
  • Based on Python, a full-featured modern object-oriented programming language suitable for large-scale software development.
  • Numerous rendering backends: GTK, GTKAgg, GTKCairo, GTK3Agg, GTK3Cairo, MacOSX, nbAgg, Qt4Agg, Qt4Cairo, Qt5Agg, Qt5Cairo, TkAgg, TkCairo, WebAgg, WX, WXAgg, WXCairo, agg, cairo, gdk, pdf, pgf, ps, svg, template
  • Suitable for fast scripting, including CGI scripts.
  • Free, open source, no license servers.
  • Native SVG support.
  • Well-tested tool with mature code.
  • Rich ecosystem of Python tools are built around matplotlib.
  • Support for Python 3 (support for Python 2 was dropped).

If you are looking to create web/interactive graphs, I’d recommend one of the other Python visualization packages.

Support: Documentation, GitHub Code Repository
Developer: Michael Droettboom and many contributors (project started by the late John Hunter)
License: Based on the PSF license. Matplotlib only uses BSD compatible code.


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matplotlib is written in Python. Learn Python with our recommended free books and free tutorials.

Return to Plotting Tools | Return to Python Visualization Packages

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