Scientific Graphing Programs

Dima Klenchin klenchin at
Mon Mar 5 22:04:54 EST 2001

jhaines at (Jeffery Haines) wrote:
:Interested in using a scientific graphing program (other than PC version of 
:Microsoft Excel 2000) which will perform regressional analysis, plot complex 
:data, ANOVA, ANCOVA, etc.  Program should be user-friendly, flexible 
:and reasonably priced.  Excel will not allow me to plot complex 
:absorption/elution data due to the large number of variables. 
:Any program suggestions, prices, opinions would be helpful for an 
:undergrad biochemistry student.

My favorite is Sigma Plot 5.0 for DOS. By far the fastest,
most versatile and easiest to use. You can plug in any 
math function you are able to write and it will calculate. 
This is an abandoned product and you can't buy it anymore,
but if you are able to find it - grab, it's a bargain
(the biggest shortcoming these days is luck of printer
drivers; LJII emulation works OK though).

The company now sells Windows version which is a truly 
screwed up product: while it is unquestionably the most
feature-rich and powerfull product of its kind, it all
comes at expense of it being extremely bloated, sluggish
and user-unfriendly (Windoze-style - easy to do what it 
wants you to do and very hard to make it do exactly what
YOU want). Still, WinSP is a king of the hill, and many
people are happy with it. ~$600

Then there is Microcal Origin. Used to be a really 
simplistic Windows product, kind of SigmaPlot Lite.
Matured to a full-blown very capable package - again,
unfortunately, at the expense of bloat and confusion. 
Still, a lot friendlier than Sigma Plot for Windows. One
of the attractive things about it is ability to write
your own DLL extensions if you feel like it. ~$600

I only used GraphPad PRISM for a very short period of
time. IMHO, it offers a lot less than SP and Origin do, 
yet costs not much less (~$500) and not much easier
to use for a novice.

Golden Software Grapher is looking really very nice
if you never require 3D graphs. It still does not 
have simplicity of SP for DOS when it comes to tweaking
graph's appearence, but IMHO it is a lot better than 
any of the above Windoze products. It also now has
scripting capabilities and supports Excell worksheets
(something that's really appreciated by people who,
for reasons totally obscure to me, use Excel for 
something). ~$300

Psi-Plot was another SP clone many years ago when
I saw it. Now it seems to be a very different product
doing advanced statistics and algebra. I'd be tempted
to look at it if I needed all this new stuff. $300
(They have a no questions asked return policy so
you might give it a shot and see if it suits it; most
other products also have crippled or time limited 
demo versions, too. Don't buy something you don't know
for sure you will like). 

PlotIt from Scientific Programming Enterprises is another
tool I've seen many people use. IMHO, not particularly
capable and graphics output is not quite professional.
Something like $300 again (looks like you will be hard 
pressed to find something less expensive than that). 

I am sure there are many other similar programs I've 
never heard of, as well as that Unix/Linux army 
undoubtedly has a zillion of graphing packages, most
of them free. The trick is to find one that really
suits your needs.

Good luck!

        - Dima

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