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Could you please recommend me software for drawing plots? I need something like the Grapher application that is included with Mac OS X but with these functions:

  1. Axis naming
  2. Error bars
  3. Advanced working with input datasets(I need to plot data from physics labs)

For reference by default Grapher is installed in /Applications/Utilities/

Grapher Icon

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Where are the plots going to go? Are you just looking to visualize things for your own learning (so interactivity is more important than archive or interoperability with publishing) –  bmike Sep 19 '11 at 17:36
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4 Answers

It's tough to tell precisely what you're after. Perhaps you could give an example of what you're looking for.

My first response is to recommend that you look into R http://www.r-project.org/ and some of the GUIs based on it. It's quickly becoming a standard in any field requiring statistical analysis, from quantitative finance, to medicine, to social sciences.

It has a hideous programming language but a huge package archive http://cran.r-project.org/. I would recommend poking around the statistics stack exchange site for pointers, but some notable GUIs include RapidMiner (http://rapid-i.com/content/view/181/190/), RStudio (New and just getting out of the gate, so don't expect a lot right now http://www.rstudio.org/), Red-R (http://www.red-r.org/), R Commander (http://socserv.mcmaster.ca/jfox/Misc/Rcmdr/), and Rattle (http://rattle.togaware.com/). R is also integrated in SAGE, with which you may already be familiar. One huge benefit of R is Sweave, which allows integration with LaTeX, so your papers can render your data and publication at the same time.

If you just want a graphing solution, WaveMetrics IGOR (http://www.wavemetrics.com/) is probably the best bet. It's available on Windows and Mac OS so you can share files with other people fairly easily.

KaleidaGraph (http://www.synergy.com/) and pro Fit (http://www.quansoft.com/) are notable options as well.

One of the secrets you'll find out when hanging out on various visualization forums, especially Edward Tufte's (http://www.edwardtufte.com/bboard/q-and-a?topic_id=1), is that a large number of the published graphs (especially his) often start in Excel and are exported to be manipulated in Adobe Illustrator. You may have a graph in mind that comes from this pipeline, which has a large manual effort but a magnificent potential output. I've also done similar with Mathematica (my tool of choice) when needing print-quality output.

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I'd agree with this answer. Start with something like R (or Excel if you must), and then bring in the graph saved in a vector format into something like Illustrator or InkScape for polishing. –  Fomite Sep 19 '11 at 20:40
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I would say use Mathematica or gnu plot (mac port - link below). GNU Plot is very popular and I'm pretty sure you'd be quite happy with it.

http://lee-phillips.org/info/Macintosh/gnuplot.html

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You should have a look at gnuplot which is massively used in scientific publishing.

Not just a plotting/drawing app but with a lot of capabilities in that area, you have Mathematica.

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Solution for me is ROOT http://root.cern.ch/

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