General Purpose Scientific Plotting/Graphing Software for Windows

I am looking for a qualified volunteer to take over the updating and maintenance of this web site. Since I created this site, I have changed the focus of my work and I no longer use scientific plotting software. (And I'm maintaining too many other websites!) I am looking for someone who has experience with website maintanance and, more importantly, who is actively using scientific plotting software, preferably more than one package. You must provide your own web server (I'll put a link to the new site here). You must be completely independent -- having no affiliation or conflict of interest regarding any vendor of plotting software. This is a long-term (indefinite) commitment. There is no other equivalent web site in existence to my knowledge (Dylan Bulseco having taken down his truly excellent one, and seeming to have no immediate plans to reestablish it). This site has been consistently visited by about 100 people per week since it was created.

-Eric Martz, October 26, 1997

This site is provided by Eric Martz of the Department of Microbiology in the College of Food and Natural Resources using a server provided by the Office of Information Technologies of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

This site was created early in 1996 and is in its infancy. As you will see, I am depending on colleagues to contribute information and opinions to make the site more useful. Please contribute! Send contributions to

This site is provided to help professional scientists and students find the available general purpose scientific data plotting software for Windows, published reviews of such software, and to help in choosing which package to purchase. It is limited to software packages which have extensive specialized scientific capabilities, such as error bars, axis breaks, exponential ("log") axes, and fitting of data to nonlinear equations which may be specified by the user. This is why you will not see here popular presentation packages or spreadsheet packages which have limited plotting capabilities. This site is also limited to general purpose scientific plotting software, so there are many packages designed for specialized scientific applications which are not included here. Finally, I have also excluded programming libraries and tools designed for building graphics packages -- this site is limited to completed packages ready for the end-user. Please direct corrections and additions to

Packages for the Macintosh are beyond the scope of this site. I hope someone else will create a web site for general purpose scientific plotting software for the Mac, in which case I'd like to link it here. I know of none at the present time.

BULLETIN:Dylan Bulseco moved and his site was discontinued early in 1997. Unfortunately, he evidently has no immediate plans to reestablish his excellent site. If you would like to see his site reestablished, contact Dr. Bulseco at the Worcester Foundation for Biological Research.

The only other site I know about with a similar purpose is the excellent Data Analysis in Windows [SITE DISCONTINUED] site by Dylan Bulseco at Oregon State University, highly recommended. If you find others, please inform me so we can provide mutual links.

I would be happy to include shareware or freeware packages. Unfortunately, the ones I've evaluated are cumbersome to use, full of bugs, and simply not competitive with the commercial packages listed below. If you have one to recommend from personal experience, please inform me about it! I'm 100% in favor of freeware and shareware -- my favorites are RasMol for molecular visualization and WinMDI for flow cytometry, and I've written a fairly extensive freeware package MFI also for flow cytometry. However, these are not general purpose data plotting software.


Listing of General Purpose Scientific Plotting Software Packages for Windows

above for Macintosh info.

Packages are listed alphabetically by package name. I have done my best to make this information accurate and up to date, but its accuracy is not guaranteed. Please check with the individual vendors for current capabilities, pricing and policies. Geographic locations are given to indicate the time zone for telephone calls.

The term "demo" below indicates a full-featured version of the program with which the user can create graphs from their own data. Typically, demo versions do not allow work to be saved to disk (indicated below as "omits saves"). If the only "demo" software offered by a vendor simply plays a canned show, but does not allow the user to test-drive the actual program, this will be designated below as "no demo". Communicate corrections and additions to

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Published Reviews

Reviews are listed most recent first. Only reviews which include detailed test results or compare two or more packages will be included here. Product announcements and "Reviews" which simply reiterate the program's capabilities, or make recommendations without documented in-depth critical evaluation will not be listed. If you wish to have a review added to this list, please snail-mail a paper copy of the complete review to Eric Martz, Dept. Microbiology, Univ. Massachusetts, Amherst MA 01003-5720. Be sure the copy includes the complete publication reference.

Axum, Mathematica, Matlab, Origin, Prism, SigmaPlot, S-Plus, SPSS, Statistica, Statgraphics Plus, Statview, Systat. "Scientists have many choices for math, stat, and graphing software" by Robert Finn, The Scientist November 25, 1996, pages 18-19. This is worth a look because it quotes extensively from users of software as well as vendors; hence, it gives an overview. It provides neither in-depth review nor testing, nor (unfortunately) contact information (so search the web for the vendors not linked here).

Axum 4.1, Deltagraph 3.5, Grapher 1.30, Surfer 6.04, Prism 2.0, Harvard Chart XL 2.0, Kaleida Graph 3.06, Origin 4.0, PlotIT 3.2, PsiPlot 4.55, SigmaPlot 3.02. "Data on display: Windows graphing programs" by Barry Simon, Desktop Engineering 2(Issue 1, September 1966):18-39. This extensive review has great depth and is must-reading for anyone planning to purchase. Extensive comments are provided for each package, and a two-page table compares prices and features. Benchmark tests were run. Related types of software (statistics, data visualization, geographic mapping, mathematical) are listed but not reviewed. The author concludes

    "When it comes to choosing the program that will best meet the needs of the bulk of the scientific and engineering users, it isn't close: it's SigmaPlot by a mile. The program's intelligent use of tabbed dialogs, context menus, and wizards makes for an interface that is easy and pleasant to use. Its notebooks help in organizing projects, and its use of OLE means you can easily use SigmaPlot graphs in Word or PowerPoint. ...the program has considerable power to customize graphs in effective ways."
Two products earned honorable mention. Surfer for its eye-popping 3D output, and Kaleida Graph for those on a tight budget.

Axum 4.0, Origin 3.5 "Technical graphics and data analysis for Windows PCs" by Eric Adler, Scientific Computing World June 1995, p. 23. This review has considerable depth and is well worth reading. Here are some quotes: "Is it reasonable to expect a package intended to be used by laboratory-based physicists to be as easy to use as a package intended for use by other, less technically proficient, professionals?" "If the aim was to make a recommendation for general academic use or for desk top publishing, I would recommend Axum 4.0 [over Origin 3.5]. However, where the likely environment is a laboratory, maybe with data being generated in real time, and the aim is data acquisition in addition to full technical analysis, then the choice could well go the other way."

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Opinions & Personal Experiences

The opinions expressed here are solely those of their authors, who are entirely responsible for their contents. These opinions are not endorsed by Eric Martz (except for his own opinion!), nor by the University of Massachusetts, nor by the institutions with which the authors are affiliated. The institutions are given for purposes of identification only. This site is only for independent user opinions from persons not affiliated in any way with any company selling scientific plotting/graphing software. Submit opinions to Let's hear from you!

Dylan Bulseco recommends Prism or Origin after thoroughly reviewing a group including SigmaPlot, Scientist, DeltaGraph, and PSI-Plot. March, 1996.

Axum preferred to Sigma Plot or PSI-Plot by Howard Evans, February, 1996.

Origin preferred to Slidewrite by Stephen Yip, February, 1996.

A vote for Prism after a comparison of four packages, by Eric Martz, Ph.D. January, 1996.

SlideWrite preferred to Prism by Benny Leshem, Ph.D. February, 1996.

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