Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Scientific plotting with Veusz

If you pay any attention to this blog, you'll know that plotting my day-to-day investigations is done with gnuplot, for which I previously provided a few pro-tips. When it comes to producing plots for papers and presentations, I find gnuplot a bit too clunky. Enter Veusz, a python-based graphical plotting program that is remarkably versatile. It's also written by Jeremy Sanders, currently just a few doors down from my office. He previously wrote a guest post on AstroBetter about it.

The GUI intuitive and powerful. It's easy to make detailed and elegant plots quickly. And there technical benefits too. First, the python-basis means the program runs on just about any platform. Second, it can read a wide range of formats, including fits, the astronomical workhorse. I personally just have space-delimited ASCII, which is dead-easy to work with. Third, Veusz's own scripts are just python batch files, so you can edit them directly. I found this really useful for batch-editing all the figures in my thesis, say, when I wanted to modify the margins of the figures in a uniform way. Finally, and I think most importantly, Veusz is able to export to a wide range of image formats. For paper submissions, there's eps. For internal documents, like a thesis, there's pdf. For presentations, there's png. Many more are supported.

If you don't usually work an environment with a natural plotting capability (e.g. IDL, MATLAB) or you want to making something more detailed without much effort, I highly recommend Veusz. I personally use it for all my publication and presentation plotting.

Examples of my own plots made with Veusz. Left: evolution of a black hole inside a Bondi-type quasi-star. Right: topology of the homologous Lane-Emden equation for six values of the polytropic index n.