better charts than Excel?
December 29, 2005 5:16 PM   Subscribe

Free Windows chart-making software that works with simple tab-separated data files and beats Excel's charts for options, esthetics, and readability?
posted by scarabic to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Probably marginally helpful and not quite what you're looking for, I guess, but who knows: but there was once a product from Metacreations (the folks who did those wacky-interface things like Kai's Power Tools and such) called Office Advantage. It may even have been free, because I remember using it for a long time, back in 2000ish. It was a plugin for Excel and Powerpoint, and man, it let you do some great things with graphs (amongst other aesthetic stuff). It was bought by some other company when Metacreations died, and has since been taken off the market, I think.

Worth a play if you can still find a copy.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:43 PM on December 29, 2005

Ooh yeah baby. That's what I'm talking about.

Can't seem to find a current version, though.
posted by scarabic at 6:20 PM on December 29, 2005

Email me at my user name at, scarabic, if you come up empty.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:24 PM on December 29, 2005

They're firmly in the camp of simple-but-clear instead of glitzy-from-many-angles, but gnuplot and R will both generate basically publication-quality graphs. Both are command-line driven and not terribly user friendly. gnuplot just does graphs, R is a complete statistical package. Both are free.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:47 PM on December 29, 2005

R is easier to use than Gnuplot in my opinion. Still quite a learning curve to start with though. Any library book on S (the statistical programming language - been around for ever) is good for R as well by the way.
posted by singingfish at 3:16 AM on December 30, 2005

I second gnuplot, not incredibly easy to use at first, but once you get the hang of it you have a high degree of control over what the final output will look like.
posted by jduckles at 6:03 AM on December 30, 2005

R does produce nice graphs indeed. I've had no trouble getting them published. Learning R just for graphing may be a bit much though. R is a stat/math language (a free implementation of s-lang), similar in complexity to say, Ruby or Perl.

We use SigmaPlot for most of our publications though. While a bit of a bear to use, it produces the most excellent results.
posted by bonehead at 7:21 AM on December 30, 2005

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