Software for Graphics and Data Analysis

Copyright 1995-2004 by S. Baum

As the data we collect from high-bandwidth instruments (e.g. sensors on satellites) and the output we obtain from high resolution numerical simulations threaten to overwhelm us with gigabytes of numbers devoid of meaning, we must develop and use data analysis and graphing tools as complicated as, if not more so, those used to produce the numbers. Fortunately, for the folks who need to use such tools and don't have a year or so to spare designing and building one, there are quite a few of these tools freely available on the Web. Some are the finished products of research groups (or, in some cases, individuals), and some are continually being developed and welcome user input for improvements or additions.

I've collected these tools and list them below in in three broad categories which (inevitably) overlap to some extent. The first group contains links to software that is chiefly designed for graphing 2-D (and less often but moreso all the time 3-D) data. These range from the simplest (in concept and design) packages for quickly drawing 2-D graphs to systems for creating 3-D graphs with animation, ray-tracing, texture-mapping, and various other capabilities. As you might expect, the more complicated the package gets the more onerous are the hardware requirements. Most of the packages also contain simple data handling capabilities such as multiplying the data being plotted by a constant, although that is not their main purpose.

The second group features software that is largely concerned with number crunching tasks, especially the manipulation of large and multi-dimensional matrices. These usually feature some sort of native interpreted language that allows a complicated series of mathematical operations such as matrix inversion, multiplication, and the like to be performed on one's data using a job script. Some also feature graphics capabilities but, at least as far as I can tell, that is not their primary function.

The third group consists of software for storing various types of data in a standard and/or compressed format so we don't spend too much of our lives converting data from one obscure format to another. These are usually libraries of functions that are called from the programs we use to create or read the original data. Initially these can be a bit of a pain to use, but in the long-term the consistency and parsimony of storage as well as the portability of our data sets make these well worth the effort.

I'll stick mainly to describing the packages in their own words, reserving any editorial comments for the software I've actually had the pleasure to use enough to form an opinion. I'll also mention analogous commercial packages where it seems appropriate and supply an additional listing of those I deem needing more than a passing mention. This is going to be overwhelmingly (i.e. totally, completely, utterly, etc.) biased towards packages that will run in UNIX workstation environments, with a not-so-subtle additional bias (at least in the way of reviews) towards those that will run on Linux platforms.

Please send me email if you have any suggestions for corrections or additions to this list. There's always room for one more here. I'd also appreciate immediate notification of any dead links. Also, do not ask me to assist in installing any of the following software. Any request for this type of help will most likely be ignored. There's just no way I can serve as a consultant, free or otherwise, for over a hundred different software packages. The packages or package sites usually contain information on how to contact the author(s). Contact them. They wrote the software; I just use some of it. Consider this site beerware: if you ever meet me, then you owe me one.

You can search for packages via the categories listed below.

Note: I have no plans to update any of the following sections. Consider them as nothing more than historical snapshots of rapidly evolving fields.

I've added some new sections that fit in sort of sideways with the above. There's a new section that describes various symbolic algebra/mathematics/etc. packages and another that details various freely available GUI builders, i.e. packages that let you develop graphical user interfaces to your programs/packages/systems. The symbolic math section doesn't really fit in with the number crunching etc. software, nor the does GUI section fit in with the graphics section, but they're not unrelated and as such have been given separate sections. Other new sections (well, new to this page) are a page I've developed concerning software and information pertaining to wavelets, which are turning out to be quite useful in many data analysis applications, and a page on general spectral analysis software and documents.

This document is freely reproducible for educational, i.e. nonprofit, purposes in which context copies can be made provided that, at the very least, the author is credited and a link to the home site is maintained. This may not be reproduced for any other purpose without prior arrangements having been made with the author.

Contents copyrighted 1995-2004 by S. Baum. Any non-profit use of this page is allowed and, indeed, encouraged as long as it is used in unmodified form, including this message and the name of the original author.

Last checked or updated on Mar. 23, 2004, just a few blue moons since the previous update on Oct. 5, 1998.

S. Baum
Dept. of Oceanography
Texas A&M University