First, I want to say upfront that this question need not dissolve into arguments and discussion. This question can and should have a correct answer, please don't respond with your opinions.

GNUplot is very pervasive in Physics research. Many of the plots appearing in things like PRL and JPB are made in GNUplot. Why is this the case. There are much more modern tools for doing these types of graphs, and from my uninformed position, it appears that this would be easier.

One obvious and relevant first point to make is that GNUplot is free and opensource. I respect this, but do not expect that this is the primary reason.

I am hoping for answers that specify what GNUplot can do that can be achieved in other programs efficiently, say Mathematica. If there are none of these, and the reason is simply tradition/resistance to change, that is also fine, but I expect there must be some specific tasks one wishes to perform.


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    $\begingroup$ I have to disagree that this question should have a correct answer that is separate from people's opinions. It might, but I have my doubts. I'll wait and see what happens. $\endgroup$
    – David Z
    Nov 3, 2010 at 7:18
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    $\begingroup$ Your premise is inaccurate in my experience. Of the many physics students and faculty I know, from different universities, I have never met one who uses Gnuplot, except me (but not anymore.) Matlab, Origin, and even Excel are much more prevalent. I also see far more publications with graphs that obviously come from Matlab than Gnuplot. $\endgroup$
    – ptomato
    Nov 3, 2010 at 8:55
  • $\begingroup$ Also, Matplotlib is also free and open source, but not very popular. $\endgroup$
    – ptomato
    Nov 3, 2010 at 8:56
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    $\begingroup$ Voting to close. Not only is this off topic, it's not a physics-related question. It's going to cause an argument. Let's just not go there! $\endgroup$ Nov 3, 2010 at 10:26
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    $\begingroup$ 1. Its good software 2. For historical reasons :) $\endgroup$ Nov 3, 2010 at 12:21

1 Answer 1


I agree with David and his disagreement.

My experience and personal opinion is that GNUPlot is simpler and quicker for the real time analysis and then u already have the graph in gnuplot.. why would u bother to change it ;)

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    $\begingroup$ I also agree with David here. Besides, gnuplot is indeed a simple, quick, and highly versatile tool. For most uses it can't be beaten really. $\endgroup$
    – Noldorin
    Nov 3, 2010 at 10:48
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    $\begingroup$ And it can be scripted nicely. The output can be TeX as well so you can incorporate is easily in papers... $\endgroup$
    – BandGap
    Mar 11, 2011 at 11:52

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