Gnuplot in Action
Understanding Data with Graphs
Second edition of this book is now available
Philipp K. Janert

August 2009 | 396 pages | B&W with 4-color insert
ISBN: 1933988398

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Statistical data is only as valuable as your ability to analyze, interpret, and present it in a meaningful way. Gnuplot is the most widely used program to plot and visualize data for Unix/Linux systems and it is also popular for Windows and the Mac. It's open-source (as in free!), actively maintained, stable, and mature. It can deal with arbitrarily large data sets and is capable of producing high-quality, publication-ready graphics.

So far, the only comprehensive documentation available about gnuplot is the online reference documentation, which makes it both hard to get started and almost impossible to get a complete overview over all of its features. If you've never tried gnuplot—or have found it tough to get your arms around—read on.

Gnuplot in Action is the first comprehensive introduction to gnuplot—from the basics to the power features and beyond. Besides providing a tutorial on gnuplot itself, it demonstrates how to apply and use gnuplot to extract intelligence from data. Particular attention is paid to tricky or poorly-explained areas. You will learn how to apply gnuplot to actual data analysis problems. This book looks at different types of graphs that can be generated with gnuplot and will discuss when and how to use them to extract actual information from data.

One of gnuplot's main advantages is that it requires no programming skills nor knowledge of advanced mathematical or statistical concepts. Gnuplot in Action assumes you have no previous knowledge of either gnuplot or statistics and data analysis. The books starts out with basic gnuplot concepts, then describes in depth how to get a graph ready for final presentation and to make it look "just right" by including arrows, labels, and other decorations.

Next the book looks at advanced concepts, such as multi-dimensional graphs and false-color plots—powerful features for special purposes. The author also describes advanced applications of gnuplot, such as how to script gnuplot so that it can run unattended as a batch job, and how to call gnuplot from within a CGI script to generate graphics for dynamic websites on demand.

Gnuplot in Action makes gnuplot easy for anyone who needs to do data analysis, but doesn't have an education in analytical tools and methods. It's perfect for DBAs, programmers, and performance engineers; business analysts and MBAs; and Six-Sigma Black Belts and process engineers.


About the Author

Philipp K. Janert is Chief Consultant at Principal Value, LLC. He has been a gnuplot user for more than 15 years and regards it as one of the indispensable tools in his toolbox. He has worked for small start-ups and in large corporate environments, both in the US and overseas, including several years at, where he initiated and led several projects to improve Amazon's order fulfillment processes. Philipp K. Janert has written about software and software development for the O'Reilly Network, IBM developerWorks, IEEE Software, and Linux Magazine. He holds a Ph.D. in Theoretical Physics from the University of Washington. Visit his website at


“I know there is a lot of information on the Internet about gnuplot. Most of it confusing, outdated, links broken, and scattered. Gnuplot saved me several days and gave me a permanent reference guide. For such a small price you get big returns on your time.”
—Thomas Rendleman, Administrator, CreditSavingsProgram.Com

“The writing style is clear and easy to follow, and the examples are practical and cover most of the tasks encountered in typical gnuplot use...Seasoned users can rely on this book as a reference, while novices should read it from cover to cover.”
Radu State, Computing Reviews

“If you're interested in making the best out of gnuplot, this book is a must have.”
—Antonio Cangiano, Math-Blog

“...Everyone who needs a deep understanding of this great tool should have this book for handy reference.”
Danny Baggio, Blogger

“I recommend this book to anyone who wants to make the most of gnuplot...”
—Noel O'Boyle, Noel O'Blog