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Dataplot GUI: Getting Started

Initiating the Dataplot GUI On Unix systems, the Dataplot GUI is typically initiated by entering the command
    xdataplot or
instead of "dataplot". Check with your local installer if this does not work. When you enter this command, you may see a few messages about certain software not being found. This is simply the Dataplot GUI checking for the availability of certain software, and does not necessarily indicate a problem.

On PC Windows platforms, the Dataplot GUI is initiated via a shortcut to the C:\DATAPLOT\DP.BAT file. The details of this are given in the installation instructions.

Upon initiating the Dataplot GUI, you should see a screen like the following:
snapshot of the Dataplot GUI upon startup
Windows in the Dataplot GUI There are six parts to the Dataplot GUI screen:
  1. The top two rows contain the menus. You select a menu item by clicking the left mouse button on it.
  2. The window in the upper left corner beneath the main menu items is the text output window. This is where the Dataplot alphanumeric output is stored. This is a scrollable window, so you can scroll back to view any output that went by too fast. It is also stored in pages. You click the left mouse button on the "<<" and ">>" boxes to flip through the pages.
  3. The window labeled "Command History" shows the Dataplot commands entered. The Dataplot GUI in fact generates commands that are sent to the command line interface. These generated commands are shown in this window along with any commands you might enter manually.
  4. The window labeled "Graphics Output" is where the graphics output from plots is generated. The Dataplot GUI automatically enters the appropriate DEVICE 1 command for the given platform to create the content for this window.
  5. The window labeled "Spreadsheet" is a data sheet. This can be used to enter data in a spreadsheet fashion. Data can also be read in from ASCII text files.
  6. The window labeled "Command Line" can be used to enter Dataplot line mode commands. This allows the Dataplot GUI to effortlessly mix the menu and command line interfaces.
As an example, the following screen shows the menus for reading one of Dataplot's internal data files.
Snapshot of the Dataplot GUI
As an additional example, the following screen shows the basic plot menu.
Snapshot of the Dataplot Plot Menu
The following screen shows the results of the plot menu.
Snapshot of the results of the Dataplot Plot Menu
Reading Data into the Dataplot GUI Typically, the first issue in using the Dataplot GUI is "How do I get my data into the GUI"?

If your initial interest is in simply experimenting with the Dataplot GUI, then you can load one of the built-in data sets. Select the "Files/Data" menu. There will be a section titled "Dataplot datasets". Select the "Open (READ/LOAD)" menu. This menu divides the available data sets into a number of common categoreis. Select a category of interest and then select one of the data sets. The Dataplot GUI will then issue the appropriate Dataplot commands to read the file.

You have a few options for reading your own data into the Dataplot GUI.

  • You can enter data directly into the data spreadsheet. This is a reasonable approach for entering a small amount of data.

  • You can create a variable with a small number of data points by going to the command line and entering

      LET Y = DATA <list of data values, separated by at least one space>

  • You can read data from an external ASCII file using the "Files/Data" menu. See the next section for a more complete discussion of the common issues in regard to reading ASCII files.

    To read ASCII files, select the "Files/Data" menu. There is a section labeled "User files". Select the "Open (READ/LOAD)" menu in this section. This brings up the menu to read the data file. This menu prompts you for the following:

    • "User file:". This is the name of the file. Clicking on the "..." at the right of the input box will bring up a "file browser".

    • Next, you can enter the list of variable names. Variable names can be up to eight characters long (start with an alphabetic character, alphabetic and numeric characters permitted) and variable names should be separated by at least one space (not commas).

    • If your data file has descriptive text in the beginning lines, then you can enter a value for "Number of header lines to skip:" to skip over these lines.

    • The type of read can be either "each column => distinct variable" or "serial read". If your data is in the form where each column represents a variable (and each row represents an observation), then use the "each column" choice (this is the default and is the usual case). The "serial read" option is used when the variables are stored across a row (this is sometimes used for a single variable where multiple values of the variable are stored on a single line).

    • You can specify a Fortran like format for the data. This can speed up the read significantly if your data has a consistent format. I would generally omit this when you are first learning Dataplot. It can be helpful later when you have larger data files.

    • You can generally ignore the "Subset" specification.
Issues Regarding Data Files in Dataplot The following are some issues regarding files in Dataplot.
  1. The length of file names, including the path (or directory) name, is limited to 80 characters.

  2. If your file name contains spaces or hyphens, then you need to enclose the file name in double quotes ("). The ability to enclose file names in quotes was introduced in the 7/2002 version of Dataplot.

  3. Currently, Dataplot expects ASCII files. In general, Dataplot assumes a rectangular layout with columns being variables and rows being observations. Also, Dataplot only reads numeric data (enter HELP READ ROW LABELS for details on one exception).

    Dataplot does provide commands for skipping header lines and for restricting which rows and columns are read.

    Dataplot does support format specification. This can significantly speed up reading larger data files and it can allow you to skip over alphabetic variables. However, this does require that your data be in a consistent format.

    Dataplot currently does not read Excel (or other spreadsheet) formats. We are investigating adding the capability for this, but for now you need to write an ASCII file (using either space or comma delimited text files) from Excel.

  4. Although the data spreadsheet window is convenient, it can impose significant overhead. We recommend that you click the "No Update" button on the spreadsheet before reading large data files. The definition of large will depend somewhat on how fast your computer is, but a good starting point is check the "No Update" if you anticipate reading more than 1,000 rows of data. This issue is discussed in detail in the Performance Issues web page.
Note: a detailed description of various issues in reading ASCII files is given on the ASCII files page.

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Date created: 09/20/2001
Last updated: 09/17/2021

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