7 best free plotting software for 3D and 2D

Tashreef Shareef
by Tashreef Shareef
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  • Using a good graph software can make a big difference in how much impact your work has on the viewers.
  • In this article, we will explore which are the best 2D and 3D software you can use, so keep reading.
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Whether you want to plot a graph for academic and research publication or hypothesis testing, a quality graph will always leave a long-lasting impression and can make a huge difference in the impact it has on the viewers.

If you have plotted graphs before, you would already know how Microsoft Excel comes with a built-in graph option along with different types of charts to create a desired graph by highlighting data.

However, Microsoft Excel does lack on features when it comes to customization. Premium software like the Grapher and OriginPro offers a more sophisticated solution graph plotting along with tons of customization options.

But, if you don’t want to spend a fortune on software for graph plotting, there are a few open-source graph plotting software that are free to use and offer a decent set of features.

In this article, we take a look at the best free and paid software for Graph plotting that offers all the features you need to create stunning graphs in no time.

What are the best free and paid graph plotting software?

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Adobe Illustrator

If you are looking for the best software for 2D and 3D graph plotting, then Adobe Illustrator is what you are looking for.

Moreover, as this is a vector-based design software, your artwork will look just as great on a mobile screen as it looks on PC.

The tool offers a multitude of features that allows you to create amazing art from simple shapes and colors.

With Adobe Illustrator you can create effects and edit all the individual characters in an original way, that will make everyone admire your work.

Moreover, you can access your work from everywhere, as it will be stored in the Cloud and it will always be up to date.

You can read even more about Adobe Illustrator in this article.

Adobe Illustrator

Adobe Illustrator

Creat your best beautiful graphics and illustrations with this amazing tool. Customize it and bring your artwork to the next level!
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Plot.ly

Plotly is a modern cloud-based graph plotting solution that allows you to create, save, and publish graphs online.

The saved graphs can also be downloaded to your computer for offline use in multiple formats.

Plotly is free to use and get started. To save the graphs, you need to create a free account.

Apart from the graphs, Plotly also offers tools to create charts, dashboards, and data sets.

The user interface is intuitive, and the design language looks like some of the popular spreadsheets’ app but with more features on offer.

Creating charts, dashboards, SQL query and Folder is easy. Simply click on the Create button and select the project type.

In the work area (editor) you can change the structure to Subplots from Traces, change the theme, style for traces, axes, legend, annotation shapes and image and analysis enables you  manage curve fitting and moving average.

You can add as many traces as you want and later change the traces type to create graphs with given data.

Your saved projects can be shared online with a sharing link or download to your local hard drive in multiple formats including image and spreadsheet formats.

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Zoho Analytics

Zoho Analytics (formerly known as Zoho Reports) is a could-based business and reporting solution targeted at sale managers, analysts, consultants, CXOs, and other individuals looking for a reporting solution.

The user interface feels familiar if you have worked with spreadsheets already with options for data addition, analysis, and reporting making it easy to get started for everyone.

Zoho allows the users to create different types of charts including heat map charts, combination charts, area charts, funnel, etc.

For plotting, you can begin with a Scatter chart which is also one of the commonly used charts for plotting and comparing scientific and engineering data.

Zoho Analytics is an all-in-one solution for analytics report creation and data analysis. As a result, it comes with more than just plotting features.

Other notable features of Zoho Analytics include the ability to create a beautiful dashboard for bringing multiple reports into a single dashboard.

Zoho Analytics is a premium solution and one of the most recommended tools for reporting and analytics use.

You can create a free account and use the software to understand if it can meet your requirement before making any commitment.

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Gnuplot

Gnuplot

Gnuplot is not new to the world of graph plotting. It is one of the most popular open-source software that has been made available free for users.

Unlike the previously listed software, Gnuplot requires you to use commands to create graphs.

It is a complete command-line based tool, so you need to know your way around basic programming to get it working.

It is a cross-platform software and supports Windows, macOS, and Linux. The core function of Gnuplot is to visualize the mathematical data and functions.

However, over the years the software has gone through reforms to accept scientific data in both 2D and 3D plots.

Even for intermediate users who have never used a command-line graph plotting tool, the vast collection of resources will make it easy to get started with the tool and start creating a visual representation of complex data.

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Matplotlib

matplotlib

Scientists who are looking for a  free tool to visualize their data in graphs, Matplotlib is an excellent piece of open-source software.

It is a free tool but suffers from the same challenges as Gnuplot.

Matplotlib is a 2D Python library for graph plotting and requires the user to use Python script on computer or web applications.

The user interface of Matplotlib is identical to Matlab except that it is not a GUI based tool.

Matlab uses a module named pyplot that provides features to control line styles, formatting axes, etc for plotting.

Compared to Gnuplot, Matplotlib only works with Python which is not the case with Gnuplot.

However, on the plus side, the end result of Matplotlib requires less finishing touchup and comes out in ready-to-use shape.

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R

R graph plotting tool

R is a programming language and a free software environment for statistical computing and graphics.

The tool is widely used by scientists and engineers working with an enormous amount of data.

While Gnuplot can be used with any language and Matplotlib requires Python to work, R requires you to learn R, the programming language to make it work.

R offers a wide range of graph types including box plot, histogram, density curve, scatter plot, line plot, etc, in both 3D and 2D formats allowing the users to display the data visually.

However, the end result may require some retouching to make the graphs look more polished.

R is a powerful programming language and an ideal solution for statistical computing and data analysis on Windows, macOS, and Linux running computers.

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Veusz

Veusz

Veusz is another popular tool for scientific plotting and graphics with support for both 2D and 3D plots.

It is a free and open source software and compatible with Windows, macOS and Linux computers.

Veusz can be used as a module in Python for plotting. The output feature of the tool including vector and bitmap output including PDF, Postscript, SVG and EMF.

In addition, the user can export data from text, CSV, HFS and FITS files.

You can manipulate the existing data sets to create new data sets using mathematical expressions.

It also supports third-party plugins to extend the features including the ability to import new data formats and task automation.

Some of the 2D plotting features include the ability to create X-Y plots with error bars, colours and sizes, Live and function plots, Images with colour mappings and colour bars, stepped plots, bar graphs etc.

And 3D plotting features include the ability to create 3D point plots, surface plots from data, function line plots, 3D axes etc.

Other notable features in the software are data picker, interactive tutorial and multithreaded rendering.

Veusz is a GUI based tool, hence easier to use and learn. For new users can benefit from the vast collection of tutorials.

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If none of the above tools meets your requirement, try more premium and dedicated graph plotting software like Grapher, Matlab, SigmaPlot, and Origin.

These are commercial software and are not cheap. That being said, they are being used by some of the leading companies in the data analytics section.

It is important to have a graph plotting software to create stunning and information 2D and 3D graphs so that you can present complex analytics data in a better and simplified way.

Have you used any of these graphs plotting software before? Do let us know your experience and recommendations in the comments below.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in February 2019 and has been since revamped and updated in September 2020 for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published in February 2019 and was revamped and updated in October 2020 for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.