Science and technology

Using Python and GNU Octave to plot knowledge

Data science is a website of data that spans programming languages. Some are well-known for fixing issues on this area, whereas others are lesser-known. This article will allow you to change into acquainted with doing knowledge science with some widespread languages.

Choosing Python and GNU Octave for knowledge science

Every so usually, I attempt to be taught a brand new programming language. Why? It is generally a mix of boredom with the outdated methods and curiosity in regards to the new methods. When I began programming, the one language I knew was C. Life was exhausting and harmful in these years, as I needed to manually allocate reminiscence, handle pointers, and bear in mind to free reminiscence.

Then a pal urged I attempt Python, and life grew to become a lot simpler. Programs grew to become a lot slower, however I didn’t should endure by means of writing evaluation software program. However, I quickly realized that every language was extra appropriate than others for some functions. I later studied another languages, and every one introduced some new little bit of enlightenment. Discovering new programming kinds let me backport some options to different languages, and all the things grew to become way more attention-grabbing.

To get a sense for a brand new programming language (and its documentation), I all the time begin by writing some instance applications that carry out a process I do know effectively. To that ends, I’ll clarify write a program in Python and GNU Octave for a specific process you would classify as knowledge science. If you’re already accustomed to one of many languages, begin with that one and undergo the others to look for similarities and variations. It will not be supposed to be an exhaustive comparability of the languages, just a bit showcase.

All of the applications are supposed to be run on the command line, not with a graphical user interface (GUI). The full examples can be found within the polyglot_fit repository.

The programming process

The program you’ll write on this collection:

  • Reads knowledge from a CSV file
  • Interpolates the info with a straight line (i.e., f(x)=m ⋅ x + q)
  • Plots the consequence to a picture file

This is a standard scenario that many knowledge scientists have encountered. The instance knowledge is the primary set of Anscombe’s quartet, proven within the desk under. This is a set of artificially constructed knowledge that offers the identical outcomes when fitted with a straight line, however their plots are very completely different. The knowledge file is a textual content file with tabs as column separators and some strains as a header. This process will use solely the primary set (i.e., the primary two columns).

Anscombe’s quartet

x y x y x y x y eight.04 9.14 7.46 6.58 6.95 eight.14 6.77 5.76 7.58 eight.74 12.74 7.71 eight.81 eight.77 7.11 eight.84 eight.33 9.26 7.81 eight.47 9.96 eight.10 eight.84 7.04 7.24 6.13 6.08 5.25 four.26 three.10 5.39 12.50 10.84 9.13 eight.15 5.56 four.82 7.26 6.42 7.91 5.68 four.74 5.73 6.89

The Python method

Python is a general-purpose programming language that’s among the many hottest languages in use as we speak (as evidenced by findings from the TIOBE index, RedMonk Programming Language Rankings, Popularity of Programming Language Index, State of the Octoverse of GitHub, and different sources). It is an interpreted language; subsequently, the supply code is learn and evaluated by a program that executes the directions. It has a complete standard library and is usually very nice to make use of (I’ve no reference for this final assertion; it’s simply my humble opinion).


To develop with Python, you want the interpreter and some libraries. The minimal necessities are:

  • NumPy for handy array and matrices manipulation
  • SciPy for scientific calculations
  • Matplotlib for plotting

Installing them in Fedora is straightforward:

sudo dnf set up python3 python3-numpy python3-scipy python3-matplotlib

In Python, comments are achieved by placing a # in the beginning of the road, and the remainder of the road might be discarded by the interpreter:

# This is a remark ignored by the interpreter.

The instance makes use of feedback to insert licensing info within the supply code, and the primary line is a special comment that permits the script to be executed on the command line:

#! /usr/bin/env python3

This line informs the command-line interpreter that the script must be executed by this system python3.

Required libraries

Libraries and modules might be imported in Python as an object (as within the first line within the instance) with all of the capabilities and members of the library. There is a handy choice to rename them with a customized label through the use of the as specification:

import numpy as np
from scipy import stats
import matplotlib.pyplot as plt

You might also resolve to import solely a submodule (as within the second and third strains). The syntax has two (roughly) equal choices: import module.submodule and from module import submodule.

Defining variables

Python’s variables are declared the primary time a worth is assigned to them:

input_file_name = "anscombe.csv"
delimiter = "t"
skip_header = three
column_x = zero
column_y = 1

The variable sorts are inferred by the worth that’s assigned to the variable. There aren’t any variables with fixed values except they’re declared in a module and might solely be learn. Idiomatically, variables that shouldn’t be modified must be named in uppercase.

Printing output

Running the applications by means of the command line implies that the output is simply printed on the terminal. Python has the print() perform that, by default, prints its argument and provides a newline on the finish of the output:

print("#### Anscombe's first set with Python ####")

It is feasible to mix the print() perform with the formatting power of the string class in Python. Strings have the format methodology that can be utilized so as to add some formatted textual content to the string itself. For occasion, it’s doable so as to add a formatted float quantity, e.g.:

print("Slope: ".format(slope))

Reading knowledge

Reading CSV information could be very straightforward with NumPy and the perform genfromtxt(), which generates a NumPy array:

knowledge = np.genfromtxt(input_file_name, delimiter = delimiter, skip_header = skip_header)

In Python, a perform can have a variable variety of arguments, and you’ll have it move a subset by specifying the specified ones. Arrays are very highly effective matrix-like objects that may be simply sliced into smaller arrays:

x = knowledge[:, column_x]
y = knowledge[:, column_y]

The colons choose the entire vary, and so they may also be used to pick a subrange. For occasion, to pick the primary two rows of the array, you’d use:

first_two_rows = knowledge[zero:1, :]

Fitting knowledge

SciPy gives handy capabilities for knowledge becoming, such because the linregress() perform. This perform gives some important values associated to the match, such because the slope, intercept, and the correlation coefficient of the 2 datasets:

slope, intercept, r_value, p_value, std_err = stats.linregress(x, y)

print("Slope: ".format(slope))
print("Intercept: ".format(intercept))
print("Correlation coefficient: ".format(r_value))

Since linregress() gives a number of items of data, the consequence might be saved to a number of variables on the identical time.


The Matplotlib library plots solely knowledge factors; subsequently, you need to outline the factors you wish to plot. The x and y arrays had been already outlined, so you’ll be able to instantly plot them, however you additionally want knowledge factors that may symbolize the straight line.

fit_x = np.linspace(x.min() - 1, x.max() + 1, 100)

The linspace() perform conveniently generates a set of equally spaced values between two values. The ordinates might be simply calculated by exploiting the highly effective NumPy arrays, which can be utilized in a method as in the event that they had been unusual numeric variables:

fit_y = slope * fit_x + intercept

The method is utilized element-by-element on the array; subsequently, the consequence has the identical variety of entries in the preliminary array.

To create the plot, first, outline a figure object that may include all of the graphics:

fig_width = 7 #inch
fig_height = fig_width / 16 * 9 #inch
fig_dpi = 100

fig = plt.determine(figsize = (fig_width, fig_height), dpi = fig_dpi)

Several plots might be drawn on a determine; in Matplotlib, the plots are referred to as axes. This instance defines a single axis object to plot the info factors:

ax = fig.add_subplot(111)

ax.plot(fit_x, fit_y, label = "Fit", linestyle = '-')
ax.plot(x, y, label = "Data", marker = '.', linestyle = '')

ax.set_xlim(min(x) - 1, max(x) + 1)
ax.set_ylim(min(y) - 1, max(y) + 1)

Save the determine to a PNG image file with:


If you wish to show (as an alternative of saving) the plot, name:


This instance references all of the objects used within the plotting part: it defines the article fig and the article ax. This technicality will not be obligatory, because the plt object can be used on to plot the datasets. The Matplotlib tutorial reveals an interface comparable to:

plt.plot(fit_x, fit_y)

Frankly, I don’t like this strategy as a result of it hides the non-trivial interactions that occur between the assorted objects. Unfortunately, generally the official examples are a bit complicated as a result of they have a tendency to make use of completely different approaches. Referencing graphical objects will not be obligatory on this easy instance, but it surely turns into vital in additional complicated ones (comparable to when embedding plots in GUIs).


The output on the command line is:

#### Anscombe's first set with Python ####
Slope: zero.500091
Intercept: three.000091
Correlation coefficient: zero.816421

Here is the picture Matplotlib generates.

The GNU Octave method

The GNU Octave language is primarily supposed for numerical computations. It affords a easy syntax for manipulating vectors and matrices and has some highly effective plotting amenities. It is an interpreted language like Python. Since Octave’s syntax is mostly compatible with MATLAB, it’s usually described as a free various to MATLAB. Octave will not be listed among the many hottest programming languages, however MATLAB is, so Octave is somewhat widespread in a way. MATLAB predates NumPy, and I’ve the sensation that it was impressed by the previous. While you undergo the instance, you will note the analogies.


The fitting_octave.m instance solely wants the essential Octave bundle, making the set up in Fedora somewhat easy:

sudo dnf set up octave

In Octave, you’ll be able to add feedback to code with the p.c image (%), and it’s also possible to use # if MATLAB compatibility will not be wanted. The choice to make use of # permits you to write the identical particular remark line from the Python instance to execute the script instantly on the command line.

Necessary libraries

Everything used on this instance is contained within the fundamental bundle, so you do not want to load any new libraries. If you want a library, the syntax is pkg load module. This command provides the module’s capabilities to the listing of accessible capabilities. In this regard, Python has extra flexibility.

Defining variables

Variables are outlined with just about the identical syntax as Python:

input_file_name = "anscombe.csv";
delimiter = "t";
skip_header = three;
column_x = 1;
column_y = 2;

Note that the tip of the road has a semicolon; this isn’t obligatory, but it surely suppresses the output of the outcomes of the road. Without a semicolon, the interpreter would print the results of the expression:

octave:1> input_file_name = "anscombe.csv"
input_file_name = anscombe.csv
octave:2> sqrt(2)
ans =  1.4142

Printing output

The highly effective perform printf() is used to print on the terminal. Unlike in Python, the printf() perform doesn’t mechanically add a newline on the finish of the printed string, so you need to add it. The first argument is a string that may include format info for the opposite arguments to be handed to the perform, comparable to:

printf("Slope: %fn", slope);

In Python, the formatting is constructed into the string itself, however in Octave, it’s particular to the printf() perform.

Reading knowledge

The dlmread() perform can learn textual content information structured like CSV information:

knowledge = dlmread(input_file_name, delimiter, skip_header, zero);

The result’s a matrix object, which is likely one of the elementary knowledge sorts in Octave. Matrices could also be sliced with a syntax much like Python:

x = knowledge(:, column_x);
y = knowledge(:, column_y);

The elementary distinction is that the indexes begin at one as an alternative of zero. Therefore, within the instance, the

x column is column primary.

Fitting knowledge

To match the info with a straight line, you need to use the polyfit() perform. It matches the enter knowledge with a polynomial, so that you simply want to make use of a polynomial of order one:

p = polyfit(x, y, 1);

slope = p(1);
intercept = p(2);

The result’s a matrix with the polynomial coefficients; subsequently, it selects the primary two indexes. To decide the correlation coefficient, use the corr() perform:

r_value = corr(x, y);

Finally, print the outcomes with the printf() perform:

printf("Slope: %fn", slope);
printf("Intercept: %fn", intercept);
printf("Correlation coefficient: %fn", r_value);


As within the Matplotlib instance, you first have to create a dataset that represents the fitted line:

fit_x = linspace(min(x) - 1, max(x) + 1, 100);
fit_y = slope * fit_x + intercept;

The analogy with NumPy can be evident right here, because it makes use of the linspace() perform that behaves identical to the Python’s equal model.

Again, as with Matplotlib, create a figure object first, then create an axes object to carry the plots:

fig_width = 7; %inch
fig_height = fig_width / 16 * 9; %inch
fig_dpi = 100;

fig = determine("units", "inches",
             "position", [1, 1, fig_width, fig_height]);

ax = axes("parent", fig);

set(ax, "fontsize", 14);
set(ax, "linewidth", 2);

To set properties of the axes object, use the set() perform. The interface is somewhat complicated, although, because the perform expects a comma-separated listing of property and worth pairs. These pairs are only a succession of a string representing the property title and a second object representing the worth for that property. There are additionally different capabilities to set numerous properties:

xlim(ax, [min(x) - 1, max(x) + 1]);
ylim(ax, [min(y) - 1, max(y) + 1]);
xlabel(ax, 'x');
ylabel(ax, 'y');

Plotting is achieved with the plot() perform. The default habits is that every name resets the axes, so you might want to use the perform hold().

maintain(ax, "on");

plot(ax, fit_x, fit_y,
     "marker", "none",
     "linestyle", "-",
     "linewidth", 2);
plot(ax, x, y,
     "marker", ".",
     "markersize", 20,
     "linestyle", "none");

maintain(ax, "off");

Also, it’s doable within the plot() perform so as to add the property and worth pairs. The legend should be created individually, and the labels must be acknowledged manually:

lg = legend(ax, "Fit", "Data");
set(lg, "location", "northwest");

Finally, save the output to a PNG picture:

image_size = sprintf("-S%f,%f", fig_width * fig_dpi, fig_height * fig_dpi);
image_resolution = sprintf("-r%f,%f", fig_dpi);

print(fig, 'fit_octave.png',

Confusingly, on this case, the choices are handed as a single string with the property title and the worth. Since in Octave strings shouldn’t have the formatting amenities of Python, you need to use the sprintf() perform. It behaves identical to the printf() perform, however its consequence will not be printed, somewhat it’s returned as a string.

In this instance, as within the Python one, the graphical objects are referenced to maintain their interactions evident. If Python’s documentation on this regard is a bit bit complicated, Octave’s documentation is even worse. Most of the examples I discovered didn’t care about referencing the objects; as an alternative, they depend on the truth that the plotting instructions act on the at present energetic determine. A world root graphics object retains monitor of the prevailing figures and axes.


The ensuing output on the command line is:

#### Anscombe's first set with Octave ####
Slope: zero.500091
Intercept: three.000091
Correlation coefficient: zero.816421

And this reveals the ensuing picture generated with Octave.

Next up

Both Python and GNU Octave can plot the identical info, although they differ in how they get there. If you are trying to discover different languages to finish related duties, I extremely advocate  Rosetta Code. It’s a wonderful useful resource to see resolve the identical issues in lots of languages. 

What language do you wish to plot knowledge in? Share your ideas within the feedback.

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