tl;dr: Any suggestion on an Open-Source Software alternative to Grapher / Surfer / Origin / SigmaPlot?

Details: As a scientist I explore and plot data all the time, so I need a quick and easy way to produce graphics. For many times I have been using Grapher, Surfer, SigmaPlot and Origin... all good ones (Grapher is the best by far IMO). But I want to move on to Open Software.

Can you recommend good programs (software) within the open software realm which fits the "plotting" objective? I mean, I don't need it to do statistical analyses or modeling, I just want to plot data. Ideally it should be usable through a GUI with point-and-click (ie graphically-oriented like those mentioned above, not command-line). The result should be an image file (preferably in a vector format).

Also I would like a program which is "popular", ie if I don't understand something I can check forums, etc. rather than find out by myself because I'm one of the 15 users of the program..

Any suggestions? what are the most used and why? have you tried one? I'm looking for opinions/suggestions from users of the Academia/Research world like professors, scientists, students, technicians, etc. who work plotting data from different disciplines.

  • I was about to suggest gnuplot, but it is command-line.
    – Nicolas Raoul
    Commented Oct 26, 2016 at 16:05
  • Presumably but point & click you mean a GUI that lets you select data then pick options, etc., I assume that you don't wish to use the mouse to enter the data onto the chart. Commented Oct 26, 2016 at 17:50
  • By "point-and-click" I mean you click on the plot and then edit the options. For example, by clicking on the X axis you can change the scale (linear, logarithmic, etc.), font of the labels, tick marks spacing, thickness of the line, etc.
    – terauser
    Commented Oct 26, 2016 at 21:43

9 Answers 9


I can answer my own question now. There are many alternatives, all of them seem very good so I am more than happy that there are not one but many active replacements for Grapher/Surfer for the Linux world. I will mention some of them, which apparently were not really visible to me all this time. Maybe I was looking using wrong search terms, I don't know how I could miss them. I am listing here the ones which look more interesting for my needs. These are free to download and use, although I am not sure if all of them are actually FOSS. They are (in no particular order):

I encourage you to try them and choose the one which fits you better (and why not, comment here!)

EDIT: 4 years later I can update you people on this. I have been using Veusz for a long time now and I absolutely love it. I am super happy that I found a tool that is much better than the one I was used to in my Windows era (ie Golden Software's Grapher).

Veusz may seem a bit challenging at first, but after a few examples you start discovering that the full potential is astonishing. Not only works as the point-and-click plotting application I was looking for, but also is a complete library to be used programmatically (from Python) and can also do real-time plotting. It is exactly what I was looking for and more. So, this fully solves my original quest.

  • Several of those are mentioned in other answers here, and there's nothing wrong with including them in your answer, but one of them (QtiPlot) happens to be commercial software (as pointed out in @jmh's answer), so it doesn't meet your criteria. It's also possible some of the other options you mentioned are not open source, despite being free of charge.
    – John Y
    Commented Dec 15, 2017 at 14:42
  • 1
    Yes you are right, thanks. I edited my answer to a) delete QtiPlot from the list and b) denote that not all the listed programs are necessarily FOSS.
    – terauser
    Commented Dec 15, 2017 at 16:10
  • 1
    I would add that SciDavis seems to evolved into AlphaPlot (alphaplot.sourceforge.net). (it seems only few details are changed so far)
    – hardyVeles
    Commented Oct 20, 2018 at 15:25

If you need an application to create simple 2D graphs I can recommend jag (https://github.com/seleznevae/jag). I developed it some time ago. Jag was initially designed for engineers who spend a bunch of time analyzing results of mathematical modeling so that they can get most out of their data. So the main goal was to simplify and speed up graph creation and layout manipulations. At the moment builds for linux are available (https://github.com/seleznevae/jag/releases). If you need Windows application, you can try to build it locally from sources (you will need only qt4 and boost libraries to do that).

Also I can recommend rather mature application - Kst(https://kst-plot.kde.org/) from KDE project.


I spent a lot of time looking for a free simple plotting code. I use a Mac computer and that made my search fore difficult. The best package I found (for Mac, PC, Linux) is SciDAVis. From their website, they claim "SciDAVis is a free application for Scientific Data Analysis and Visualization". It is available from SourceForge. I don't know if this is open source but at least it is free. Seems fairly popular as they report around 6,000 downloads per week.

Another free option is SciEnPlot. It is described as "Data Plotting and Analysis for Science and Engineering". This doesn't appear to be as popular as SciDaVis but is just as easy to use. It opens with a spreadsheet and the user can drag and drop or just paste the data into the columns. It is based on Python and matplotlib but almost entirely point and click.

A commercial package that claims to be a replacement for Origin is QtiPlot. It sales for 20 Euros per year for a private license.


I know you searched for a program with a GUI, but I can recommend you Octave which is open source alternative for Matlab. It uses the same commands as Matlab. The big advantage is the automation. Once you set up everything, you can import, analyze and plot your with the push of a button. Also Matlab (and therefore Octave) is probably the best documented program out there.

I also can recommend pgfplots if you want endless possibilities. It is a package for Latex so you can nicely integrate everything in your documents.


In my experience most data scientists use R and/or Python for analysis and plotting.

I know this isnt point and click but you don't need to know everything about python get started, and because it is so polular, there are so many examples you can just copy and paste.

My personal choice is Python. There are hundreds of scientific and plotting modules available.

Check out python seaborn here

Using python within Jupyter is great or repeatable scientific study including plots. You can also use other tools such as R within a jupyter notebook.


Depending on the nature of your data, may I suggest Gephi http://gephi.org ?


You can also use AlphaPlot, a fork of SciDAVis which uses QCustomplot insted of QWT for 2D plotting and QDatavis3Dmodule for 3D plotting. It provides better customization of graphs.

  • 1
    Can you add a link to your recommendation and its main features?
    – Alejandro
    Commented Jun 11, 2020 at 12:17

Though I am a late entry to this discussion, but agree that it has always been a most liked topic of discussion for me. Used to use Grapher and Surfer in my University days. Presently, am using Veusz. Recommendations, if still needed by anyone are: 2D plots and charts: GUI based: Veusz (https://veusz.github.io/download/). CLI based: Ctioga2 (https://ctioga2.sourceforge.net/tutorial/index.html) One may also try Interactive Data Editor by Koushik at https://github.com/Koushikphy/Interactive_Data_Editor.

3D and contour plots: Still hasn't come across anything as comfortable as Surfer (Proprietary) in opensource domain. Octave and Python has many potential.


I started with Grapher from Golden Software around 1988. Loved it. Wanted it for myself. Couldn't afford the licenses. About 1992, I got an introductory coupon for PSI-PLOT for $20 so I tried it. I worked with it for years. I kept upgrading until I could no longer do so. The last version was 10.5 and I am still running it with no issues on my WIN10 machine. The learning curve was less steep than Grapher and, IMHO, the program was better. Over the years, the 3D capability really developed. With drillhole data and geophysical logs, I was able to map a fault surface by rotating until my chosen intercepts fell on the same plane. Definitely a time saver and you could play with all the options with ease. As far as I know, PSI-PLOT is still out there and may be available for free. There are tremendous options for graphing that made excellent presentation slides. It was a great tool for handling water quality data rapidly. I also automated graph production for monthly well performance data that was posted to the company intranet for everyone to use. I retired a decade ago and now I use it to track my blood pressure for my doctor. PSI-PLOT is a seriously great program.

  • I don't see how this is a recommendation, I see it as a pure personal history.
    – Alejandro
    Commented Jun 21, 2022 at 15:11
  • Hi Steve! Our community has flagged this as possible spam. Do you have any affiliation with this software? If so, please disclose within your answer. If it's simply software you love and recommend, then obviously no disclosure is required. Thanks! Commented Oct 7, 2022 at 12:24

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