Comparisons of wxmplot with other Python Plotting tools

Disclaimer: this section is essentially opinion of the lead author of wxmplot. While it aims to be fair, there is clearly a bias in this view to emphasize priorities that informed the development of wxmplot. If you have comments or suggestions for improving this section, please use the Github discussion page.

I believe that data visualization and in particular exploratory data analysis are importants part of working with many kinds of scientific data. One of the aims for wxmplot, and especially wxmplot.interactive, is to make exploratory data analysis with Python particularly easy and useful. I am obviously biased towards wxmplot, but here I give a few comparisons of wxmplot with some other tools and libraries for plotting scientific data with Python. The main emphasis here is on Line Plots, basic plots of y versus x. while other graphical displays of data are important, in our experience, these are very common across many scientific and engineering disciplines and essentially any plotting library will support such plots.

For both exploratory data analysis and for displays of scientific data from within data analysis applications, the following characteristics are vital:

  1. brevity, or simplicity of code. We are using Python because it is succint and elegant.

  2. beauty. The rendered plots should be high-quality with attractive fonts. Ideally, images made would be directly suitable for presentations and publications.

  3. interactivity. After the plot or image of data is rendered, we want to be able to manipulate and modify the display, including zooming in on certain portions of the data, changing scales, color schemes, line types, and even plot labels. In fact, not only do we want to be able to do that, we want users of the plotting scripts and applications to be able to do that.

The comparisons with other packages here emphasize these three characteristics. In all cases, the interactivity of data displayed with wxmplot is simply unmatched as is the ability of the end-user to manipulate the details of the display, including for basic line plots:

  1. change color, line widths, line types, marker types, marker sizes, display order for each “trace” (x, y pair) in the plot.

  2. change the color theme of the entire display, the color of each component of the display window, the size of the plot margins, how to set the data display range.

  3. whether and where a legend is shown, whether grid lines are shown, and whether the plot is enclosed in a full box or only the left and bottom axes are drawn.

  4. changing the label for each trace, and the title and label for each axis, including setting font sizes.

  5. changing whether each axis is displayed linearly or logarithmically, and apply common manipulations such as showing derivative or y*x, 1/y, and so forth.

  6. copy image to the system clipboard, save image to PNG file, or send directly to a system printer.

For image display, users can lookup tables for mapping intensity to color, set thresholds and contrast levels, as well as showing axes and setting the size and location of a scalebar, and its label. Images can be flipped, rotated (and reset). Smoothing of pixelated data can be adjusted. Images can be toggled back-and-forth between “image mode” and “contour mode”.

Comparison with Matplotlib.pyplot

To be clear, wxmplot uses matplotlib for plotting and image display. Any aspect of “beauty” in wxmplot comes from matplotlib, which makes plots and images of scientific data that are of excellent quality. Allowing LaTeX rendering for mathematical symbols and expressions in labels is particularly helpful for plotting data from the physical sciences. For clarity, I include the Seaborn package as essentially matplotlib with different theming (that can be used from wxmplot!).

Of course, matplotlib is much more comprehensive than wxmplot and supports some display types that wxmplot does not. wxmplot focuses its attention on Line Plots and display of grey-scale and false-color images, and essentially re-imagines the pyplot functions plot and imshow. But wxmplot also gives you access to the underlying matplotlib objects so that you can add more complex components and manipulate the plot as needed, assuming that you know the matplotlib programming interface.

In wxmplot Overview, a brief comparison of matplotlib.pyplot and wxmplot.plot is given and will not repeated here. From the point of view of “brevity” and “beauty”, these are approximately equal. The matplotlib API is certainly much more common, and deliberately mimics the plotting functions in Matlab, so will be familiar to many people. mod:wxmplot.plot puts a lot more arguments into a single function call.

Plots made with matplotlib.pyplot have some interactivity and customizability after the plot is displayed with its Navigation Toolbar, so that users can read plot coordinates as the mouse moves around, zoom in and out, pan around the plot area, and save the image. wxmplot includes all of those features, and has much more flexibility at run-time for the user to be able to manipulate the display of the data.

For completeness, the example using plain matplotlib would look like


and with wxmplot the code would look like:

import numpy as np
import wxmplot.interactive as wi

x = np.linspace(0.0, 15.0, 151)
y = 4.8*np.sin(4.2*x)/(x*x+8) + np.random.normal(size=len(x), scale=0.05)
m = 5.0*np.sin(4.0*x)/(x*x+10)

wi.plot(x, y, label='data', marker='+', xlabel='t (sec)', ylabel='y',
        title='wxmplot example', show_legend=True)
wi.plot(x, m, label='model')

and give a result of


Comparison with WxPlot

The wxPython library comes with a plot submodule that supports basic line plots. An example of using this would be:

import wx
import numpy as np
from wx.lib.plot import PolySpline, PlotCanvas, PlotGraphics

class PlotExample(wx.Frame):
    def __init__(self):
        wx.Frame.__init__(self, None, title="wx.lib.plot example",
                           size=(700, 500))

        x = np.linspace(0.0, 15.0, 151)
        y = 4.8*np.sin(4.2*x)/(x*x+8) + np.random.normal(size=len(x), scale=0.05)
        m = 5.0*np.sin(4.0*x)/(x*x+10)

        xy_data = np.column_stack((x, y))
        xm_data = np.column_stack((x, m))

        traces = [PolySpline(xy_data, width=3, colour='#1f77b4'),
                  PolySpline(xm_data, width=3, colour='#d62728')]
        canvas = PlotCanvas(self)

if __name__ == '__main__':
    app = wx.App()

and give a plot of


As written, there is not interactivity, though zooming can be enabled. The need to create a subclass of a Frame and initiate a wxApp adds a fair amount of boiler-plate code which would be painful for one-off scripts.

Comparison with Plotly

The Plotly library includes a Python interface ( that is very good and renders interactive plots into a web browser. This is very useful for web-based applications and gives good looking and interactive plots into a local or remote web browser. To be clear, I use plotly for more than one web application. Then again, getting information back from the web-browser to an application or script is somewhat challenging.

Many of the Plotly examples make assumptions about using Pandas dataframes, which is a fine default, but makes working with lists and arrays a bit more complicated. For a simple plot of a single trace, Plotly could be used as:

import numpy as np
import as px

x = np.linspace(0.0, 15.0, 151)
y = 4.8*np.sin(4.2*x)/(x*x+8) + np.random.normal(size=len(x), scale=0.05)
m = 5.0*np.sin(4.0*x)/(x*x+10)

data = {'x': x, 'y': y}
fig = px.line(data, x='x', y='y', title='example using plotly')

Which is pretty good for brevity and readability. But (as far as I can tell), the simplest way to repeat our example to show two traces together uses a bit more complicated code:

import numpy as np
import plotly.graph_objects as go

x = np.linspace(0.0, 15.0, 151)
y = 4.8*np.sin(4.2*x)/(x*x+8) + np.random.normal(size=len(x), scale=0.05)
m = 5.0*np.sin(4.0*x)/(x*x+10)

fig = go.Figure()
fig.add_trace(go.Scatter(x=x, y=y, name='data'))
fig.add_trace(go.Scatter(x=x, y=m, name='model'))
fig.update_layout( {'title': {'text': 'example using plotly'}})

That is a bit more complicated than wxmplot, but not too bad. The resulting plot looks like


which is a decent starting point. Plotly also gives basic interactivity by default, including zooming and displaying coordinates of data points. Again, Plotly is especially well-suited to work with Pandas dataframes, and provides a fairly rich set of graphics types, so if you are looking to visualize complex datasets that are already in Pandas dataframes, Plotly is a good choice.

Comparison with PyQtGraph

Pyqtgraph ( provides a very comprehensive library for plotting and visualization with PyQt and PySide. Constructing the example plot above with pyqtgraph would look like:

import numpy as np
import PyQt6
import pyqtgraph as pg

x = np.linspace(0.0, 15.0, 151)
y = 4.8*np.sin(4.2*x)/(x*x+8) + np.random.normal(size=len(x), scale=0.05)
m = 5.0*np.sin(4.0*x)/(x*x+10)

pwin = pg.plot(x, y, pen='#1f77b4', symbol='+')
pwin.plot(x, m, pen='#d62728')
pwin.setWindowTitle('Plot with PyQtGraph')
pwin.setLabel(axis='bottom', text='t (sec)')

I find that it is important to select the PyQt “family” (here, PyQt6) before importing pyqtgraph, but that may depend some on operating system and environment. Being very familiar with wxPython and not very proficient with the Qt world, I would happily say that someone more proficient with PyQt might be able to make excellent use of this. I definitely see applications using this library to produce good visualizations of data.

That aside, for brevity and clarity, this is very good. The resulting plot looks like


The plots with pyqtqraph are interactive. Though perhaps not quite as customizable as wxmplot, it is much better than any other library described here and pyqtgraph definitely values view user interaction with the data. And, in fairness to the pyqtgraph, it is explicitly designed to do more than simple line plots.

I find the quality of the Line plots to be somewhat worse than the plots made with matplotlib and wxmplot. The text in the plot is very hard to read, which I find troubling. But not being very familiar with pyqtgraph, I am not certain how to adjust things like margins and the sizes of markers and text, so I am willing to call some of these things a matter of taste and say they might be possible to improve.

Comparison with PyQtGraph/PythonGUIs

Here we compare to tutorials at which describe using using GUIs with the PyQt and PySide family of GUI toolkits based on Qt. The existence of this chapter was inspired by seeing these tutorials, especially advertised as being aimed at showing how to make “simple and highly interactive plots” plots.

I agree strongly with the quote introducing these tutorials:

One of the major strengths of Python is in exploratory data science and
visualization, using tools such as Pandas, numpy, sklearn for data
analysis and matplotlib plotting.

and I believe the authors of those tutorials mean well, but when they also say:

In this tutorial we will walk through the first steps of creating a plot
widget with PyQtGraph

I am obligated to reply “There has to be a better way”.

It should be clear from the section above that pyqtgraph by itself is good, and satisfies our criteria of brevity and interactivity. But the example code given on these web tutorials is another matter. As the comparison with wxmplot below demonstrates, there is indeed a better way than is implied in those tutorials.

The tutorials at make a slight distinction between using PySide and PyQt6 (see By itself, that does not necessarily indicate a problem, but it does add a level of complication that cannot be good for brevity, beauty, or portability. The tutorials start with a “simple” plot. The code given for this is:

from PyQt6 import QtWidgets
from pyqtgraph import PlotWidget, plot
import pyqtgraph as pg
import sys
import os

class MainWindow(QtWidgets.QMainWindow):
    def __init__(self, *args, **kwargs):
        super(MainWindow, self).__init__(*args, **kwargs)

        self.graphWidget = pg.PlotWidget()

        hour = [1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10]
        temperature = [30,32,34,32,33,31,29,32,35,45]

        # plot data: x, y values
        self.graphWidget.plot(hour, temperature)

def main():
    app = QtWidgets.QApplication(sys.argv)
    main = MainWindow()

if __name__ == '__main__':

producing a very, very basic plot. There are no links to the images available, but running this locally gives a plot of


At 20 lines of code, with three levels of indentation, and with data is buried in a class, this is hardly “brief”. With wxmplot, even creating an equivalent wxApp, that becomes:

from wxmplot import PlotApp

hour = [1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10]
temperature = [30,32,34,32,33,31,29,32,35,45]

plotapp = PlotApp()
plotapp.plot(hour, temperature)

With wxmplot.interactive it is down to 4 lines of code total:

from wxmplot.interactive import plot

hour = [1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10]
temperature = [30,32,34,32,33,31,29,32,35,45]

plot(hour, temperature, xlabel='hour', ylabel='temperature')

That is either 4 or 6 lines of code instead of 20 for the PyQt example. That difference matters, especially the stated goal of “exploratory data analysis”. In addition, the data in the wxmplot examples is not buried in the initialization of the main Window as it is in the pythonguis example. That is bad code design and disappointing to see in a tutorial. None of the plots shown in the pythonguis pages have axes labeled, which is another significant problem for the display of scientific data. Axes should be labeled.

With wxmplot, the resulting plot looks like:


There is some basic interactivity with the Qt example in that the plot can be panned and zoomed. Some plot features can be altered by the end-user after the plot is displayed. A fair amount of the tutorial listed above covers changing colors of plot elements and color and line-style from within the code, perhaps adding code like:


pen = pg.mkPen(color=(255, 0, 0), width=5, style=QtCore.Qt.DashLine)
self.graphWidget.plot(hour, temperature, pen=pen)

styles = {'color':'b', 'font-size':'20px'}
self.graphWidget.setLabel('left', 'Temperature (°C)', **styles)
self.graphWidget.setLabel('bottom', 'Hour (H)', **styles)

and so on. With wxmplot such settings would be done with:

plot(hour, temperature, xlabel='Hour (H)', ylabel='temperature (°C)',
     bgcolor='white', color='red', style='dashed', linewdith=5,

Similarly, there is quite a bit of discussion in the pyqtgraph tutorial on how to display a legend for the plot. This is much simpler with wxmplot and more interactive, as the displayed legend is “active” in toggling the display of the corresponding line.

If aiming to teach people how to use Python for interactive exploratory data analysis, the tutorials at are profoundly disappointing.

Comparison with PLPlot

PLPlot ( is a general purpose plotting library with bindings for many languages, including Python. It supports many plot types, including map displays which is outside the scope of wxmplot. Since it is not specifically written for Python, it is not too surprising that its Python interface is not quite as elegant as matplotlib or wxmplot. Their Python example for a basic line plot is:

from numpy import *

NSIZE = 101

def main(w):
    xmin = 0.
    xmax = 1.
    ymin = 0.
    ymax = 100.

    # Prepare data to be plotted.
    x = arange(NSIZE) / float( NSIZE - 1 )
    y = ymax*x**2

    # Create a labelled box to hold the plot.
    w.plenv( xmin, xmax, ymin, ymax, 0, 0 )
    w.pllab( "x", "y=100 x#u2#d", "Simple PLplot demo of a line plot" )

    # Plot the data that was prepared above.
    w.plline( x, y )

    # Restore defaults
    # Must be done independently because otherwise this changes output files
    # and destroys agreement with C examples.

which is not too bad from the point of view of “brevity”. But it is actually not complete code, so it is not clear how to actually run the example – some sort of import must be missing. The result at is not too bad, though a bit hard to call “beautiful”. I believe PLPlot has essentially no interactivity for the plots themselves, though some programs may be able to have the user advance through a series of plots.

Converting that to wxmplot would be:

import numpy as np
import wxmplot.interactive as wi

x = np.linspace(0, 1, 101)
y = 100*x**2

wi.plot(x, y, color='red', xlabel='x', ylabel=r'$y=100 x^2$',
        title="Simple PLplot demo of a line plot", theme='dark')

which gives a plot of


Comparison with Dislin

Like PLPlot, Dislin ( is a plotting library with bindings for many languages, including Python. It also supports many plot types, including 3-d volume displays which is outside the scope of wxmplot. Since it is not specifically written for Python, it is not too surprising that its Python interface is not quite as elegant as matplotlib or wxmplot. Their Python example for a basic line plot is:

import math
import dislin

n = 101
f = 3.1415926 / 180.
x = range (n)
y1 = range (n)
y2 = range (n)
for i in range (0,n):
  x[i] = i * 3.6
  v = i * 3.6 * f
  y1[i] = math.sin (v)
  y2[i] = math.cos (v)

dislin.scrmod ('revers')
dislin.metafl ('xwin')
dislin.disini ()
dislin.complx ()
dislin.pagera ()

dislin.axspos (450, 1800)
dislin.axslen (2200, 1200)   ('X-axis', 'X')   ('Y-axis', 'Y')

dislin.labdig (-1, 'X')
dislin.ticks  (9, 'X')
dislin.ticks  (10, 'Y')

dislin.titlin ('Demonstration of CURVE', 1)
dislin.titlin ('SIN (X), COS (X)', 3)

ic = dislin.intrgb (0.95, 0.95, 0.95)
dislin.axsbgd (ic)

dislin.graf   (0., 360., 0., 90., -1., 1., -1., 0.5)
dislin.setrgb (0.7, 0.7, 0.7)
dislin.grid   (1,1)

dislin.color  ('fore')
dislin.height (50)
dislin.title  ()

dislin.color  ('red')
dislin.curve  (x, y1, n)
dislin.color  ('green')
dislin.curve  (x, y2, n)
dislin.disfin ()

with a result at For “brevity” and “beauty”, this is difficult to recommend. I believe there is essentially no interactivity. Converting that to wxmplot would be:

import numpy as np
import wxmplot.interactive as wi

x  = 3.6*np.arange(101)
y1 = np.cos(np.pi*x/180)
y2 = np.sin(np.pi*x/18)0

wi.plot(x, y1, color='red', xlabel='x', ylabel='y',
        title='DISLIN Comparison\nsin(x) and cos(x)')
wi.plot(x, y2, color='green3', marker='+')

and give a plot of



Succint code that is free of boilerplate code and that gives high quality plots and interactive displays is highly valuable for exploratory data analysis. While there are many plotting and visualization tools available for Python, many shown here are found lacking in at least one of code brevity, plot quality, or interactivity.

If you are are using web applications or want to embed plots in a web browser, plotly looks like a pretty good choice – to be clear, the author uses plotly for web applications. If you are using PyQt, pyqtgraph is an a perfectly reasonable choice. For maximum portability, plain matplotlib.pyplot is an acceptable choice, though it offers relatively little in the way of interactivity.

If you are using looking for interactive exploration of your data, we hope you find that wxmplot offers important capabilities that enable script writers and end-users of applications to have rich interactions with their data.