#gnuplot #plot #graph #user #customization #api #repo


A simple utility repo to use the gnuplot library in rust

2 releases

0.2.3-alpha Feb 16, 2024
0.2.2-alpha Feb 14, 2024
0.1.6-alpha Jan 9, 2024

#133 in Visualization

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Custom license



Library to access gnuplot in rust. This currently focuses on exploratative work to find an acceptable API for my own project use-cases and is currently not aimed at a more general public.



GnuPlotter aims to enable the usage of the gnuplot graphing utility from within rust code. This library is in a very early stage and I am still actively considering its use. It might not be a good productive use of my time to work on such a library as opposed to manually writing gnuplot scripts. The main selling point is that this library allows the definition of graphs within the rest of a codebase. This generally makes reasoning about the whole easier. It also allows the generated plots to be described in how they semantically fit into the larger whole of the codebase.

Design goals

There are only two major design goals at this point:

  • easy access to gnuplot functionality
  • easy customization to the needs of the engineering user

Easy access to gnuplot functionality

For engineers unfamiliar with gnuplot, it can be overwhelming to use the tool. It offers many commands and options, most of which most users won't need. An interface in Rust that documents the most commonly used functionality would make it much easier to use gnuplot at the expense of some functionality.

Additionally, an engineer may choose to extend this library to expand on the gnuplot functionality made available through gnuplotter. This extension can then easily be used by other engineers in their organization.

To stress the last point, gnuplotter mainly provides an approach to offer easy access to gnuplot from Rust code. It doesn't attempt to be complete, but offer a way to expand it so that most engineers in an organization don't require gnuplot knowledge.

Easy customization over prescribing a flexible API

One way to approach a plotting library would be to decide on a certain type of plot to support and then to go implement a very flexible version of it. You would decide which features to activate based on what methods are being called. For the engineers using such a library, there is a lot of API details to familiarize themselves with. I asked myself the question how this might be simplified. If I just want an x label, a y label, and a title, why do I care about the rest of a fairly complex API?

The goal of gnuplotter is therefore to hide as much of the implementation details of a plot type as possible. One engineer might define a new plot type declaratively, while other engineers from that point only need to concern themselves with this very minimal API.

In other words, gnuplotter enables the composition of a new plot type based on a user's specific needs, which we know very little about. The aim is to offer flexibility in the amount of plotting features made available, balanced by an ability to simplify plotting API's based on a very specific user's context.


Gnu commands

Adding features to the library is easy. Just encode them in a struct that implements the GnuCommandFactory trait. A GnuCommand is nothing more that a way to generate a string representation of a command you would send to gnuplot yourself when using the CLI or a script.

Composing commands

These commands are then composed in a queue. A struct that consists of other elements, such as the Axis<T> in the example linked below, or ADT's such as Required<T> implement the GnuCommandFactory to compose the commands into a single queue.

Rendering plots using gnuplot backend

In the end, all collected commands are written to gnuplot by calling the gnuplot command from within the rust program. This is made available through a simple CanRender trait that is easily derived using the Plot macro.


Basic demo

A basic demonstration constructs a simple 2D plot with two labeled axis (X and Y) of which one is optional. It shows both how to define a plot struct and how a user can use it.


~162K SLoC