Hi,

First of all let me congratulate you[1] on your work on Matplotlib -- it so
evidently superior to all the other stuff around for python that it might
actually obviate the need for a little "universal" plotting frontend (anyplot
) as matplotlib is the first such package that would deserve to become a
de-facto standard for plotting in python.

Nonetheless, I've already written most of the foundations and I think it might
actually still be useful (currently e.g. matplotlib still is a bit difficult
to install, and whilst the CVS version apparently already has quite good
support for interactive plotting, at least some features such as good 3D
plotting will likely take longer; and matlab, which is fully supported as
backend for anyplot will likely maintain an edge for a number of plotting

To come to the point, recently I've invested a little bit of time to add
matplotlib support[3] and whilst I have been generally postively surprised [4]
both by the quality of the output as well as the ease to get things to work,
there are still a few comments and questions I have:

Here are some things that would be nice to see:

- AFAICT there is no equivalent to matlab's .fig internal format -- this
is quite a shame, one of the reasons I why I think a fairly simple
wrapper like anyplot should get one quite a long way is that I'd guess
that when excellent visual results are actually important then the
easiest way might well be to create some "templates" with the
gui/backend specific commands and use them as prototypes/style-sheets.

It should of course also be possible to query the underlying plotting
package and use it's unique functionality where required; there are a
few places in my code that do that for matlab but it's really not needed
often and thus doesn't hamper migrating to another backend much.

I'm planning to adding was some 'record'/'playback' functionality with a
metaclass i.e. some internal anyplot specific save-format that can be
used to recreate plots with any available backend -- but this is no full
substitute because it will only (portably) work for things supported by
all backends.

- gcf returns a figure handle -- it would be nice if there were some obvious
way to get back an integer instead -- I haven't found one yet

- the LaTeX rendering backend unfortunatly doesn't support any accents
(\hat{a},\bar{x} etc.); also for me the fact that it doesn't accept normal
text with $math$ inside happens to be quite a bother -- I can't imagine that
either of these would be hard to fix.

- colormap is rather limited in matlab compatibility -- it would be at
least having some of matlab's colormaps around as functions like jet.

- ishold and spy are amongst the functions that are missing but would
be quite easy to add -- ishold in particular would be very useful
(unlike with gcf I quickly found some way to query the hold-state, but
that interface might change and anyway it's a generally useful
facility).

- plot apparently doesn't know about the "*"-marker style -- this looks
like a mere oversight (I think all the other marker styles that matlab
has are supported)

- the plot command is much more restrictive in what it accepts as inputs;
plot(x1,y2,'r', x2,y2, 'b') e.g. would be illegal. This isn't much
of a problem for me since I've written some code to "parse" plot
arguments, but I think it's a bit inconvenient. For anyplot I've added
some more options since I for example found I mainly wanted to use
several y-vectors against a single x it is also possible to do something
like e.g plot(y1, 'r', y2, 'g+', y3, ':', x='auto', norm=1,
log='x'). OTOH I think it might be best to be conservative about
adding such features before one has a good idea what common use patterns
are likely to look like (convenience functions could provide a good
testbed for such ideas).

- something like axis('manual') would be nice (maybe under a more
into boundaries defined by some original plot that is of main interest.

Unfortunately axis is one of matlab's slightly more overloaded functions
-- in many of these cases one would think that python's more flexible
parameter passing syntax (keywords, inter alia) would allow better
signatures than what matlab's designers came up with (as far as I can
see matplotlib already makes quite a lot of use kwargs)

Generally anyplot stays closer to matlab in it's interface, but there
are two commands I found too ugly to follow suit exactly:

- matlab's text(x,y,[z], string) is anyplot.text(string, x,y,[z])

Is there already a plan what matplotlib going to do about z coords for text,
once it supports 3D plots?

- subplot is just too bloody awkward -- so I deprecated it and instead
added a multi and refocus commands, here are the signatures::

def multi(self,rows,cols=1):
"""Create a multiplot with specified number of rows and cols. Use
refocus to access the desired cell. Supersedes subplot.

see: refocus
"""

def refocus(self,M=None,N=None):
"""Change focus to the desired subplot in a figure.

- refocus()
focus on next multiplot cell (order: right-to-left,
top-to-down, 0 index)

- refocus(M)
focuses on multiplot cell M (order: same as above)

- refocus(M,N)
focuses on multiplot cell at row M, column N

see: multi
"""

I'd generally like to keep anyplot's interface the same as (or at least a
subset or superset of) matplotlib's where ever it makes sense, I'm not quite
convinced about text though (I'm not sure how useful z coords for text
really are, if they aren't used even with 3D plot passing them as a keyword,
unfortunately keywords are used to update the font dict; maybe a better
approach would be to use something like (ignoring details like the ordering of
coords and text for the moment)::

fontInfo = FontInfo(font='Helvetica', height=13, etc='...')
text(str1, x1, y1 font=fontInfo(height=10))
text(str2, x2, y2 font=fontInfo(color='red'))

fontInfo = {'font': 'Helvetica', 'height': 13, etc:'...'}
text(str1, x1, y1 fontdict=fontInfo, height=10)
text(str2, x2, y2 fontdict=fontInfo, color='red')

because that doesn't scale so well (one no longer can simply add keywords args
for non font-info stuff).

Here fontInfo is some structure type that on call creates an updated *copy*.
I've found this quite useful for other things so I've got an implementation
handy: [5]

I'm also wondering how much the interface has already settled down? BTW, one
thing that would be nice is if any sequence dependent quirks (where
unavoidable) would be the same as in matlab, because that would be quite
difficult to work around in anyplot otherwise (e.g. the order of title,
subplot and plot, IIRC; some like the way plot interacts with logplots and
hold might be easier to work around -- I'm still not sure what the best
behavior ist does matplotlib have any fixed policy here already?).

Cheers,

'as

P.S. I will be off-line for about a month from tomorrow noon onwards, so please
a month that posted after the next 10/12hrs.

P.P.S. For those who are curious about anyplot, my imminent long off-line
period finally gave me the push to try to package up all the
non-pre-alpha stuff I've created over the years and put it on a web
page in the hope it might be useful for other. Thus hopefully, by
tomorrow you anyplot and some other possibly useful stuff like my
high-level matlab-bridge can be found here:

(In the possibly unlikely event that there's some code that would be
useful for matplotlib -- don't hestitate to take it, license issues
should be no problem)

P.P.S. A final note: wouldn't it be nicer to have some python-syntax rc file?
It can always be a safe subset if there are security concerns, but I'd
rather not have yet another limited and (difficult to extend)
config-file syntax.

Footnotes:

[1] you here refers to everyone who helped to rapidly transform matplotlib
into a the to be reckoned with, rather than the zillionth half-arsed and
bug-ridden plotting package to linger around for years without getting
anywhere -- first and foremost that credit must of course belong to John
Hunter.

[2] I started it because I became frustrated with the code disruption caused by
switching from one unsatisfactory python plotting package to the next I
started a little, as yet unreleased project some time ago that I dubbed
anyplot (after the now apparently defunct anygui project). The aim was to
provide a uniform and (esp. for interactive work) efficient frontend to a few
different promising backends, because

a) at the time it wasn't clear on what horse to bet (all of them lamed a bit,
and the ones that offered most functionality also seemed to suffer from the
most deeply ingrained problems).

b) Different plotting packages for python did different things well so it
seemed useful to easily be able to use specific backend for a certain task
without having to deal with code changes or memorzing N-interfaces; the
only one that did everything fairly well was matlab, via the high-level
python-matlab bridge I wrote, but even matlab often leaves something to be
desired and I didn't particularly want to be tied to it for eternity. For
the past 1.5 years or I've almost exclusively used anyplot with matlab as
backend for all my work, so that part should be fairly stable.

c) Moreover most had rather painful interfaces -- I wanted something that was
quick and convenient to use for interactive data exploration. I noticed
that the vast majority of the time I didn't need fancier capabilities (or
used the GUI to fine-tune the results), so I reckoned that providing a
convenient set would be a useful and manageable task, much more so than
what anypgui set out to do for GUIs. I also took matlab as a point of
departure, because it is familiar to many people, but also because despite
some baroqueness the interface is quite quick and efficient for common
tasks (unlike many of the interfaces that strive for OO-purity).

[3] apart from that, at the moment there's also some xplt support, xplt is
sufficiently dodgy that I won't invest much further time on this but it
provides a IMO saner interface to most of the functionality; there's also
some rather preliminary support for grace, which despite being somewhat
limited in the type of plots it offers seems to do a few things quite
well, is very fast and offers a fairly convenient gui; the only thing I'd
still be interested in additionally supporting would be gnuplot, although
some of gnuplots weirder limitations (e.g. line styles) would cause some
awkwardness -- the good thing about gnuplot, though, is that it supports
both 3D and 2D, zillions of output formats (including more exotic ones
like ascii, latex and vt100), that it is widespread and runs just about
on anything and finally that it won't go away anytime soon.

[4] Apart from the installation; I'm a bit spoilt as most libraries I want
under debian just takes seconds to instal -- I had some trouble with the
somewhere because that seemed the only way to get it to work.

[5] Here's the code (obviously not all of this class are would be needed, but
it should give the idea; also note that it's very convenient to convert
to/from dicts):

class Struct(object):
r"""
Examples:

>>> brian = Struct(name="Brian", age=30)
>>> brian.name
'Brian'
>>> brian.age
30
>>> brian.life = "short"
>>> brian
Struct(age=30, life='short', name='Brian')
>>> del brian.life
>>> brian == Struct(name="Brian", age=30)
True
>>> brian != Struct(name="Jesus", age=30)
True
>>> len(brian)
2

Call the object to create a clone:

>>> brian() is not brian and brian(name="Jesus") == Struct(name="Jesus", age=30)
True

Conversion to/from dict:

>>> Struct(**dict(brian)) == brian
True

Evil Stuff:

>>> brian['name', 'age']
('Brian', 30)
>>> brian['name', 'age'] = None, None
>>> brian
Struct(age=None, name=None)
"""
def __init__(self,**kwargs):
self.__dict__.update(kwargs)
def __call__(self, **kwargs):
import copy
res = copy.copy(self)
res.__init__(**kwargs)
return res
def __eq__(self, other):
return self.__dict__ == other.__dict__
def __ne__(self, other):
return not self.__eq__(other)
def __len__(self):
return len([k for k in self.__dict__.iterkeys() if not (k.startswith('__') or k.endswith('__'))])
# FIXME utterly perverse and UNTESTED
def __getitem__(self, nameOrNames):
if isString(nameOrNames):
return self.__dict__[nameOrNames]
else:
return tuple([self.__dict__[n] for n in nameOrNames])
# FIXME utterly perverse and UNTESTED
def __setitem__(self, nameOrNames, valueOrValues):
if isString(nameOrNames):
self.__dict__[nameOrNames] = valueOrValues
else:
for (n,v) in zip(nameOrNames, valueOrValues):
self.__dict__[n] = v
def __contains__(self, key):
return key in self.__dict__ and not (key.startswith('__') or key.endswith('__'))
def __iter__(self):
for (k,v) in self.__dict__.iteritems():
if not (k.startswith('__') or k.endswith('__')):
yield k,v
def __repr__(self):
return mkRepr(self, **vars(self))

def mkRepr(instance, *argls, **kwargs):
width=79
maxIndent=15
minIndent=2
args = map(repr, argls) + ["%s=%r" % (k, v)
for (k,v) in ipsort(kwargs.items())]
if instance is not None:
start = "%s(" % instance.__class__.__name__
args[-1] += ")"
else:
start = ""
if len(start) <= maxIndent and len(start) + len(args[0]) <= width and \
max(map(len,args)) <= width: # XXX mag of last condition bit arbitrary
indent = len(start)
args[0] = start + args[0]
if sum(map(len, args)) + 2*(len(args) - 1) <= width:
return ", ".join(args)
else:
indent = minIndent
args[0] = start + "\n" + " " * indent + args[0]
return (",\n" + " " * indent).join(args)