Upcoming Gnuplot Book by Manning

Right after my Perl/Gnuplot integration post Philipp Janert contacted me to tell me that he is currently writing a book about Gnuplot. Being a long-time amateur user and trusting Manning's reputation as quality publisher I agreed to test-read it and put it onto my commuter train reading list.

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I'm now half through and it is fast, technical reading obviously addressed for an audience with scientific background and the need to analyze data quick'n dirty as well as to finally visualize it with the professional touch.

The general structure of the book is quite conventional: the first two chapters bring you up to speed with gnuplot itself, whereas the following chapters concentrate on particular aspects, such as styling, labeling, colors, axes, ...

Philipp has obviously spent quite some effort to reorganize the content as his approach is so much more accessible than the original Gnuplot online documentation. That follows too much the Gnuplot language and therefore treats important and unimportant features on the same level.

The book does not do that. Instead it clearly isolates the main concepts at the beginning before going through some canonical examples. And it contains numerous small hints and sidebars when to use a certain feature, and equally interesting when not.

While some recent books I read fall into story-telling, most of the text here is a quick succession of motivation, explanations and small code samples; a style which works very well for me and which even makes boring sections digestable.

In the unedited version I found not too many mistakes, so I would expect few in the end version. For my taste the graphs and data listings are maybe a bit too large and produce too much secondary blank space.

The book aspires to work as Gnuplot reference, at least according to the table of contents. If that materializes, I would only be too happy to never have to stray through the Gnuplot docs again.


Work supported by the Austrian Research Centers.

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