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3.15.3 data

Discrete data contained in a file can be displayed by specifying the name of the data file (enclosed in single or double quotes) on the ‘plot‘ command line.


      plot '<file_name>' {binary <binary list>}
                         {{nonuniform} matrix}
                         {index <index list> | index "<name>"}
                         {every <every list>}
                         {thru <thru expression>}
                         {using <using list>}
                         {smooth <option>}
                         {volatile} {noautoscale}

The modifiers binary, index, every, thru, using, and smooth are discussed separately. In brief, binary allows data entry from a binary file (default is ASCII), index selects which data sets in a multi-data-set file are to be plotted, every specifies which points within a single data set are to be plotted, using determines how the columns within a single record are to be interpreted (thru is a special case of using), and smooth allows for simple interpolation and approximation. (‘splot‘ has a similar syntax, but does not support the smooth and thru options.)

The ‘noautoscale‘ keyword means that the points making up this plot will be ignored when automatically determining axis range limits.


Data files should contain at least one data point per record (using can select one data point from the record). Records beginning with ‘#‘ (and also with ‘!‘ on VMS) will be treated as comments and ignored. Each data point represents an (x,y) pair. For ‘plot‘s with error bars or error bars with lines (see errorbars or errorlines), each data point is (x,y,ydelta), (x,y,ylow,yhigh), (x,y,xdelta), (x,y,xlow,xhigh), or (x,y,xlow,xhigh,ylow,yhigh).

In all cases, the numbers of each record of a data file must be separated by white space (one or more blanks or tabs) unless a format specifier is provided by the using option. This white space divides each record into columns. However, whitespace inside a pair of double quotes is ignored when counting columns, so the following datafile line has three columns:

      1.0 "second column" 3.0

Data may be written in exponential format with the exponent preceded by the letter e or E. The fortran exponential specifiers d, D, q, and Q may also be used if the command ‘set datafile fortran‘ is in effect.

Only one column (the y value) need be provided. If x is omitted, ‘gnuplot‘ provides integer values starting at 0.

In datafiles, blank records (records with no characters other than blanks and a newline and/or carriage return) are significant.

Single blank records designate discontinuities in a ‘plot‘; no line will join points separated by a blank records (if they are plotted with a line style).

Two blank records in a row indicate a break between separate data sets. See index.

If autoscaling has been enabled (autoscale), the axes are automatically extended to include all datapoints, with a whole number of tic marks if tics are being drawn. This has two consequences: i) For ‘splot‘, the corner of the surface may not coincide with the corner of the base. In this case, no vertical line is drawn. ii) When plotting data with the same x range on a dual-axis graph, the x coordinates may not coincide if the x2tics are not being drawn. This is because the x axis has been autoextended to a whole number of tics, but the x2 axis has not. The following example illustrates the problem:

      reset; plot '-', '-' axes x2y1
      1 1
      19 19
      1 1
      19 19

To avoid this, you can use the ‘fixmin‘/‘fixmax‘ feature of the autoscale command, which turns off the automatic extension of the axis range up to the next tic mark.

Label coordinates and text can also be read from a data file (see labels).

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