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Plotting for science

Analyze and plot data with this free suite of scientific and mathematical tools.

Not so long ago, the typical science or research lab was filled with large, heavy instruments, each designed to do just one thing. Now scientists, engineers, and amateurs alike can download lab-grade instruments for free. For example, there's SigmaGraph, a free plotting and analysis tool from SIDI. It offers scientific graphing, curve fitting, editable data sheets, drawing tools, a scripting engine, and more.

SigmaGraph consists of three parts: the SigmaConsole, a mathematical tool that's sort of like a tiny virtual blackboard; the SigmaGraph interface, with a typical Windows layout; and the SigmaTray icon, which resides in the System Tray. You can have multiple instances of SigmaGraph and SigmaConsole open at once, and you can toggle the Console Window and Output Window open and closed from SigmaGraph's toolbar. We clicked New Graph icon, which opened the Datasheet template. After monkeying around for a while, we created a simple, attractive graph, which we saved as a SigmaGraph Document (.sid) and then reopened for editing. The Add/Remove Curve wizard made quick work of configuring not only the curve's axes but also the color, size, and style of the line in the display. SigmaGraph has far too many settings and options to cover, but we'll mention one that seemed especially helpful: a Templates Manager that can quickly create customized templates from a drop-down list and data plot. The SigmaConsole, aka Mathematical Console, is a simple but flexible math tool for everything from jotting down calculations to doing physics and higher math. The Constants menu offers Pi as well as Boltzmann, Planck, and other constants, and the Functions menu includes a Trigonometric submenu. Extras include a handy number pad display and an even handier Variables wizard, a tiny pop-up for adding and editing custom variables. We also successfully imported and exported ASCII data. However, it seems we just scratched the surface of SigmaGraph's capabilities.

SigmaGraph is a fine example of the tremendously powerful scientific resources that are freely available to all these days. It bundles not just software utilities but what would be a whole lab full of data-plotting machinery and instruments into one free download. Now that's scientific progress!

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