MagicPlot review

MagicPlot 2.0 review 
More info and a complete overview of the features here: magic plot website.




Magic plot seems to be a rising star in the firmament of the data analysis and plotting softwares.
In this review I will show why you should use it and why you should support it.
First it's multi platform, maybe i will sound a tad obsessed, but in my view it's a very big plus.
Then it's very lightweight , very fast and very easy.


a)interface:


Default interface 

Yes it's a bit dull, but it's less overcomplicated than that of origin lab, and easier than the 
minimalistic one of igor pro! 
In the bottom status bar you see some details of what you are working on. (e.g the data you are hovering with the cursor, the x and y values, and the state of your project.
status bar
If you select a trace not only it will be highlighted with a green halo but the relevant entry in the legend will be also  highlighted. Very handy.


A minor glitch is that you can assign a label to a point, in wich the x,y values are shown unless you copy and paste the values manually. But the developer says that he's working  on it.


b)the fit interface:
As much as I love igor pro it is sometimes over complicated.
Magic plot offers instead a very simple, clean and easy fit interface.
But don't be fooled it's also a very capable fitting tool.
Fitting with a custom function.  
You can in fact fit with a custom function, or a sum of functions, or a function and a base line.


And lastly you have the tool to do a visual peak fitting adjustment.


Base line subtracted, manually adjusted gaussian peak fit.
There is also a fast fit interval selector, which is very handy.


And a report window, that offers a clear view of the fitting results.
Fitting report

c)data import
Importing data files is easy and fast even with big amounts of records.
From the import text table you can also set names, and preview your data plots.

I'm very surprised by how well the auto detecting of  both the column delimiter and decimal separator works. In my test, it never failed. NEVER.


Batch data processing is also on board, it worked very well in my tests.
 For an overview look on magiclplot site http://magicplot.com/wiki/batch
 
All sort of manipulation of data is possible, differentiating, integrating or setting persona formulae.

d)plotting
Plotting data is easy and straightforward, you can have multiple y over a single x, or multiple x,y.
Multiples axes are also available, as well as table-like axes and inset axes.
You can also save style templates, which is a super useful feature! 


Plots can then be previewed and exported in the most common and useful formats.

The anti aliasing and the vector quality of the graphs are very high, higher than origin lab and on par with igorpro!

Conclusions.
Magicplot has some incredibly nice features, yet one may assert that in comparison with origin lab or igor pro it's underpowered.  This assumption holds true only if one must do 3d plots, or over complicated things which require scripting or automating or if you have to use real time acquisition of data.
But in my opinion magic plot wins first for its balanced simplicity, it can do mostly everything and it can do it very fast.

First time I write something about price, but in this case it is a very important part of the review.
 Magicplot exist in a free fashion(but it has some limitation) or in a commercial version  which is 149$.

Origin lab or igor pro cost from 3 to 5 times more. And most of the times the support or the help files aren't even that nice or well put together. 

Considering all of the above,  magicplot gets 5 stars out of 5. I really suggest it to anyone! 









Next up : magic plot.

Magic plot, plotting and fitting software.

You  can get an overview of the major features on here: magicplot web site .

First feature that makes this software noteworthy is that it is cross platform  (win, osx, unix like).
It seems to produce very good quality graphs, and offers some unique management feature of traces in the graph window (i.e. you click on a trace, and it's highlighted with a green halo and the relevant legend entry is highlighted too.)

Screenshot of main interface with simple plotting going on.

Igor Pro review (2nd and last part)


Igor pro review.
(by wavemetrics , version 6.22a)

IGOR Pro is an interactive software environment for experimentation with scientific and engineering data and for the production of publication-quality graphs and page layouts.

Igor pro runs on windows and macintosh natively.
For a complete overview I suggest to browse wavemetrics site, linked above)


First part here

a) File import, and batch file import
Igor pro can import mostly all kind of text data files (e.g. data files, csv ).
The process in which data files are converted into waves is straightforward, you have the finest control over all the parameters.
The only gripe I have is that batch file import isn't easy at all.

b) graph printing
Graphs are very high quality and really better looking than most ( especially better looking that those printed in origin lab).
They can be exported in a plethora of format. (see picture)
Graph format export options

c) Summarizing:

Igor pro is really powerful, but at times it can be "scary" and unfriendly.
Main pros:
-really powerful if you master the igor pro language programming(most students really don't need all this horsepower)
-very clean  command based interface 

main cons:
-very clean  command based interface (Note: interface interaction can be painful if you don't master it enough)
-batch import of date files is awkward
-not available for Liunx distributions.


All in all, you have to carefully evaluate your needs and your habits.
 For simple plotting and data analysis igor pro may be a tad overkill and thus can drive you mad.
But for complex experimental procedures the flexibility of igor pro is unmatched.








A modern work approach: sharing and collaboration.



" Sharing knowledge is not about giving people something, or getting something from them. That is only valid for information sharing. Sharing knowledge occurs when people are genuinely interested in helping one another develop new capacities for action; it is about creating learning processes."

Cloud based collaboration and sharing can improve our research workflow.
Research in the cloud
  
Sharing knowledge,  think: papers,books(legally), images, graphs,  etc... , can really speed up the research process by cutting out dead wait times.
Why should you waste time to search for an article your mate has already found and maybe readed and summarized?
 You shouldn't indeed. That's why you must start by setting up in mendely, or papers, or zotero shared libraries.
Life will then be easier, no  links to send no paper to scan/fax pure and simple web 2.0.

Collaborating not only can speed up your work, but can also be stimulating and fun.
You can collaborate by writing with someone, or talking you your colleague what about real time collaboration on the same project?

I will now picture a modern work approach, by no means perfect but sure useful when mastered.


  • First: think about your needs.
  • Second: start using dropbox to have a drag and drop sync folder shared with those you want to work with.

In this folder make subfolders for any type of file (e.g. graphs, pictures, drafts and so on.)
(avoid chaos, see first point, think before creating useless digital stuff.)
Dropbox is free and fast and secure, and keeps the history of your files.
If your computer breaks, get stolen or other misfortunes no one will yell at you because all datas are safe in a fluffy cloud.


  • Third: collaboration office and latex.

In my view latex isn't really optimized or suitable to collaborative writing.
But you can always make a latex  project's folder shared in dropbox.
Since i consider latex typesetting only the final beautification step of the work collaboration isn't really relevant.

Office documents, mostly text and tables, can be optimized for collaboration.
Software nedeed:

  1. office (either open office or microsoft's)
  2. google documents account 
  3. If you have a mac then download Insync.
  4. If you have windows and Microsoft's office then download google cloud connect
    If you have windows and use open office or if you have Ubuntu than download  oo2gd .

    UPDATE: installation of oo2gd step by step look here.

All of these software work really well and plenty of tutorial will tell you how to set them up.
You can then start collecting data in a new spreadsheet and in the same time your workmate.
(For a simple explanation watch the video below)


You will end up with a shared papers library a collaborative environment and in the same time most of your precious stuff will be safe and ready in a could backup: no more data losses. 
And most of all, in a free and multi platform way. 



Igor pro review (1st part)

Igor pro review.
(by wavemetrics , version 6.22a)

IGOR Pro is an interactive software environment for experimentation with scientific and engineering data and for the production of publication-quality graphs and page layouts.

Igor pro runs on windows and macintosh natively.
For a complete overview I suggest to browse wavemetrics site, linked above)

1st part of the review interface:
Igor pro interface elements.
 As you can see in the screenshot, the interface is quite different from the standard "excel-like interface" (like the one originlab offers).
Once you get used to it, with some very useful tricks, it really makes your data analysis faster.
I must admit though that under windows it doesn't look as good and polished as in osx, but the functionality is really the same.

The interface is composed by the following floating windows:
  • command windows
  • procedure windows
  • data browser
  • tables, graphs and layouts
By default procedure windows and data browser are hidden, you can show them from the menubar 
(windows-procedure window-procedure window & data-data browser respectively) .
What is incredibly nice and useful when mastered is that you can load data into waves(think columns of data), and just store them without showing, being still able to control them with the data browser.
With the command window you can make operations on your data.

The command window and the way you interact with data is the key to understand and either love or hate igor pro.
Forget excel and similar, you don't have a row based control of data.
What you get is a "terminal" type of interaction with easier control, with simple commands you can create data, alter colors, perform mathematical operations and so on.
What you also get is control over what you have done from the first second you have opened your experiment, you can then re-execute commands or recall the help file relative to that command. 

If you are somewhat scared of command line you can operate most of igor also with menubar, but you sort of lose the most interesting features of igor pro.

The procedure windows is another cool feature of igor pro.
In essence is where you  can write your own software routines using Igor´s built-in programming language. These routines are entered as text in the procedure windows.
This means that you can use additional procedure to organize your work or to re-use routines previously written. Igor ships with a lot of already written procedures, that you are free to explore and use if needed. 
In the procedure windows you can also have an overview of your macros.
I personally use the procedure windows to control my graph, and all the repetitive tasks.
 A practical example follows.

A procedure I've written to "automagically"add leggend, and name to the axis for a typical optical absorption graph.
What I have marked with 1,2,3 in orange are the buttons to access:
  • 1 procedure file information
  • 2 lock file, to avoid unintentional modifications 
  • 3 zoom text
The template box with downward arrow will open the already written procedures, and the procedures box will show the opened procedures.


Finally the data browser windows allow you to control your data.
Data browser window


Here you can create folders, rename delete and check your data waves. For maximum confort I suggest to tick the plot check box so that yo can see at a glance the shape of your waves.

Zoom of the quick plot area of the data browser.

That's a quick overview of the interface.
In my opinion you can either love it or hate it, i actually love it because of the control it gives you over the important steps of data analysis. 
Under mac osx the hybrid interface looks perfectly integrated, and most of all it really stable, no crashes at all.
But i must admit that under Windows 7 I also experienced no crashes at all.

Stay tuned for second part.