06 October 2013

Why I still use WinPlot

Why I still use WinPlot (even on my MacBook)

WinPlot has been a major tool for me for more than 15 years. When I want to add a graph or a set of axes to a test or homework, it is my go-to app. It has the perfect combination of ease of use and lots of features. I have written a couple of posts on WinPlot before (here and here). However, when my school changed the teacher laptops to MacBooks, I couldn't take the program with me.

My requirements for a replacement are basic. I want to make graphs of functions (sometimes piece-wise), change the scales on both axes independently, and label the axes with appropriate units. An example is below. I knocked this one off in about 10 minutes for my AP class. I wanted to give them some idealized elevator acceleration data they could practice with so that they might be able to do something with the messy data they got. Note the labels for the y-axis and the x-axis.

I have looked for such a program for my MacBook, but have not found one as flexible. The app Grapher that comes with OS X does not have all the flexibility needed. I even looked at using gnuplot, which I consider the Ferrari of plotting programs. However, since I would be using it only sporadically, I need a GUI to help me navigate all the available options. Haven't found one that works on Macs.

Bottle that Vintage

My OS of choice at home is Linux. And so I am familiar with the Wine project. It allows one to run many Windows programs in Linux. And since the latest Apple OS's are based on Linux, there is hope. I could have delved in the back room of the Terminal application, but I came across something better.

Wine Bottler is a program that takes a Windows program and makes a Mac app for you. You can then run them just like any Mac app (with some limitations). It was easy to make a WinPlot app that runs just fine on my MacBook. I can run it just like I did a few years ago. But there is a price. While I could just copy-paste the graphs between programs in Windows, I can't do so with the Wine-Bottled versions. I just have to save the graph as a graphic file and then import that file into the document I am creating.

Another price is that the apps made by Wine Bottler are bigger than the native version and you have to have the X11 app installed. But if you have a favorite Windows program and want to find a way to run it in OS X without installing Parallels, you might want to check out Wine Bottler.

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