Programs for visualization


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The object of this page is to describe the tools can be used to visualize the output of models or data analysis software (DIVA, DINEOF)


Plotting tools

Here is a list of tools able to generate images (vector or bitmap formats) using numerical information (generally ascii or binary files).

Programming languages

  • matlab (proprietary software) produces figures of good quality in combination with the m_map toolbox.
  • octave: The scripting language is almost entirely compatible with matlab. In most cases, the code can run unchanged except for figures. But the downside is that the visualization of octave is quite simple compared to matlab. It is based on gnuplot and has thus the same limitations. Octave can be extended using packages available at In particular you can add NetCDF support (netcdf). Installing octave from source is not trivial for novices. But pre-compiled packages of octave are available for most platforms. I recommend you to use the version 3.0.0 or later.
  • python + matplotlib. It doesn't aim to be compatible with matlab, but its syntax is quite close. The quality of graphics is excellent. A large number of add-ons is also available. For interactive use, ipython is very useful.


  • gnuplot is free software and available on numerous platforms. It supports many output formats, among others eps and png. However, some user find the figures of gnuplot not very pretty. To my knowledge, it cannot read NetCDF files directly.
  • ferret can read NetCDF files and has good visualization capabilities. It may take some time to understand the ferret language.
  • Ocean Data View is a graphical program that allows one to visualize variables in various ways. It is not a programming environment like the previous ones and it thus easier to use for new users. However, it can also be used in scripts. It is free to use for research and educational purposes.

Color palettes

Software like Matlab, Octove or Python already offer various color palettes. Here are some like to get more.

Drawing tools

Drawing tools are useful for creating diagrams, logos, or any image that is not based on a numerical file. They also can be employed to improve the images obtained with the plotting tools.


GIMP stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program. It can be used for many kinds of image editing. Here we describe a few examples of useful commands.

Creation of a rectangle with rounded corners

  1. Make a rectangle selection
  2. Chose the option rounded corners
  3. Use Select -> To Path
  4. Use Edit -> Stroke Selection and chose the thickness of the rectangle.


Move a selection

Alt + Ctrl. 


Resize a selection

  1. Make a selection.
  2. Select > Float (or Shift+Ctrl+L).
  3. Select the Scale tool and drag the floating selection to resize it (or type numbers in the Scale dialogue box).
  4. When you're happy with the result, just click the Anchor the floating layer button in the Layers Dialog.


Draw arrows

Follow this link:

Save file arrow.scm in /home/username/.gimp-2.6/scripts/

Remove cables or other things

Use the clone tool.


xfig is a drawing tool that enables the user to easily create simple vector figures with latex formulas and text. Various output formats are available: eps, pdf, svg, and all the bitmap formats (png, tiff, jpg etc).


Image viewing

Here the objective is simply to display a set of images on the screen, without needing to click several times.


feh is fast image viewer based on command line.

  • To display the content of a directory (containing images):
feh name_of_the_directory
  • display images in the first level subdirectories filtered by keyword in the filename (for example datestamp):
feh */*<keyword>*.png
  • display images from all subdirectories filtered by keyword in the filename:
find . -name "*<keyword>*" |xargs feh
  • position and resize the images within the fixed window size:
find -g 950x950+970+0 <file_list>
  • ... many other useful features:
man feh

Interactive maps

Leaflet is an open-source JavaScript library for mobile-friendly interactive maps.

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