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Matplotlib for Python Developers Paperback – November 9, 2009

3.2 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Sandro Tosi is a Debian Developer, Open Source evangelist, and Python enthusiast. After completing a B.Sc. in Computer Science from the University of Firenze, he worked as a consultant for an energy multinational as System Analyst and EAI Architect, and now works as System Engineer for one of the biggest and most innovative Italian Internet companies.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 308 pages
  • Publisher: Packt Publishing (November 12, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847197906
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847197900
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 0.7 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,364,795 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Michael Galloy on February 12, 2010
Format: Paperback
Matplotlib is a popular 2-dimensional plotting library used with Python. While Matplotlib is fairly powerful, I have always had trouble figuring out how to do what I needed from the documentation. I have found the online Matplotlib documentation adequate as a reference, but not very good for getting started (especially since Matplotlib uses some terms in what I would call a "non-standard" way).

Matplotlib for Python Developers by Sandro Tosi is a welcome addition to my bookshelf. It focuses on embedding Matplotlib in applications in GTK+, Qt 4, wxWidgets, and even various web frameworks such as Pylons and Django. But the fundamental elements of the scientific Python tool chain, such as NumPy and IPython, as well as a thorough tutorial of Matplotlib itself are discussed. Both the pylab/pyplot procedural interface (useful for interactive plotting) and object-oriented interface (useful for fine-tuning and more advanced usage) are covered. Over 2000 lines of example code are downloadable from the book site.

Seeing as I don't use Matplotlib regularly, I'm sure I will using this book frequently to brush up on Matplotlib basics. And this book would have saved me a lot of time when I was writing my only major Python project, a PyQt 4 application which embedded interactive Matplotlib graphics. While this book doesn't cover every detail of Matplotlib (the online docs are good for that), it will get you started no matter how you are using it.

The publisher has made a sample chapter on embedding Matplotlib in Qt4 available for download. More information, such as a full table of contents, is also available on the publisher's site.

Full disclosure: I received a review copy of this book.
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I've been teaching Python classes here at New Mexico Tech for
15 years. Until now, all I could do in the Matplotlib unit is
throw some small examples at the students and then point them
at the 800 pages of reference documentation and say "Here is
documentation for the 10,000 tiny pieces of Matplotlib. Good
luck figuring out how to assemble them."

Tosi's book is exactly what Matplotlib has needed for so long: a
proper tutorial. He starts with the absolute basics: plot Y
against X; add a title; add axis labels; plot two functions of
the same variable; and so on, a progression that eases the new
user first into the features that most people will use.

The writing is clear, and the examples constructed and explained
well, with a nice balance of theory and practice.

In particular I appreciate the shift in chapter 4 to a more
Pythonic, object-oriented approach. The author places Pylab in
its proper context (great for playing around) but I agree that
for serious production applications and modular design the object
approach is the way to go.

The only extremely minor quibbles I have are with the editing.
None of the editorial crew seem to be native English speakers.
Take for example the highly useful diagram on page 59, "Plot
types". This diagram helps you figure out what kind of plot
fills your needs. However, the title is "Chart Suggestions -- A
Tought-Starter [sic]"; that should be "Thought-Starter". On the
same diagram, there are two references to "Tree Variables" that
probably should be "Three variables".

However, don't let that put you off. This is just the right book
for people starting out. I found very few typos, and none of
them reduced the book's usefulness.
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I picked up this book a while back and was looking forward to see if it offered any additional insights into the inner workings of Matplotlib (mpl) beyond what is provided with the mpl package. In general, I found the book to be good for someone looking for a Python-based data plotting tool along the lines of gnuplot or MATLAB, but not so useful for shedding any additional light on the details of the underlying classes and methods of mpl.

That being said, "Matplotlib for Python developers" does a pretty good job of introducing the reader to the basic capabilities of the mpl package. It describes how to write simple Python scripts to tackle common graphing tasks, and then how to pretty up the output for inclusion in a paper or presentation. What I found lacking was the kind of in-depth knowledge I wanted to see regarding embedding mpl into Python applications. For me it would have been more useful if it had at least included an index of mpl's classes and methods, with some discussion to build on what is already included with the mpl package. The examples given were fine, in and of themselves, but there is no real guidance as to how to take it beyond that. Some additional detailed examples of how to extend mpl's classes and what methods one might want to override would have been most useful.

All in all, it's a good place to start for someone who's never worked with Matplotlib before, and it offers the more advanced reader a sampler of what can be done with a little effort. I've been recommending this book to my colleagues who have expressed an interest in using Python to expand their repertoire beyond the realm of MATLAB and gnuplot. If a second edition includes some additional low-level technical details and examples (perhaps in a couple of appendices), then I think it could be a much more useful book and appeal to a wider audience.
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