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Many years ago, Chris Johnson, of Edinburgh's Heriot-Watt University, wrote a program for the BBC B microcomputer called GraphDraw. This could fit lines to experimental data. With the advent of the excellent Acorn Archimedes range of computers, he converted it to run in the desktop; adding it to a suite of graphing programs, and extending its capabilities further. This shareware suite of software is available HERE.. A fee of £3 is desired after a 30 day trial.
Obviously impressed by the Acorn range of computers, Dr. R. Ferguson, again of Heriot-Watt University Chemistry Department, also created a set of programs for plotting scientific graphs. Due to a StrongARM incompatability, much of his suite does not function, so I cannot fully review it; sorry.
Dalriada's GraphMate is a sophisticated tool for producing professional graphs. It will shortly match !GraphDraw in its scientific capabilities, and seemlessly links with their excellent !TableMate. It will be reviewed when I eventually have a copy!
Billed as the de-facto datalogging software (available for Acorns, Macs and PCs), this is a powerful suite of programs. However, the PC version reviewed is incapable of saving in a drawfile format (obviously...), and the data-handling program can only produce simple graphs - you have to save the files as tables, and load the tables in the Table Utility, and then plot the graph! No drag-and-drop between programs exists on the PC version (a failing of Windows95, as the RISC OS version does support it, and produces DrawFile output!)
Serious Statistical Software's FIRST (Fully Interactive Regression STatistics) series of software is perfectly capable of handling scientific data, producing outstanding graphs from it. As its title suggests, however, it is also capable of much, much more - so much so that it is used in Universities all over the world! However, for school curriculum use (increasingly, sales of FIRST are to schools to handle their performance analysis!), it is somewhat more complex in use than GraphDraw. If you want a phenomenally-powerful statistical analysis tool - or you're fed up with battling with SPSS - then look no further: nothing can beat this!
Spreadsheets were never designed for use by scientists. They are designed for use in Business - where they are well suited. However, that's not to say that you can't make a spreadsheet handle scientific data, and produce graphs - just that the most appropriate form of graph for a scientist is either not supported, or at best badly implemented. Software such as Microsoft's Excel and Lotus' 123 are able to handle scientific data effectively - but only via half a dozen non-intuitive menus. This is perhaps where you have to look for specific software for use in science.
© 2001 Andrew P. Harmsworth