Three Free 2D/3D Plotting Software - MATLAB Alternative

We’ve featured a free plotting software – SciDAVis recently, SciDAVis is straightforward and easy to use, it has no learning curve. GNUPlot is another free and open source scientific plotting software developed for scientists and pupils, it’s a command line based program, and will take you some time to learn, but it allows to draw more complicated graphs such as Bezier splines, vector fields, non-gridded data, etc.

Suppose that you wish to draw a two-dimensional or three-dimensional graph to present a specific formula or market analysis data, there are many choices available:

The first 4 options will consume much time and effort, the last option is effective but not free, we've offered 3 free alternative to MATLAB in the field of 2D/3D Plotting.

1, GNUPlot

GNUPlot supports all 32 bit Windows including Windows 7/Windows XP, and Mac OS X, Linux.

GNUPlot is a 9.9MB download available from

2, SciDAVis

SciDAVis is a free, simple-to-operate, flexible, cross-platform and open source plotting program developed by Tilman Benkert and Knut Franke, it’s based on OpenGL and QT, SciDAVis makes analyzing and visualizing scientific data a breeze.

How to use SciDAVis

If you have the lasted version of Python installed( for example, Python 2.7 ), you might need to rename the file “python27.dll” in your system folder( “C:\Windows\System32″ ) to “python26.dll” to get SciDAVis working.

Then you can launch SciDAVis, now I’ll show you how to create a matrix and draw a 3D plot with it.

First, click on “File” – “New” – “New Matrix”, then change the value of “First column X” and “First Row Y” to -10 respectively and hit the “Apply” button under the “Coordinates” tab, now navigate to the “Formula” tab, copy and paste the following code into the big edit field:

Now active the left spreadsheet which contains tens of rows and columns and press CTRL+A to select all the items in the current matrix, then hit the “Apply” button directly right of the label “Formula” in the right panel, all the entries of the matrix will be calculated and filled in immediately, as seen below.

Now you can hit the “3D Wire Surface” button on the bottom toolbar to let SciDAVis render the 3D plot of the matrix we defined above for you. You can check out the online manual for more detailed information, although it’s a bit outdated.


Download SciDAVis

SciDAVis works on Windows 7, Windows XP, Mac OS X and Linux.

SciDAVis is a 9.55MB download available from

External resources: Python, OpenGL.

3, FreeMAT

FreeMat is, as its name suggests, a free and open source clone of the commercial product – MATLAB. It’s a numerical computing environment for scientific processing and rapid engineering, it supports Fast Fourier Transform, 2D/3D graphics plotting and visualization, and parallel processing.

FreeMat has the most features of MATLAB – in terms of numerical computing field, and has a similar user interface to MATLAB. FreeMat is cross-platform, it works on Windows 7, Windows XP / Vista / 2000 / NT / 9X / Me, as well as Mac OS X and Linux.

Feature List

Download FreeMat for Windows from CNET.

Download FreeMat for Mac OS X / Linux from SourceForge.