Software Open Access

plt - Software for 2D Plots

George Moody

Published: Nov. 7, 2002. Version: 2.5

Please include the standard citation for PhysioNet: (show more options)
Goldberger, A., Amaral, L., Glass, L., Hausdorff, J., Ivanov, P. C., Mark, R., ... & Stanley, H. E. (2000). PhysioBank, PhysioToolkit, and PhysioNet: Components of a new research resource for complex physiologic signals. Circulation [Online]. 101 (23), pp. e215–e220.

Software Description

plt is a non-interactive plotting utility originally written for Unix by Paul Albrecht. plt can produce publication-quality 2D plots in PostScript from easily-produced text or binary data files, and can also create screen plots under the X Window System. Compared to most other software for 2D graphics, plt has several significant advantages:

  • plt generates compact vector PostScript output, which can be transmitted quickly yet can be resized without introducing raster artifacts.
  • plt works well with a wide variety of tools that create and manipulate readable text files.
  • plt is scriptable; if you need to make 100 plots of 100 data sets, you don't need to point and click for hours.
  • Complex overlays and multi-part plots are easy to make, using multiple invocations of plt to write to a single window or page.
  • plt can read data from a pipe, so it can be used to observe real-time signals or the outputs of computationally intensive processes as they become available.
  • plt imposes no fixed limits on the number of points in a plot (even the total amount of available memory is not a constraint if the data are read from a pipe and the axis limits are pre-specified).
  • plt is free, open-source software that can be modified as needed for unique applications. (plt runs on all popular platforms, including GNU/Linux, Mac OS X, MS-Windows, and Unix.)
  • plt is easy to pronounce (say: P-L-T) and is almost as easy to spell :-)

Sources for the current version of plt are available as a gzip-compressed tar archive, or as individual files in the source tree. A source RPM and a Linux (x86) binary RPM are also available, as are binaries for Mac OS X and MS-Windows. The plt Tutorial and Cookbook is available in HTML, printable PostScript and PDF formats, and in LaTeX source format.


plt was written by George B. Moody of the MIT Lab for Computational Physiology.


Access Policy:
Anyone can access the files, as long as they conform to the terms of the specified license.

License (for files):
Open Data Commons Attribution License v1.0

Corresponding Author
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Makefile (download) 7.4 KB 2019-04-12
NEWS (download) 708 B 2019-04-12
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plt.spec (download) 2.5 KB 2019-04-12