JMzance JMzance - 9 months ago 65
C Question

Making C code plot a graph automatically

I have written a program which writes a list of data to a '.dat' file with the intention of then plotting it separately using gnuplot. Is there a way of making my code plot it automatically? My output is of the form:

x-coord analytic approximation
x-coord analytic approximation
x-coord analytic approximation
x-coord analytic approximation
x-coord analytic approximation

Ideally, when I run the code the graph would also be printed with an x-label, y-label and title (which could be changed from my C code). Many thanks.

Answer Source

I came across this while searching for something else regarding gnuplot. Even though it's an old question, I thought I'd contribute some sample code. I use this for a program of mine, and I think it does a pretty tidy job. AFAIK, this PIPEing only works on Unix systems (see the edit below for Windows users). My gnuplot installation is the default install from the Ubuntu repository.

#include <stdlib.h>
#include <stdio.h>
#define NUM_POINTS 5
#define NUM_COMMANDS 2

int main()
    char * commandsForGnuplot[] = {"set title \"TITLEEEEE\"", "plot 'data.temp'"};
    double xvals[NUM_POINTS] = {1.0, 2.0, 3.0, 4.0, 5.0};
    double yvals[NUM_POINTS] = {5.0 ,3.0, 1.0, 3.0, 5.0};
    FILE * temp = fopen("data.temp", "w");
    /*Opens an interface that one can use to send commands as if they were typing into the
     *     gnuplot command line.  "The -persistent" keeps the plot open even after your
     *     C program terminates.
    FILE * gnuplotPipe = popen ("gnuplot -persistent", "w");
    int i;
    for (i=0; i < NUM_POINTS; i++)
    fprintf(temp, "%lf %lf \n", xvals[i], yvals[i]); //Write the data to a temporary file

    for (i=0; i < NUM_COMMANDS; i++)
    fprintf(gnuplotPipe, "%s \n", commandsForGnuplot[i]); //Send commands to gnuplot one by one.
    return 0;


In my application, I also ran into the problem that the plot doesn't appear until the calling program is closed. To get around this, add a fflush(gnuplotPipe) after you've used fprintf to send it your final command.

I've also seen that Windows users may use _popen in place of popen -- however I can't confirm this as I don't have Windows installed.


One can avoid having to write to a file by sending gnuplot the plot '-' command followed by data points followed by the letter "e".


fprintf(gnuplotPipe, "plot '-' \n");
int i;

for (int i = 0; i < NUM_POINTS; i++)
  fprintf(gnuplotPipe, "%lf %lf\n", xvals[i], yvals[i]);

fprintf(gnuplotPipe, "e");