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How To Use This Document

The aim of this document is to help you to decide what type of picture you want to produce, then to find the most suitable package given your general computing environment with which to achieve it. The main part of the document discusses the various types of picture, while the capabilities of several widely available graphics packages are comprehensively summarised in the appendices.

What do you want to draw?

Chapter 3 starts with a Picture Gallery (Figure 1) showing the main features of the most commonly used charts. The term chart is used to define any drawing, graph, list of text or other presentation. A chart may exist on its own, or it may be combined with text, or it may be joined with other charts to form a continuous series or slideshow. You should be able to find any type of chart you want to produce in thts gallery.

The rest of the chapter then describes each of the types of chart considered in this document: this should help you to confirm that you are using the right chart for your task

Chapter 4 describes in words and pictures the components of each type of chart, defining the terms which are used later in this document and in a package's own documentation. You need to know precisely what you want to produce before you can tell if a particular package can produce it.

Using your pictures

Chapter 5 briefly explains some of the various file and image formats used in graphics and how they may be exchanged between applications and documents.

Getting output

Chapter 6 discusses output devices. Printers and plotters have a significant effect on the quality of the result you finally obtain from any package. The brief descriptions given there should help you to choose the most suitable form of output for the document you are producing, and offers advice on buying a device.

Evaluating a package

Chapter 7 details all the facilities that were considered when examining each package and explains the terms in which graphics packages are evaluated. There is a glossary at the end of the document to explain some basic graphics jargon. Tables containing the evaluation results for each package appear in Appendix 2.

A quick overview of packages

Appendix 1 summarises classes of Package. It gives a somewhat subjective summary of the strengths and weaknesses of several commonly-available packages, so you can quickly get an idea of whether a particular package can produce a particular result. It could also be used to steer you towards the Package(s) which can achieve a desired effect. Negative entries in the table do not necessarily mean that a package cannot perform a particular task: it might be possible to force a package to do something for which it was never intended, but the effort involved might be huge. It is important to use the right tool for a job if you can. Keep in mind that it is often possible to combine features of charts to achieve the desired results: for example, a graph from one package might be combined with a freehand drawing from a second package. This is a useful method of circumventing deficiencies in packages for presenting scientific results -where subscripts, superscripts and non-English characters are very important.

An In-depth view of packages

Appendix 2 presents The Facilities Matrix - the heart of this document. This matrix gives a comprehensive summary of the capabilities of each of the packages identified in Appendix 1. Such lists are, of course, often out of date almost as soon as they are written, and should be considered for guidance only. The manual for the latest version of a particular package should be consulted to check for changes. No indication is given regarding costs as these can vary from supplier to supplier, and a CHEST agreement or site licence can have a considerable effect on costs.

Support Arrangements

Where any additional local support arrangements exist, they are contained in the Supplement attached to the end of the this document.

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