1. What is plotdata?

plotdata is the name of a computer program that you will be using in many of your courses in Physics. It is difficult to find a successful physicist these days who does not use a computer in one way or another. The computer has become an indispensable tool: to be successful in many fields of human endeavor today not only you need to know the field, you also need to know how to apply computer tools to it efficiently. Physics is no exception, and plotdata is one such tool. You will have to spend some time learning how to use it but in the long run it will save you time and effort, and you will become more efficient in doing your assignments and lab reports.

As the name implies, plotdata excels at plotting data. We will get to a simple example in a moment, when you will analyze the results of some measurement and generate a figure for a report or publication. However, plotdata is versatile enough to be used in other contexts as well, such as when you want to plot an analytical expression, or prepare a transparency or a poster with large-size text or mathematical formulas. In addition, plotdata has its own macro language, a way of grouping commands into ``programs'' and then executing (running) those programs with a single plotdata command. The syntax of this language is similar to Fortran, so it should prove familiar to most of you.

plotdata is one of several programs written by the capable staff of the Computing Services Group at TRIUMF (an accelerator facility in Vancouver, BC).

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