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CoPlot 6.0 vs. SigmaPlot 7.0

Disclaimer - Okay, we admit that this is written from the point of view of someone who is familiar with CoPlot and just evaluating SigmaPlot. Okay, we admit we were looking for weaknesses in SigmaPlot. But hey, we found a whole bunch of weaknesses and we couldn't resist pointing them out. If we're incorrect about any of these items, please let us know.

SigmaPlot lacks immediate feedback.
When you change an attribute in SigmaPlot, you then have to press "Apply" to see the effect of the change. Yes, this is a common way for a program to work, but it is really cumbersome compared to CoPlot.

In CoPlot, when you change an attribute, you will see the change immediately. For example, as soon as you select a different line type from the drop-down list of line types, CoPlot applies the change to the drawing. This lets you try different settings very quickly.

We know this won't ever appear on a list of features in a journal article comparing different graphing programs. But it was the most striking difference for us.

Editing text in SigmaPlot is even worse.
In SigmaPlot, you enter text in a special dialog box which has no "Apply" button. To apply the changes to the text, you press "OK" and the dialog box goes away! To make another change to the text you have to repick the object, choose to change the text again, change the text, and press "OK" again. So the process of evaluating the appearance of, for example, several different font sizes takes a long time.

In CoPlot, most text is entered in a one line textfield. Whenever you press "Enter", the changes are applied to the drawing. Some text is entered in a little text editor. Whenever you press a "Save" button, the changes are applied to the drawing. (The text editor window doesn't close until you close it.) Pressing "Enter" or "Save" is needed because, unlike drop-down lists, buttons, and checkboxes, CoPlot doesn't know when you are finished editing the text. But the important point is, you can make a change, see the effect immediatly, and then make other changes right away.

SigmaPlot can't make maps.
Sorry, SigmaPlot doesn't come with map data. Nor is it an optional add on. And none of its graph types are map projections (like Orthographic, Alber's Conic, or Mercator).

CoPlot can make custom maps of any part of the world, including very detailed maps of parts of the United States. You can control which map features are visible, the level of detail, and the colors. CoPlot includes three map projections (Orthographic, Alber's Conic, and Mercator). And maps are just different types of graphs, so you can plot your latitude longitude data on the maps, customize the maps, etc., just as you would on any other graph.

SigmaPlot has only a few statistics procedures.
SigmaPlot has "histogram" (tabulating), regression, and descriptive statistics. If you want to do more statistics, they would like to interest you in SigmaStat (only $499 more), SPSS (only $999 more), or Systat (only $1299 more). SPSS and Systat are not perfectly integrated with SigmaPlot (for example, you can't open a data file in SPSS and then immediately plot the data in SigmaPlot).

CoPlot comes with CoStat, our statistics program, at no extra charge. CoStat and CoPlot are perfectly integrated: CoStat is CoPlot's spreadsheet/data editor. CoStat has a wide range of statistical procedures. You don't need to buy anything else to do ANOVA's, correlations, descriptive statistics, Chi-Square and other goodness-of-fit tests, non-parametric tests, regressions, etc.

SigmaPlot has few "File : Export" options.
Okay, SigmaPlot supports JPEG (a standard for publishing images on the internet). But JPEG files are "lossy" (meaning some pixel's colors are changed and the JPEG version therefore isn't a perfect reproduction of the original). SigmaPlot doesn't support GIF or PNG (the two non-lossy web image standards).

SigmaPlot supports Windows MetaFiles (a vector format). But it doesn't support PDF (a great file type that looks good on the screen and when printed) or SVG (the new web standard for vector graphics).

CoPlot can create JPEG, GIF, PNG, Windows MetaFiles, PDF, SVG, and several other file types.

Hey, the Windows MetaFile that I created with SigmaPlot isn't printing correctly!
Sorry, sometimes the font you used in SigmaPlot looks good on the screen, but doesn't work right when printed. If the font was a bit-mapped font, it may appear blocky and crude when printed. And some fonts can be correctly drawn at an angle on the screen (for example, a text comment printed at 35), but are printed at 0 on the screen. SigmaPlot doesn't warn you. The problems just happen.

It is true that CoPlot supports fewer fonts. But for the fonts it does support, there won't be any surprises when you print the drawing or when you save it as a Windows MetaFile or some other type of graphics file. The drawing will appear just as you created it (except higher quality, since printers have a higher resolution than screens).

SigmaPlot only supports simple, standard text formatting (bold, underline, italics, superscripts, colors, sizes, and fonts) but nothing more, just like all the programs for business people.
Hey, I thought SigmaPlot said it was for scientists. So how come there is no support for mathematical formatting like fractions, integrals, or square roots? Or support for other kinds of text formatting, like lists (bulleted or numbered)? Or support for special tags that automatically print the current date, time, or file name?

CoPlot has all of these features.

How do I get a degrees sign (or other non-ASCII characters) in SigmaPlot?
In SigmaPlot:
  1. Choose "Start".
  2. Choose "Programs".
  3. Choose "Accessories".
  4. Choose "System Tools".
  5. Choose "Character Map".
  6. Choose the desired font.
  7. Choose the degrees sign.
  8. Press "Select".
  9. Press "Close".
  10. Position the insertion bar in the right place in your text.
  11. Press ^V to paste the character into the text.
Eeek. That is a lot of work for a degrees sign. Do you have that memorized or do you have to hunt for it each time you need it?

In CoPlot:

  1. Click on the "&" button to the right of the textfield.
  2. Choose the desired character group.
  3. Choose the degrees sign. (It is immediately inserted into your text.)
Like other programs, CoPlot supports the full Greek alphabet. CoPlot also has a huge selection of accented characters (basically: any accent, any character). And, CoPlot has a wide range of other special characters which are not available in other programs: any of the 100 markers that you can use in your graphs, math symbols, weather symbols, arrows, etc. And these characters will appear correctly if you export the drawing to a Windows MetaFile or any other type of graphics file. There won't be any unpleasant surprises.
SigmaPlot's drawing tools are pretty simplistic.
For example, in SigmaPlot an arrow is always a straight line between two points. Curved lines are not supported. Three points? Not supported. (To see an interesting bug, change the arrow's line type to be a dashed line -- the line type is applied to the arrow head, too, which looks really goofy.) SigmaPlot's other drawing tools (line, rectangle, ellipse, text) are pretty limited, too.

CoPlot has much more extensive drawing capabilities: more line types, more fill patterns, more marker types, more labelling options (like Dimension objects), more ellipse attributes (so you can make an arc or a pie slice), etc. And CoPlot lets you precisely move, scale, or rotate drawing objects (including scaling to a specific size, making mirror images, and rotating to any angle). You can even insert and delete points from a multi-point Path object. CoPlot takes drawing objects seriously.

SigmaPlot has a small color palette.
In SigmaPlot, there are 16 standard colors. If you want a different color, you can define a custom color. It's just a little extra work.

CoPlot's palette has 142 standard colors. So if you want a lighter shade of blue, for example, you can just pick it from the palette. CoPlot supports any of 16.7 million custom colors, too.

When a dialog box is visible in SigmaPlot, you can't do anything else.
That's right. When a dialog box is visible, SigmaPlot won't let you scroll the drawing up or down or right or left, zoom in, save the drawing, or do any other thing that you might reasonably want to do.

When a dialog box is visible in CoPlot, you can scroll the drawing up or down or right or left, zoom in, save the drawing, and do lots of other things.

Yeah, but SigmaPlot has 80 graph types and CoPlot only has 7.
Well, SigmaPlot just names things differently. For example, in CoPlot, there are about 30 ways to plot data on an XY graph. We call that one graph type and 30 data representations. SigmaPlot would call that 30 types of graphs. And CoPlot has many other ways to plot data that are only available on 3D graphs. Don't be fooled; both programs let you make a lot of different types of graphs. CoPlot's setup is very flexible and easy to work with (it is very easy to switch to a different data representation).
SigmaPlot's dialog boxes are a jumble and don't have a consistent format.
Some SigmaPlot dialog boxes have 2 columns of options; some have 3. Sometimes the attribute's name is on the line above the attribute's value; sometimes it is on the same line, but to the left. Some dialog boxes have tabs so you have to poke around to find the screen with the attribute that you want to change.

CoPlot dialog boxes are arranged as simple tables with 2 columns: the attribute names are in the left column and the corresponding attribute values (which you can change) are in the right column.

 Line Color:   red4
 Line Type:   (--- - )        
 Line Width:   0.003


How about the price?
Price shouldn't be the deciding factor. You should get a program that is easy to use and has the features that you need. (Hey! That's CoPlot!) But you might want to know that SigmaPlot costs $699 (plus an extra $499 if you want SigmaStat), while CoPlot costs $310 (and it includes CoStat). And technical support for CoPlot is free, forever.

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