Graphing time-based data in Perl

by on Nov.11, 2011, under Perl, Programming

I recently wanted to produce some graphs from a web app powered by the Dancer Perl web framework, and reevaluated the various Perl graphing moduiles out there.

Modules I considered were:

  • Chart::Strip
  • Chart::Graph
  • Google::Chart
  • Chart::Clicker
  • Chart::Gnuplot
  • Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to do a full in-depth writeup trying every module like the excellent ones Neil Bowers has been doing, but I thought I’d write up a quick post on the choice I made, with example code, in case it helps other people looking to graph potentially irregularly-spaced time-based data samples in Perl easily.

    Chart::Clicker looked to be a nice choice (with a nice example of doing just what I want given as the topic answer to a question on StackOverflow), but had a huge chain of dependencies, finally failing when demanding Cairo and various X11 libraries (on my headless server).

    Chart::Strip seemed to do exactly what I wanted in a simple way, but I encountered a div-by-zero bug when dealing with a certain dataset with > 89 data points.

    I reported this to the author, Jeff Weisgberg in RT #72288, and he promptly released 1.08 with a fix (thanks Jeff!).

    Chart::Strip made it simple to do what I wanted:

    my @dataset;
    while (my $row = $sth->fetchrow_hashref) {
        push @dataset, { time => $row->{timestamp}, value => $row->{value} };
    my $chart = Chart::Strip->new( title => "My chart" );
    $chart->add_data(\@dataset, { style => 'line' });
    # then get the chart as an image with $chart->png

    Nice and easy, just what I wanted – a way to say “here’s some timestamps and values (quite possibly irregularly spaced) – work out how to plot this sensibly for me”.

    The resulting graphs look good enough to me, e.g.:

    (Rendered intentionally a little smaller to fit the blog; naturally the graphs can be whatever size you want. Also, I had to use the transparent option to disable transparent backgrounds.)

7 Comments for this entry

  • gizmomathboy

    Yeah, Chart::Clicker looks awfully nice but that non-Perl dependency chain is such a killer.

    I’ve been meaning to give SVG::Graph a close look as well since I like SVG graphics.

  • Leo

    You might also want to check out : examples:

  • Tim

    Nice! I like Chart::Strip’s defaults.

  • flussence

    I tried doing the same thing a few months back, and after finding Chart::Gnuplot wasn’t flexible enough I just went and made my Perl code generate gnuplot commands directly.

    It took several days of reading, but the results were worth it IMO.

  • Neil

    Nice. I’ve used other modules for this sort of plot in the past, but Chart::Strip looks like a good choice next time I want one.

  • Martin

    Thanks for posting this. Anyone using Fedora 15 will need to install libgd, which is packaged as gd and gd-devel in the Fedora yum repo.

  • Abdul

    Thanks a lot for this. I have been trying to generate PNG files from Chart::Strip as shown in the MAN but not able to do so. I was wondering if you could help me with it. The code prints garbage on my cli and does not create a file. I have manually tried writing to a PNG file but it does not work and gives file error.

    Appreciate your help. I am using perl 5.10 due to some outdated libraries that I need.

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