A Dramatic Tour through Python’s Data Visualization Landscape (including ggpy and Altair)


by Dan Saber |

This publish originally appeared on Dan Saber’s weblog. We thought it was hilarious, so we requested him if we might repost it. He generously agreed!

About Dan: My identify is Dan Saber. I’m a UCLA math grad, and I do Information Science at Coursera. (Earlier than that, I labored in Finance.) I really like writing, music, programming, and — regardless of the American schooling system’s greatest makes an attempt — statistics.

Why Even Strive, Man?

I not too long ago stumbled on Brian Granger and Jake VanderPlas’s Altair, a promising younger visualization library. Altair appears well-suited to addressing Python’s ggplot envy, and its tie-in with JavaScript’s Vega-Lite grammar implies that because the latter develops new performance (e.g., tooltips and zooming), Altair advantages — seemingly without cost!

Certainly, I used to be so impressed by Altair that the unique thesis of my publish was going to be: “Yo, use Altair.”

However then I started ruminating by myself Pythonic visualization habits, and — in a painful second of self-reflection — realized I’m everywhere: I exploit a hodgepodge of instruments and disjointed methods relying on the duty at hand (often whichever library I first used to perform that process1).

That is no good. Because the outdated saying goes: “The unexamined plot shouldn’t be price exporting to a PNG.”

Thus, I’m utilizing my discovery of Altair as a possibility to step again — to research how Python’s statistical visualization choices grasp collectively. I hope this investigation proves useful for you as properly.

How’s This Gonna Go?

The self-esteem of this publish shall be: “You should do Factor X. How would you do Factor X in matplotlib? pandas? Seaborn? ggpy? Altair?” By doing many various Factor X’s, we’ll develop an affordable listing of execs, cons, and takeaways — or at the least a complete bunch of code that is likely to be in some way helpful.

(Warning: this all could occur within the type of a two-act play.)

The Choices (in ~Descending Order of Subjective Complexity)

First, let’s welcome our buddies2:


The 800-pound gorilla — and like most 800-pound gorillas, this one ought to in all probability be averted until you genuinely want its energy, e.g., to make a customized plot or produce a publication-ready graphic.

(As we’ll see, relating to statistical visualization, the popular tack is likely to be: “do as a lot as you simply can in your comfort layer of selection [i.e., any of the next four libraries], after which use matplotlib for the remaining.”)


“Come for the DataFrames; keep for the plotting comfort features which can be arguably extra nice than the matplotlib code they supplant.” — rejected pandas taglines

(Bonus tidbit: the pandas workforce should embody a number of visualization nerds, because the library consists of issues like RadViz plots and Andrews Curves that I haven’t seen elsewhere.)


Seaborn has lengthy been my go-to library for statistical visualization; it summarizes itself thusly:

“If matplotlib ‘tries to make straightforward issues straightforward and arduous issues attainable,’ seaborn tries to make a well-defined set of arduous issues straightforward too”

yhat’s ggpy

A Python implementation of the splendidly declarative ggplot2. This isn’t a “feature-for-feature port of ggplot2,” however there’s robust function overlap. (And talking as a part-time R consumer, the principle geoms appear to be in place.)


The brand new man, Altair is a “declarative statistical visualization library” with an exceedingly nice API.

Fantastic. Now that our friends have arrived and checked their coats, let’s settle in for our very awkward dinner dialog. Our present is entitled…

Little Store of Python Visualization Libraries (starring all libraries as themselves)


(In Scene 1, we’ll be coping with a tidy knowledge set named “ts.” It consists of three columns: a “dt” column (for dates); a “worth” column (for values); and a “type” column, which has 4 distinctive ranges: A, B, C, and D. Right here’s a preview…)

dt type worth
0 2000-01-01 A 1.442521
1 2000-01-02 A 1.981290
2 2000-01-03 A 1.586494
3 2000-01-04 A 1.378969
4 2000-01-05 A -0.277937

Scene 1: How would you plot a number of time collection on the identical graph?

matplotlib: Ha! Haha! Past easy. Whereas I might and would accomplish this process in any variety of advanced methods, I do know your feeble brains would crumble beneath the load of their ingenuity. Therefore, I dumb it down, displaying you two easy strategies. Within the first, I loop by your trumped-up matrix — I consider you peons name it a “Information” “Body” — and subset it to the related time collection. Subsequent, I invoke my “plot” methodology and move within the related columns from that subset.

fig, ax = plt.subplots(1, 1,
                       figsize=(7.5, 5))

for okay in ts.type.distinctive():
    tmp = ts[ts.kind == k]
    ax.plot(tmp.dt, tmp.worth, label=okay)

       title='Random Timeseries')


MPL: Subsequent, I enlist this chump (motions to pandas), and have him pivot this “Information” “Body” in order that it appears like this…

# the notion of a tidy dataframe issues not right here
dfp = ts.pivot(index='dt', columns='type', values='worth')
type A B C D
2000-01-01 1.442521 1.808741 0.437415 0.096980
2000-01-02 1.981290 2.277020 0.706127 -1.523108
2000-01-03 1.586494 3.474392 1.358063 -3.100735
2000-01-04 1.378969 2.906132 0.262223 -2.660599
2000-01-05 -0.277937 3.489553 0.796743 -3.417402

MPL: By reworking the information into an index with 4 columns — one for every line I need to plot — I can do the entire thing in a single fell swoop (i.e., a single name of my “plot” operate).

fig, ax = plt.subplots(1, 1,
                       figsize=(7.5, 5))


       title='Random Timeseries')

ax.legend(dfp.columns, loc=2)

pandas (trying timid): That was nice, Mat. Actually nice. Thanks for together with me. I do the identical factor — hopefully pretty much as good? (smiles weakly)

fig, ax = plt.subplots(1, 1,
                       figsize=(7.5, 5))


       title='Random Timeseries')


pandas: It appears precisely the identical, so I simply received’t present it.

Seaborn (smoking a cigarette and adjusting her beret): Hmmm. Looks as if an terrible lot of knowledge manipulation for a foolish line graph. I imply, for loops and pivoting? This isn’t the 90’s or Microsoft Excel. I’ve this factor referred to as a FacetGrid I picked up once I went overseas. You’ve in all probability by no means heard of it…

g = sns.FacetGrid(ts, hue='type', dimension=5, facet=1.5)
g.map(plt.plot, 'dt', 'worth').add_legend()
         title='Random Timeseries')

SB: See? You hand FacetGrid your un-manipulated tidy knowledge. At that time, passing in “type” to the “hue” parameter means you’ll plot 4 completely different traces — one for every stage within the “type” discipline. The best way you truly understand these 4 completely different traces is by mapping my FacetGrid to this Philistine’s (motions to matplotlib) plot operate, and passing in “x” and “y” arguments. There are some stuff you want to bear in mind, clearly, like manually including a legend, however nothing too difficult. Nicely, nothing too difficult for a few of us…

ggpy: Wow, neat! I do one thing related, however I do it like my massive bro. Have you ever heard of him? He’s so coo–

SB: Who invited the child?

GG: Test it out!

fig, ax = plt.subplots(1, 1, figsize=(7.5, 5))

g = ggplot(ts, aes(x='dt', y='worth', coloration='type')) + 
        geom_line(dimension=2.0) + 
        xlab('Date') + 
        ylab('Worth') + 
        ggtitle('Random Timeseries')

GG: (picks up ggplot2 by Hadley Wickham and sounds out phrases): Each plot is com — com — com-prised of knowledge (e.g., “ts”), aesthetic mappings (e.g, “x”, “y”, “coloration”), and the geometric shapes that flip our knowledge and aesthetic mappings into an actual visualization (e.g., “geom_line”)!

Altair: Yup, I try this, too.

c = Chart(ts).mark_line().encode(

ALT: You give my Chart class some knowledge and inform it what sort of visualization you need: on this case, it’s “mark_line”. Subsequent, you specify your aesthetic mappings: our x-axis must be “date”; our y-axis must be “worth”; and we need to break up by type, so we move “type” to “coloration.” Identical to you, GG (tousles GG’s hair). Oh, and by the best way, utilizing the identical coloration scheme y’all use isn’t an issue, both:


# cp corresponds to Seaborn's customary coloration palette
c = Chart(ts).mark_line().encode(
    coloration=Shade('type', scale=Scale(vary=cp.as_hex()))

MPL stares in terrified marvel

Analyzing Scene 1

Apart from matplotlib being a jerk3, a number of themes emerged:

  • In matplotlib and pandas, it’s essential to both make a number of calls to the “plot” operate (e.g., once-per-for loop), or it’s essential to manipulate your knowledge to make it optimally match the plot operate (e.g., pivoting). (That stated, there’s one other method we’ll see in Scene 2.)
  • (To be frank, I by no means used to assume this was an enormous deal, however then I met individuals who use R. They checked out me aghast.)
  • Conversely, ggpy and Altair implement related and declarative “grammar of graphics”-approved methods to deal with our easy case: you give their “foremost” operate– “ggplot” in ggpy and “Chart” in Altair” — a tidy knowledge set. Subsequent, you outline a set of aesthetic mappings — x, y, and coloration — that specify how the information will map to our geoms (i.e., the visible marks that do the arduous work of conveying info to the reader). When you truly invoke stated geom (“geom_line” in ggpy and “mark_line” in Altair), the information and aesthetic mappings are remodeled into visible ticks {that a} human can perceive — and thus, an angel will get its wings.
  • Intellectually, you may — and possibly ought to (?) — view Seaborn’s FacetGrid by the identical lens; nonetheless, it’s not 100% an identical. FacetGrid wants a hue argument upfront — alongside your knowledge — however needs the x and y arguments later. At that time, your mapping isn’t an aesthetic one, however a useful one: for every “hue” in your knowledge set, you’re merely calling matplotlib’s plot operate utilizing “dt” and “worth” as its x and y arguments. The for loop is solely hidden from you.
  • That stated, regardless that the aesthetic maps occur in two separate steps, I favor the aesthetic mapping mindset to the crucial mindset (at the least relating to plotting).

Information Apart

(In Scenes 2-4, we’ll be coping with the well-known “iris” knowledge set [though we refer to it as “df” in our code]. It consists of 4 numeric columns corresponding to numerous measurements, and a categorical column akin to one among three species of iris. Right here’s a preview…)

petalLength petalWidth sepalLength sepalWidth species
0 1.4 0.2 5.1 3.5 setosa
1 1.4 0.2 4.9 3.0 setosa
2 1.3 0.2 4.7 3.2 setosa
3 1.5 0.2 4.6 3.1 setosa
4 1.4 0.2 5.0 3.6 setosa

Scene 2: How would you make a scatter plot?

MPL (trying shaken): I imply, you would do the for loop factor once more. In fact. And that might be positive. In fact. See? (lowers voice to a whisper) Simply keep in mind to set the colour argument explicitly or else the dots will all be blue…

fig, ax = plt.subplots(1, 1, figsize=(7.5, 7.5))

for i, s in enumerate(df.species.distinctive()):
    tmp = df[df.species == s]
    ax.scatter(tmp.petalLength, tmp.petalWidth,
               label=s, coloration=cp[i])

ax.set(xlabel='Petal Size',
       ylabel='Petal Width',
       title='Petal Width v. Size -- by Species')


MPL: However, uh, (feigning confidence) I’ve a greater approach! Take a look at this:

fig, ax = plt.subplots(1, 1, figsize=(7.5, 7.5))

def scatter(group):
             'o', label=group.identify)


ax.set(xlabel='Petal Size',
       ylabel='Petal Width',
       title='Petal Width v. Size -- by Species')


MPL: Right here, I outline a operate named “scatter.” It’ll take teams from a pandas groupby object and plot petal size on the x-axis and petal width on the y-axis. As soon as per group! Highly effective!

P: Fantastic, Mat! Fantastic! Basically what I’d have completed, so I’ll sit this one out.

SB (grinning): No pivoting this time?

P: Nicely, on this case, pivoting is advanced. We will’t have a typical index like we might with our time collection knowledge set, and so —


SB: No matter. Anyway, in my thoughts, this drawback is similar because the final one. Construct one other FacetGrid however borrow plt.scatter somewhat than plt.plot.

g = sns.FacetGrid(df, hue='species', dimension=7.5)
g.map(plt.scatter, 'petalLength', 'petalWidth').add_legend()
g.ax.set_title('Petal Width v. Size -- by Species')

GG: Sure! Sure! Similar! You simply gotta swap out geom_line for geom_point!

g = ggplot(df, aes(x='petalLength',
                   coloration='species')) + 
        geom_point(dimension=40.0) + 
        ggtitle('Petal Width v. Size -- by Species')

ALT (trying bemused): Yup — simply swap our mark_line for mark_point.

c = Chart(df).mark_point(stuffed=True).encode(

Analyzing Scene 2

  • Right here, the potential issues that emerge from increase the API out of your knowledge turn out to be clearer. Whereas the pandas pivoting trick was extraordinarily handy for time collection, it doesn’t translate so properly to this case.
  • To be truthful, the “group by” methodology is considerably generalizable, and the “for loop” methodology may be very generalizable; nonetheless, they require extra customized logic, and customized logic requires customized work: you would want to reinvent a wheel that Seaborn has kindly offered for you.
  • Conversely, Seaborn, ggpy, and Altair all understand that scatter plots are in some ways line plots with out the assumptions (nonetheless innocuous these assumptions could also be). As such, our code from Scene 1 can largely be reused, however with a brand new geom (geom_point/mark_point within the case of ggpy/Altair) or a brand new methodology (plt.scatter within the case of Seaborn). At this junction, none of those choices appears to emerge as significantly extra handy than the opposite, although I really like Altair’s elegant simplicity.

Scene 3: How would you side your scatter plot?

MPL: Nicely, uh, when you’ve mastered the for loop — as I’ve, clearly — this can be a easy adjustment to my earlier instance. Reasonably than construct a single Axes utilizing my subplots methodology, I construct three. Subsequent, I loop by as earlier than, however in the identical approach I subset my knowledge, I subset to the related Axes object.

(confidence returning) AND I WOULD CHALLENGE ANY AMONG YOU TO COME UP WITH AN EASIER WAY! (raises arms, practically hitting pandas within the course of)

fig, ax = plt.subplots(1, 3, figsize=(15, 5))

for i, s in enumerate(df.species.distinctive()):
    tmp = df[df.species == s]

    ax[i].scatter(tmp.petalLength, tmp.petalWidth, c=cp[i])

    ax[i].set(xlabel='Petal Size',
              ylabel='Petal Width',


SB shares a glance with ALT, who begins laughing; GG begins laughing to seem in on the joke

MPL: What’s it?!

Altair: Verify your x- and y-axes, man. All of your plots have completely different limits.

MPL (goes crimson): Ah, sure, after all. A TEST TO ENSURE YOU WERE PAYING ATTENTION. You may, uh, be certain that all subplots share the identical limits by specifying this within the subplots operate.

fig, ax = plt.subplots(1, 3, figsize=(15, 5),
                       sharex=True, sharey=True)

for i, s in enumerate(df.species.distinctive()):
    tmp = df[df.species == s]


    ax[i].set(xlabel='Petal Size',
              ylabel='Petal Width',


P (sighs): I’d do the identical. Move.

SB: Adapting FacetGrid to this case is easy. In the identical approach we’ve a “hue” argument, we will merely add a “col” (i.e., column) argument. This tells FacetGrid to not solely assign every species a singular coloration, but additionally to assign every species a singular subplot, organized column-wise. (We might have organized them row-wise by passing in a “row” argument somewhat than a “col” argument.)

g = sns.FacetGrid(df, col='species', hue='species', dimension=5)
g.map(plt.scatter, 'petalLength', 'petalWidth')

GG: Oooo — that is completely different from how I do it. (once more picks up ggplot2 and begins sounding out phrases) See, faceting and aesthetic mapping are two basically completely different steps, and we don’t need to in-ad-vert-ent-ly conflate the 2. As such, we have to take our code from earlier than however add a “facet_grid” layer that explicitly says to side by species. (shuts e book fortunately) A minimum of, that’s what my massive bro says! Have you ever heard of him, by the best way? He’s so cool–4

g = ggplot(df, aes(x='petalLength',
                   coloration='species')) + 
        facet_grid(y='species') + 

ALT: I take a extra Seaborn-esque strategy right here. Particularly, I simply add a column argument to the encode operate. That stated, I’m doing a few new issues right here, too: (A) Whereas the column parameter might settle for a easy string argument, I truly use a Column object as a substitute — this lets me set a title; (B) I exploit my configure_cell methodology, since with out it, the subplots would have been approach too massive.

c = Chart(df).mark_point().encode(
                  title='Petal Width v. Size by Species')
c.configure_cell(top=300, width=300)

Analyzing Scene 3

  • matplotlib made a very good level: on this case, his code to side by species is almost an identical to what we noticed above; assuming you may wrap your head across the earlier for loops, you may wrap your head round this one. Nonetheless, I didn’t ask him to do something extra difficult — say, a 2 x Three grid. In that case, he may need needed to do one thing like this:
fig, ax = plt.subplots(2, 3, figsize=(15, 10), sharex=True, sharey=True)

# that is preposterous -- do not do that
for i, s in enumerate(df.species.distinctive()):
    for j, r in enumerate(df.random_factor.sort_values().distinctive()):
        tmp = df[(df.species == s) & (df.random_factor == r)]


        ax[j][i].set(xlabel='Petal Size',
                     ylabel='Petal Width',
                     title=s + '--' + r)


  • To make use of the formal visualization expression: Yeesh. In the meantime, in Altair, this could have been splendidly easy:
c = Chart(df).mark_point().encode(
                  title='Petal Width v. Size by Species'),
c.configure_cell(top=200, width=200)

  • Only one extra argument to the “encode” operate than we had above!
  • Hopefully, the benefits of having faceting constructed into your visualization library’s framework are clear.


Scene 4: How would you visualize distributions?

MPL (confidence visibly shaken): Nicely, if we wished a boxplot — do we wish a boxplot? — I’ve a approach of doing it. It’s silly; you’d hate it. However I move an array of arrays to my boxplot methodology, and this produces a boxplot for every subarray. You’ll have to manually label the x-ticks your self.

fig, ax = plt.subplots(1, 1, figsize=(10, 10))

ax.boxplot([df[df.species == s]['petalWidth'].values
                for s in df.species.distinctive()])

       ylabel='Petal Width',
       title='Distribution of Petal Width by Species')

MPL: And if we wished a histogram — do we wish a histogram? — I’ve a way for that, too, which you’ll produce utilizing both the for loop or group by strategies from earlier than.

fig, ax = plt.subplots(1, 1, figsize=(10, 10))

for i, s in enumerate(df.species.distinctive()):
    tmp = df[df.species == s]
    ax.hist(tmp.petalWidth, label=s, alpha=.8)

ax.set(xlabel='Petal Width',
       title='Distribution of Petal Width by Species')


P (trying uncharacteristically proud): Ha! Hahahaha! That is my second! You all thought I used to be nothing however matplotlib’s patsy, and though I’ve to date been nothing however a wrapper round his plot methodology, I possess particular features for each boxplots and histograms — these make visualizing distributions a snap. You solely want two issues: (A) The column identify by which you’d prefer to stratify; and (B) The column identify for which you’d like distributions. These go to the “by” and “column” parameters, respectively, leading to prompt plots!

fig, ax = plt.subplots(1, 1, figsize=(10, 10))

df.boxplot(column='petalWidth', by='species', ax=ax)

fig, ax = plt.subplots(1, 1, figsize=(10, 10))

df.hist(column='petalWidth', by='species', grid=None, ax=ax)

GG and ALT excessive 5 and congratulate P; shouts of “superior!”, “solution to be!”, “let’s go!” audible

SB (feigning enthusiasm): Wooooow. Greeeeat. In the meantime, in my world, distributions are exceedingly vital, so I keep particular strategies for them. For instance, my boxplot methodology wants an x argument, a y argument, and knowledge, ensuing on this:

fig, ax = plt.subplots(1, 1, figsize=(10, 10))

g = sns.boxplot('species', 'petalWidth', knowledge=df, ax=ax)
g.set(title='Distribution of Petal Width by Species')

SB: Which, I imply, some individuals have informed me is gorgeous… however no matter. I even have a particular distribution methodology named “distplot” that goes past histograms (appears at pandas haughtily). You should use it for histograms, KDEs, and rugplots — even plotting them concurrently. For instance, by combining this methodology with FacetGrid, I can produce a histo-rugplot for each species of iris:

g = sns.FacetGrid(df, hue='species', dimension=7.5)

g.map(sns.distplot, 'petalWidth', bins=10,
      kde=False, rug=True).add_legend()

g.set(xlabel='Petal Width',
      title='Distribution of Petal Width by Species')

SB: However once more… no matter.


g = ggplot(df, aes(x='species',
                   fill='species')) + 
        geom_boxplot() + 
        ggtitle('Distribution of Petal Width by Species')

g = ggplot(df, aes(x='petalWidth',
                   fill='species')) + 
        geom_histogram() + 
        ylab('Frequency') + 
        ggtitle('Distribution of Petal Width by Species')

ALT (trying steely-eyed and assured): I… I’ve a confession…

silence falls — GG stops operating and lets plate fall to the ground

ALT: (respiration deeply) I… I… I can’t do boxplots. By no means actually realized how, however I belief the JavaScript grammar out of which I grew has a superb cause for this. I could make a imply histogram, although…

c = Chart(df).mark_bar(opacity=.75).encode(
    x=X('petalWidth', bin=Bin(maxbins=30)),
    coloration=Shade('species', scale=Scale(vary=cp.as_hex()))

ALT: The code could look bizarre at first look, however don’t be alarmed. All we’re saying right here is: “Hey, histograms are successfully bar charts.” Their x-axes correspond to bins, which we will outline with my Bin class; in the meantime, their y-axes correspond to the variety of gadgets within the knowledge set which fall into these bins, which we will clarify utilizing a SQL-esque “dependoriginally” as our argument for y.

Analyzing Scene 4

  • In my work, I truly discover pandas’ comfort features very handy; nonetheless, I’ll admit that there’s some cognitive overhead in remembering that pandas has applied a “by” parameter for boxplots and histograms however not for traces.
  • I separate Act 1 from Act 2 for a number of causes, and an enormous one is that this: Act 2 is when utilizing matplotlib will get significantly bushy. Remembering a completely separate interface while you need a boxplot, for instance, doesn’t work for me.
  • Talking of Act 1 v. Act 2, a enjoyable story: I truly got here to Seaborn from matplotlib/pandas for its wealthy set of “proprietary” visualization features (e.g., distplot, violin plots, regression plots, and many others.). Whereas I later realized to like FacetGrid, I keep that it’s these Act 2 features that are Seaborn’s killer app. They’ll preserve me a Seaborn fan so long as I plot.
  • (Furthermore, I want to notice: Seaborn implements plenty of superior visualizations that lesser libraries ignore; when you’re out there for one among these, then Seaborn is your solely choice.)
  • These examples are actually while you start to grok the ability of ggpy’s geom system. Utilizing principally the identical code (and extra importantly, principally the identical thought course of), we create a wildly completely different graph. We do that not by calling a completely separate operate, however by altering how our aesthetic mappings get introduced to the viewer, i.e., by swapping out one geom for one more.
  • Equally, even on the earth of Act 2, Altair’s API stays remarkably constant. Even for what appears like a distinct operation, Altair’s API is easy, elegant, and expressive.

Information Apart

(Within the ultimate scene, we’ll be coping with “titanic,” one other well-known tidy dataset [although again, we refer to it as “df” in our code]. Right here’s a preview…)

survived pclass intercourse age fare class
0 0 3 male 22.0 7.2500 Third
1 1 1 feminine 38.0 71.2833 First
2 1 3 feminine 26.0 7.9250 Third
3 1 1 feminine 35.0 53.1000 First
4 0 3 male 35.0 8.0500 Third

On this instance, we’ll be taken with trying on the common fare paid by class and by whether or not or not anyone survived. Clearly, you would do that in pandas…

dfg = df.groupby(['survived', 'pclass']).agg({'fare': 'imply'})
survived pclass
0 1 64.684008
2 19.412328
3 13.669364
1 1 95.608029
2 22.055700
3 13.694887

…however what enjoyable is that? This can be a publish on visualization, so let’s do it within the type of a bar chart!)

Scene 5: How would you create a bar chart?

MPL (trying grim): No remark.


died = dfg.loc[0, :]
survived = dfg.loc[1, :]

# kind of copied from matplotlib's personal
# api instance
fig, ax = plt.subplots(1, 1, figsize=(12.5, 7))

N = 3

ind = np.arange(N)  # the x places for the teams
width = 0.35        # the width of the bars

rects1 = ax.bar(ind, died.fare, width, coloration='r')
rects2 = ax.bar(ind + width, survived.fare, width, coloration='y')

# add some textual content for labels, title and axes ticks
ax.set_title('Fare by survival and sophistication')
ax.set_xticks(ind + width)
ax.set_xticklabels(('First', 'Second', 'Third'))

ax.legend((rects1[0], rects2[0]), ('Died', 'Survived'))

def autolabel(rects):
    # connect some textual content labels
    for rect in rects:
        top = rect.get_height()
        ax.textual content(rect.get_x() + rect.get_width()/2., 1.05*top,
                '%d' % int(top),
                ha='middle', va='backside')

ax.set_ylim(0, 110)



everybody else shakes their head

P: I have to do some knowledge manipulation first — particularly, a bunch by and a pivot — however as soon as I do, I’ve a very cool bar chart methodology — a lot less complicated than that mess above! Wow, I’m feeling a lot extra assured — who knew all I needed to was put another person down!?5

fig, ax = plt.subplots(1, 1, figsize=(12.5, 7))
# be aware: dfg refers to grouped by
# model of df, introduced above

       title='Fare by survival and sophistication')

SB: Once more, I occur to assume duties corresponding to this are extraordinarily vital. As such, I implement a particular operate named “factorplot” to assist out:

g = sns.factorplot(x='class', y='fare', hue='survived',
                   knowledge=df, type='bar',
                   order=['First', 'Second', 'Third'],
                   dimension=7.5, facet=1.5)
g.ax.set_title('Fare by survival and sophistication')

SB: As ever, you move in your un-manipulated knowledge body. Subsequent, you clarify what you wish to group by — on this case, it’s “class” and “survived,” so these turn out to be our “x” and “hue” arguments. Subsequent, you clarify what numeric discipline you prefer to summaries for — on this case, it’s “fare,” so this turns into our “y” argument. The default abstract statistic is imply, however factorplot possesses a parameter named “estimator,” the place you may specify any operate you need, e.g., sum, customary deviation, median, and many others. The operate you select will decide the peak of every bar.

In fact, there are a lot of methods to visualise this info, solely one among which is a bar. As such, I even have a “type” parameter the place you may specify completely different visualizations.

Lastly, a few of us nonetheless care about statistical certainty, so by default, I bootstrap you some error bars so you may see if the variations in common truthful between courses and survivorship are significant.

(beneath her breath) Wish to see any of you high that…

ggplot2 pulls up in his Lamborghini and walks by the door

ggplot2: Hey, have y’all see–


GG2: Hey, little man. We gotta go.

GG: Wait, one sec — I gotta make this bar plot actual fast, however I’m having a tough time. How would you do it?

GG2 (studying directions): Ah, like this:


# in R, I consider you'd do one thing like this:

ggplot(df, aes(x=issue(survived), y=fare)) +
                     enjoyable.y=imply) +

# rattling ggplot2 is superior...

GG2: See? You outline your aesthetic mappings like we all the time discuss, however it is advisable flip your “y” mapping into common fare. To take action, I get my pal “stat_summary_bin” to try this for me by passing in “imply” to his “enjoyable.y” parameter.

GG (eyes huge in amazement): Oh, whoa… I don’t assume I’ve stat_summary but. I assume — pandas, might you assist me out?

P: Uh, certain.

GG: Weeeee!

g = ggplot(df.groupby(['class', 'survived']).
               agg({'fare': 'imply'}).
               reset_index(), aes(x='class',
                                  y='fare')) + 
        geom_bar() + 
        ylab('Avg. Fare') + 
        xlab('Class') + 
        ggtitle('Fare by survival and sophistication')

GG2: Huh, not precisely grammar of graphics-approved, however I assume as long as Hadley doesn’t discover out it appears to work positive… Specifically, you shouldn’t should summarize your knowledge prematurely of your visualization. I’m additionally confused by what “weight” means on this context…

GG: Nicely, by default, my bar geom appears to default to easy counts, so and not using a “weight,” all of the bars would have had a top of 1.

GG2: Ah, I see… Let’s discuss that later.

GG and GG2 say their goodbyes and go away the feast

ALT: Ah, now this is my bread-and-butter. It’s actually easy.

c = Chart(df).mark_bar().encode(
c.configure_facet_cell(strokeWidth=0, top=250)

ALT: I’m hoping all of the arguments are intuitive by this level: I need to plot imply fare by survivorship — faceted by class. This instantly interprets into “survived” because the x argument; “imply(fare)” because the y argument; and “class” because the column argument. (I specify the colour argument for some pizazz.)

That stated, a few new issues are taking place right here. Discover how I append “:N” to the “survived” string within the x and coloration arguments. This can be a be aware to myself which says, “This can be a nominal variable.” I have to put this right here as a result of survived appears like a quantitative variable, and a quantitative variable would result in a barely uglier visualization of this plot. Don’t be alarmed: this has been taking place the entire time — simply implicitly. For instance, within the time collection plots above, if I hadn’t recognized “dt” was a temporal variable I’d have assumed they had been nominal variables, which… would have been awkward (at the least till I appended “:T” to clear issues up.

Individually, I invoke my configure_facet_cell protocol to make my three subplots look extra unified.

Analyzing Scene 5

  • Don’t overthink this one: I’m by no means making a bar chart in matplotlib once more, and to be clear, it’s nothing private! The actual fact is: not like the opposite libraries, matplotlib doesn’t have the luxurious of constructing any assumptions in regards to the knowledge it receives. Sometimes, this implies you’ll have pedantically crucial code.
  • (In fact, it’s this similar knowledge agnosticism that permits matplotlib to be the inspiration upon which Python visualization is constructed.)
  • Conversely, each time I want abstract statistics and error bars, I’ll all the time and perpetually flip to Seaborn.
  • (It’s doubtlessly unfair I selected an instance that appears tailored to one among Seaborn’s features, however it comes up rather a lot in my work, and hey, I’m writing the weblog publish right here.)
  • I don’t discover both the pandas strategy or the ggpy strategy significantly offensive.
  • Nonetheless, within the pandas case, figuring out it’s essential to group by and pivot — all in service of a easy bar chart — appears a bit foolish.
  • Equally, I do assume that is the principle gap I’ve present in yhat’s ggpy — having a “stat_summary” equal would go a good distance towards making this factor splendidly full-featured.
  • In the meantime, Altair continues to impress! I used to be struck by how intuitive the code was for this instance. Even when you’d by no means seen Altair earlier than, I think about somebody might intuit what was taking place. It’s this kind of 1:1:1 mapping between pondering, code, and visualization that’s my favourite factor in regards to the library.

Last Ideas

You already know, typically I believe it’s vital to simply be grateful: we’ve a ton of nice visualization choices, and I loved digging into all of them!

(Sure, this can be a cop-out.)

Though I used to be a bit arduous on matplotlib, it was all in good enjoyable (each play wants comedic aid). Not solely is matplotlib the inspiration upon which pandas plotting, Seaborn, and ggpy are constructed, however the fine-grained management he offers you is crucial. I didn’t contact on this, however in nearly each non-Altair instance, I used matplotlib to customise our ultimate graph. However — and this can be a massive “however” — matplotlib is only crucial, and specifying your visualization in exacting element can get tedious (see: bar chart).

Certainly, the upshot right here might be: “Judging matplotlib on the idea of its statistical visualization capabilities is type of unfair, you massive meanie. You’re evaluating one among its use instances to the opposite libraries’ main use case. These approaches clearly have to work collectively. You should use your most popular comfort/declarative layer — pandas, Seaborn, ggpy, or sooner or later Altair (see under) — for the fundamentals. Then you should utilize matplotlib for the non-basics. Once you run up in opposition to the restrictions of what these different libraries can do, you’ll be glad to have the limitless energy of matplotlib at your facet, you ungrateful aesthetic newbie.”

To which I’d say: sure! That appears fairly wise, Disembodied Voice… though simply saying that wouldn’t make for a lot of a weblog publish.

Plus… I might do with out the name-calling 😦

In the meantime, pivoting plus pandas works wonders for time collection plots. Given how good pandas’ time collection help is extra broadly, that is one thing I’ll proceed to leverage. Furthermore, the following time I want a RadViz plot, I’ll know the place to go. That stated, whereas pandas does enhance upon matplotlib’s crucial paradigm by supplying you with fundamental declarative syntax (see: bar chart), it’s nonetheless basically matplotlib-ish.

Transferring on: if you wish to do something extra stats-y, use Seaborn (she actually did choose up a ton of cool issues when she went overseas). Study her API — factorplot, regplot, displot, et al — and like it. It will likely be well worth the time. As for faceting, I discover FacetGrid to be a really helpful associate in crime; nonetheless, if I hadn’t labored with Seaborn for therefore lengthy, it’s attainable I would favor the ggpy or Altair variations.

Talking of declarative class, I’ve lengthy cherished ggplot2, and for probably the most half got here away impressed by how properly Python’s ggpy managed to hold in example-for-example. This can be a mission I’ll positively proceed to watch. (Extra selfishly, I hope it prevents my R-centric coworkers from making enjoyable of me.)

Lastly, if the factor you need to do is applied in Altair (sorry, boxplot jockeys), it boasts an amazingly easy and nice API. Use it! When you want further motivation, take into account the next: one thrilling factor about Altair — apart from forthcoming enhancements to its underlying Vega-Lite grammar — is that it technically isn’t a visualization library. It emits Vega-Lite permitted JSON blobs, which — in notebooks — get lovingly rendered by IPython Vega.

Why is that this thrilling? Nicely, beneath the hood, all of our visualizations appeared like this:

Granted, that doesn’t look thrilling, however take into consideration the implication: if different libraries had been , they might additionally develop methods to show these Vega-Lite JSON blobs into visualizations. That may imply you would do the fundamentals in Altair after which drop right down to matplotlib for extra management.

I’m already salivating in regards to the prospects.

All of that stated, some parting phrases: visualization in Python is bigger than any single man, girl, or Loch Ness Monster. Thus, it’s best to take every little thing I stated above — code and opinions alike — with a grain of salt. Keep in mind: every little thing on the web quantities to lies, damned lies, and statistics.

I hope you loved this far nerdier model of Mad Hatter’s Tea Occasion, and that you just realized some issues you may take to your personal work.

As all the time, code is available.


First, an enormous thanks to redditor /u/counters, who offered extraordinarily beneficial suggestions/perspective within the type of this comment. I integrated a few of it into the “Last Ideas” part; nonetheless, my rambling is way much less articulate. Which is to say: learn the remark; it’s good.

Second, an enormous thanks to Thomas Caswell, who left an outstanding remark under about matplotlib’s options that it’s best to completely learn. Doing so will result in matplotlib code that’s way more elegant than my meager providing above.

Third, because the time I wrote this publish, yhat modified the identify of its library from “ggplot” to “ggpy.” I (assume I) modified all references accordingly.

1 Strictly talking, this story isn’t true. I’ve nearly all the time used Seaborn if I might, dropping right down to matplotlib once I wanted the customizability. That stated, I discover this premise to be a extra compelling set-up, plus we’re dwelling in a post-truth society anyway.

2 Proper off the bat, you’re mad at me, so permit me to clarify: I really like bokeh and plotly. Certainly, one among my favourite issues to do earlier than sending out an evaluation is getting “free interactivity” by passing my figures to the related bokeh/plotly features; nonetheless, I’m not acquainted sufficient with both to do something extra subtle. (And let’s be trustworthy — this publish is lengthy sufficient.)

Clearly, when you’re out there for interactive visualizations (versus statistical visualizations), then it’s best to in all probability look to them.

3Please be aware: that is all in good enjoyable. I’m rendering no judgments on any library with my newbie anthropomorphism. I’m certain matplotlib may be very charming in actual life.

4 To be frank, I’m not completely certain if faceting is dealt with individually for ideological purity or if it’s merely a sensible concern. Whereas my ggpy character claims it’s the previous (his understanding relies on a hasty studying of this paper), it might be that ggplot2 has such wealthy faceting help that — virtually talking — it must occur as a separate step. If my characterization offends any grammar of graphics disciples, please let me know and I’ll discover a new bit.

5 Completely not the ethical of this story


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