Skytopia > Projects > Articles > 2D/3D Graph comparison software - Battle of the giants    (article created 13/08/2007)

Comparison of Graphing Programs

Anything from simple 2D plots..... texture mapped 3D objects can be
created in graphing programs. (image from GraphingCalc v2.1)

At Skytopia, we don't just review software. Nonono, we dissect, compare, and contrast all of the available programs to see which one is best, or which one will suit you best. This time, we bring you 9 different graphing programs, each of which vary in features such as speed, graphics, versatility, and technical features. Unfortunately, just like almost all things in life, none of them are perfect, and usually fall down in one or more of the above areas (camera/scene translation and rotation were particularly disappointing in most of the software reviewed).
Anyway, let's meet our contestants!

  • A & G Grapher (v5.7)
  • Aepryus Graph (v1.0)
  • GraphMath (v2.5)
  • Function Grapher (v3.1.6)
  • GraphingCalc (v2.1)
  • AceIT Grapher (v2.0)
  • MoNoon Grapher (v2.0)
  • 3DMath Explorer (v3.1)
  • GraphCalc (v4.0.1)

    Each one will be diced and sliced in the grand table further below, but first let's take a peek at what every graph program in the universe dreads....

    The Rosenbrock Banana function!

    Peeking into the eternal abyss of the Rosenbrock banana function.

    This is a scary function for graph programs, because its walls are so incomprehensibly high (see above). Exponentially. In fact, some programs even crash before they can process this beast. The walls are also very close together, and this poses a problem for navigation of the graph, and viewing.

    Let's begin with the lowdown!!

    Price / limitations Ease
    Graphics Candy Animation Change function + range + detail level on main screen? Change view on main screen Viewing features
    for 3D mode
    Graphics Speed Templates Max dim. Multiple functions simultaneously Range features Special features Math symbols
    A & G Grapher (v5.7) $29.95 (30 day trial) Easy Basic (2D; Isometric 3D; wireframe; polygon shading) No ~f No Poor + V. Clumsy (Tilt scene on x/y axis) Very slow 2D/3D cartesian 3 Yes Yes Trace curve to find coords; rotate graph; matrix transformation; good axis options -+/*^ mod abs log ln squareroot sin cos tan asin acos atan
    Aepryus Graph (v1.0) $30 (30 day trial) Easy Basic (2D; 3D; wireframe; plots; polygon shading) Yes ~f No Poor (Camera rotate; Couldn't rotate scene on 3D x+y axis - bugged) Very fast 2D polar + 2D/3D cartesian + 3D cylindrical/spherical 3 No Yes but bugged Scripting -+/*^ sin cos tan sec csc cot asin acos atan sinh cosh tanh ln log exp sqrt abs
    GraphMath (v2.5) $10 (30 day trial) Easy Above average (2D; 3D; wireframe; plots; polygon shading; fog/ambient/shiny effects) No No No Poor (Camera rotate) Very fast 2D/3D cartesian 3 No No Auto-rotate -+/*^ abs atn cos exp int log rnd sin sqr tan sec csec ctan asin acos asec acsec actan sinh cosh tanh ctanh sech csech asinh acosh atanh asech acsech actanh
    Function Grapher (v3.1.6) $34.95 (20 load ups) Okayish Excellent (All essentials + specular reflections; light positioning; gourad shading; textures; materials; pleasing colours etc.) Yes No Yes Okay (Rotate scene; Camera zoom+rotate) Lightning 2D polar + 2D/3D cartesian + 3D cylindrical/spherical 3 Yes Yes but not for the Z axis in 3D mode Advanced axis settings + Table graphs + Color map + contour plot + vector plot + 2D stuff (Graphs of series+intersection; limits; stem+step plots; differential equations) +-/*^ abs atn cos exp int log rnd sin sqr tan sec csec ctan asin acos asec acsec actan sinh cosh tanh ctanh sech csech asinh acosh atanh asech acsech actanh
    GraphingCalc (v2.1) $4.95 (limited functionality) Super Easy Good (2D; 3D; wireframe; polygon shading; awesome 'nebula textures' Limited Yes! Yes Okay (Rotate scene; Camera move in/out) Greased Lightning 2D/3D cartesian 3 3 available X and Y only Able to compress/expand z axis (Bugs: Only four detail levels) +-/*^ sqrt ln log exp sin cos tan csc sec cot step sgn rect ramp tri sinc gaus
    AceIT Grapher (v2.0) $24.99 (30 days) Easy Above average (2D; 3D; wireframe; solid wireframe; polygon shading; flexible lighting) No f+r Sort of Okay + Clumsy (Rotate scene on X+Z axis; Change projection) Fast 2D polar+cartesian + 3D 3 No Yes Drawing of deriatives + tangents; extensive 2D graph analysis; up to 8 window views +-/*^ abs ceil deg exp fact floor int mod ln log logn pi rad rand sqr sqrt sin cos tan cot sec csc asin acos atan acot asec acsc sinh cosh tanh coth sech csch asinh acosh atanh acoth asech acsch
    MoNoon Grapher (v2.0) $7-20$ (No limitations) Super Easy Basic (2D; 3D; wireframe; polgon shading No f+r Yes Poor (Rotate scene; Camera zoom) Lightning 2D polar + 2D/3D cartesian + 3D cylindrical/spherical 3 No Yes - ?
    3DMath Explorer (v3.1) $45 (30 day trial) Okay
    Above average (2D; 3D; wireframe; polgon shading; fogging No f+r Yes Good (Rotate scene; Camera rotate; Camera move in/out) Fast 3D cartesian 3 (no 2D) No X and Y only Display values + four-view + extensive grid support + multiple sample shapes +-/*^ logic-functions mod div fact ceil floor int round abs sgn heav zero log ln sqrt sqr exp sin cos tan cotan sec cosec ph arcsin arccos arctan arccot arcsec arccosec sinh cosh tanh coth sech cosech arcsinh arccosh arctanh arccoth arcsech arccosech
    GraphCalc (v4.0.1) Free Easy Above average (2D; 3D; wireframe with polgon shading; colour graduation) No No Yes Okay (Rotate scene; Camera move in/out) Lightning 2D/3D cartesian + polar 3 6-10 available X and Y only Scripting + Extensive 2D graph analysis + grid features ?

    A & G Grapher (v5.7) - $30

    This was the slowest by far out of all the graphers. Especially weird considering it has a stat on the main window giving pixels per second - you wouldn't think they would care about the speed, let alone want to show it off. Also annoying was the cumbersome camera features. It's not at all easy to get the right view should you need it.

    Other than that, it was easy to use, and has some neat features like curve tracing and multiple simultaneous functions displayed at once.

    The Rosenbrock banana function looks a mess to right...

    Aepryus Graph (v1.0) - $30

    Interesting program, but I could never change the camera view for some reason. Still, it's nippy, allows scripting and animation!

    GraphMath (v2.5) - $10

    The Rosenbrock function proved too much for GraphMath as you can painfully see to the right. Unfortunately, GraphMath also has very few features compared to the others reviewed here. For instance, the only thing you can do with the view is rotate the camera on the Y! Its saving grace is the low price tag, and the semi nice renderings (bottom-right).

    Function Grapher (v3.1.6) - $35

    Apart from 3DMath Explorer, possibly the most professional program here, with tasty graphics, speed, and a wide range of features for the more discerning grapher, including color maps and graph analyses. One of my main gripes is how it's not possible to change the function, ranges or detail level on the main screen.

    It also does an okay job of the Rosenbrock function. Well it did after I divided the function by around 100 so that it wouldn't crash! However, one can't move the camera into the 'valley' part, because only camera 'zooming' is allowed, and of course, that's not the same as "moving forwards/backwards".

    GraphingCalc (v2.1) - $5

    The fastest out of all the programs here, GraphingCalc also sports some terrific GFX (see right). Also the second cheapest program in the running. Unfortunately, the demo is limited, and is more of a slideshow job. Nevertheless you can't go wrong for $5! The function, range and other important settings are in the main window which is good. A pity there's only 4 detail levels however.

    Not sure what it does with the Rosenbrock function until I test out the full version.

    AceIT Grapher (v2.0) - $25

    Not allowing you to navigate the graph with the mouse is a royal pain. Still, features such as the the flexible lighting and extensive 2D graph analysis help.

    The Rosenbrock function renders okayish, but you can't get close up!

    MoNoon Grapher (v2.0) - $7-20

    Feature wise, this is poor, but it's saved by the speed, ease of use, and ability to rotate the scene with the mouse.

    The Rosenbrock function is a mess to the right, unless you divide the function by a 100 or so, where it's a bit more acceptable.

    3DMath Explorer (v3.1) - $45

    The most expensive grapher at $45, and I had severe problems trying to get results out of it (the 'Apply' button is often blanked out). However, when it works, it works quite nicely as can be seen by the accompanying graphics. Just like GraphingCalc, it also allows you to move the camera into the scene - something which gives us a much better view of the Rosenbrock's function 'valley'. Features such as the four-view, extensive grid support, and multiple sample shapes also help.

    No 2D

    GraphCalc (v4.0.1) - Free

    Hey it's free! That's pretty rare these days. But how does the program compare to the rest? Well, the answer is pretty well actually. It's fast, allows scripting, 2D graph analysis, plus the rendering and navigation of the camera is also okay!

    The Rosenbrock function is handled reasonably well, but because the camera is unable to be rotated on the X and Y, one is forced to rotate the scene, which results in the slanted perspective. One can't complain at the egg crate though!

    Well there we have it! Hopefully, I've made your job a little easier at deciding which program to choose. I wish they all had other features I can think of such as:

  • Summation and product symbols for use in the main function.
  • Further support for simple overhead colormaps would be great.
  • Full set of camera viewing features (rotate and move camera, on XYZ), along with tracking functions to lock onto the scene. Also, the ability to compress/expand each dimension for the view.

    Skytopia > Projects > Articles > Graph comparison software - Battle of the giants    (article created 13/08/2007)

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