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Raster scanned articles tend to be quite a bit larger than vector graphics based articles. In practice when I make a plot with gnuplot, the resulting pdf is large compared for what it displays. I look at the tex code it creates and draws the sine curve by multiputting \rule rectangles along sections of the graph. Why cant gnuplot sensibly emit say \qbezier's?

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It could, but it is simply the way it got programmed. Note that vector images hold more information than raster images. Usually every single data point is included, even if this level of detail doesn't make any difference for the naked eye. –  Martin Scharrer Jan 13 '12 at 19:33
    
I see that it could have gotten programmed like this historically, but you would need less bezier curves for staying in the same error margin as linear approximation. –  propaganda Jan 13 '12 at 19:40
    
I believe \qbezier would be problematic when plotting a function with jump discontinuities. –  Jan Hlavacek Jan 13 '12 at 20:13
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up vote 1 down vote accepted

If you plot functions rather than data files, decrease the number of sampling points, for example

set samples 50,50

(the deafult is 100, 100). For 3D plots the parameter is isosamples (10, 10 by default).

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