I am about to give a short introduction to TikZ, and I was asked to add a slide of what cannot be achieved with TikZ.

So, are there certain types/categories of graphics where one should use something other then TikZ or using TikZ may be too complicated.

As far as I get it a partial list would be:

  1. Involved 3D graphics
  2. Plots that are based on large data sets (for example arrangements of curves in the plane)

What else should I add?

  • possible duplicate: tex.stackexchange.com/questions/19669/… – Martin H Jun 6 '11 at 15:03
  • @Martin: I saw this question, but I'm looking for a more general answer. Something like "if you try to plot X go look somewhere else"... – Dror Jun 6 '11 at 15:05
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    pgfplots can handle at least more basic 3D plots. Generally high number of datapoints are a problem because of the general memory limitations that exist (as you already know). I try to explain to people that they may not need 100,000 data points in a figure of 7cmx5cm because you can not see the the detail anyway. Escaping to gnuplot (e.g. from pgfplots) generally does a good job in calculating functions and such... I can't think of many other limitations, I am sure Herbert will :) – Martin H Jun 6 '11 at 15:14
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    I think you can't convert text to pathes like you can do with pst-text. – Ulrike Fischer Jun 6 '11 at 15:58
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    For large data sets I suggest one should use a statistical package to do the plots anyway. My choice is R. And if one really need good looking plots, I will add the ggplot2 R package. And if in addition one want the fonts to match, I use tikzDevice, which output R graphics as tikzpicture – Yan Zhou Jun 6 '11 at 16:38

If one wants to make Interactive 3D plots, he can use Asymptote.

That's an example. But the question isn't that simple. There isn't a sharp border between it can do it and it can not do it. Since there is an area called - it does it, but the result it's not that good. Or even it does it, but the result is useless.

Here are some considerable drawbacks of the example above:

  • The resulting PDF requires powerful CPU,
  • Works only in Adobe Reader (now probably in some other),
  • It's almost useless for print.

Here is a video as a reference.

So, what the conclusion is? Well, Asymptote does it, but the result is not that useful. It can't be done with TikZ, but thats not a big deal, almost nothing is lost. (Thats the overall picture, approximately.)

Lets look at the other side. So called complementary example - the tool can do it, but the user can't. Everybody can set every PGF/TikZ setting. But not everybody can make this settings typographically correct. Most of the users will prefer the defaults, which are far from ideal typography. And that's related not only to PGF/TikZ.

I wrote a letter to the author of pgfplots describing some obvious typographical incorrectnesses. (Can give examples, but I think thats unnecessary.) And he honestly answered something like - I agree, but I'm a programmer, and thats what I can do. You know, help from professional typographer is needed...

To sum up the things:

  1. The app can lack a feature, but that feature may be of a little use.
  2. The app can have a feature, but that feature may be beyond the average user's qualification.

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