I'm cross-posting this (also on Mathematics stack exchange, but not really getting the answers I'm looking for, so thinking I may have posted in the wrong community originally).

I've hit a roadblock with pgfplots where it has difficulty plotting multiple functions at the same time in 3D. As it states in the manual on page 114, "it cannot combine different \addplot commands, those will be drawn in the order of appearance." So something that should be behind another object might not be if you plot it last.

Does this same roadblock occur in gnuplot and Asymptote? I'd prefer to stay open source, but will move to Mathematica or Maple if I have to. And the quality/prettiness of the graphics is important to me, which is one reason I wanted pgfplots to work!

Edit: to clarify, I want something that looks professional and nice enough to inclue in published books.

Edit: here's the link to my crosspost

I'd like to be able to plot general 2D and 3D functions. I need to be able to type in the mathematical function (rather than generating and inputing a table of data). In some cases, I may need to plot many functions on one plot (as mentioned above, this caused problems with pgfplots). I'm honestly not sure what specific examples to give, but if there are any shortcomings with gnuplot or Asymptote (or other programs) with 2D or 3D plotting, that would be nice to know!

closed as too broad by Christoph, user13907, Paul Gessler, Werner, Symbol 1 Mar 20 '15 at 23:55

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    Thanks for informing us about crossposting, an actual link would be even better. – Johannes_B Feb 24 '15 at 20:58
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    I think it would be helpful if you could specify in some more detail what kinds of plots you'll need to generate, preferably including some concrete examples. That will probably get you more helpful answers, otherwise you'll just get answers along the lines of "Gnuplot / PSTricks / Asymptote can do that" – Jake Feb 24 '15 at 21:01
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    For Asymptote, look at this extensive gallery of 3D examples (8 pages): piprime.fr/developpeur/asymptote/examples-asy3d and this other: asy.marris.fr/asymptote/Surfaces_3D – Franck Pastor Feb 24 '15 at 21:02
  • For Sage, here is an small gallery of output both 2d, 3d and surfaces with shadows. wiki.sagemath.org/pics – R. Schumacher Feb 24 '15 at 21:27
  • Thanks for the input! I've added some detail, but maybe it would help more if people had any ideas of the shortcomings of any of the programs in 2D/3D plotting? I'm going to need to do lots of plots, so if there is even one limitation that comes up with a program, it might be enough to deter me from that option. – Hanmyo Feb 26 '15 at 3:57

When the question isn't very specific people are reluctant to put time into creating an answer because, all too often (slowly and painfully), there is a laundry list of specifics that get added on later (I need to be able to type in the mathematical function). There are pluses and minuses and drawbacks to every program and often times powerful programs like Asymptote and Sage have a learning curve that people don't want to deal with. Is that a shortcoming? Depending on the functions that you're graphing it might be a sacrifice you have to make, so answering Jake's question (above) would have been helpful.

Given your specifics of multiple plots (you never said how many), open source, prettiness of the graphics, and typing in the function I would suggest Metapost Function Grapher. enter image description here

You can select from different types of plots (3d Two variable Function Surface shown above), type in up to 3 different plots, quickly set the domain, and if you put your mouse over the picture there are arrow keys that, by pressing them, let you rotate your view of the object. The screenshot shows an "Options" button. Press it and you'll get this: enter image description here Now you can manually set the viewing angle, select the color schemes for each graph, set the axis labels, etc. Pressing the "Download" button shown on the first picture gives a variety of formats including EPS, PDF, PNG, and more.

The Metapost Function Grapher is quick and easy to use but if you want to plot the zeta function in 2D then you're out of luck. It handles typical functions (sin, cosh, ceil) that most people use; mouse over the f(x) box to see a list.

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