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13 Graphical Exploration of Data

Grand image graphical exploration 3c.png

Origin includes a number of tools for graphically exploring your data, including tools for magnifying and zooming, reading XY coordinate values, and drawing and deleting data points.

With Origin 2016, Origin began releasing add-on tools called Apps. Many new exploratory and analysis-related tools have been added to OriginLab's File Exchange since that time. In Origin 2018, you can browse, download, or update installed Apps directly from your Origin software, using the new App Center.

To open the App Center, click on the Add Apps icon in the Apps Gallery docked to the right side of the Origin workspace.

Interface App Central.png

For more information, see Apps for Origin.

Zooming, Panning and Rescaling

This section discusses the use of toolbar tools, and keyboard and menu commands that change the view of your 2D graph. We have split these tools and commands into two groups:

  • Page-level zoom and panning operations that do not change axis scales.
  • Axis rescale operations which zoom and pan the graph by changing axis From and To values.

Page level zoom and panning treat the graph page as a whole. You can read the current zoom level in the Zoom dropdown list of the Standard toolbar. Page level zoom and pan will not affect the printout or export of the graph, while axis rescaling tools (such as Button Scale In.png and Button Scale Out.png) change axis scales and will affect the printout and export of the graph.

Standard toolbar zoom drop-down.png

Page-level Zoom and Pan

Action Button Shortcut Key Menu Notes
Zoom-Panning: Zoom and pan the graph page. Button Panning.png A +
+/- keys (zoom)
arrow keys (pan)
Place cursor on the graph page and press ...
  • "A" or button and +/- keys or mouse wheel to zoom in or out.
  • "A" or button and arrow keys to pan horizontally or vertically.
  • Press "A" and hover on an active window. Pointer tool Button Pointer.png changes to Panning Mode 01.png.
Stepped Zoom-Pan: Zoom graph in or out, by increment. Button Zoom In.png
Button Zoom Out.png
View:Zoom In and View:Zoom Out
  • Stepped zoom.
  • CTRL+I activates zoom in; click on the graph to establish the focal point.
  • CTRL+M zooms out; clicking on graph not needed.
Whole Page: Show the whole graph page. Button Whole Page.png CTRL + W
View: Whole Page
  • Reset the view of the page after using the Zoom-Panning tool.
Zoom All: All objects in the window are shown. -- -- View: Zoom All
  • Can be used to locate "lost" objects lying outside the graph page.

Notes:These are older tools and methods that have been deprecated. Toolbar buttons are not shown by default. To add them to the workspace, use the Customize Toolbars dialog box (View: Toolbars > Graph button group).

Axis Rescaling

Action Button Shortcut Key Menu Notes
Rescale: Rescale and pan the graph in both X and Y dimensions. Button Rescale Tool.png -- --
  • Scroll to rescale X.
  • SHIFT + scroll to rescale Y.
  • Drag with the left mouse button to pan (will rescale both X and Y).
  • Select the Pointer tool to exit Rescale mode.
Rescale the graph in the X dimension. -- Z + scroll wheel

Z + +/- keys

  • Rescale the graph in the X dimension without limits.
Rescale X: Rescale the graph in the X dimension. Button Rescale X.png -- --
  • Rescales (Resets) X to full X range + some padding factor.
Pan the graph in the X dimension. -- X + scroll wheel

X + +/- keys

  • Rescales X.
  • Does not rescale Y.
Rescale the graph in the Y dimension. -- SHIFT + Z + scroll wheel

SHIFT + Z + +/- keys

  • Rescale the graph in the Y dimension without limits.
Rescale Y: Rescale the graph in the Y dimension. Button Rescale Y.png -- --
  • Rescales (Resets) Y to full Y range + some padding factor.
Pan the graph in the Y dimension. -- SHIFT + X + scroll wheel

SHIFT + X + +/- keys

  • Rescales Y.
  • Does not rescale X.
Rescale XY: Rescale the graph in both X and Y dimensions. Button Rescale XY.png --
  • Rescales (Resets) X and Y to full range + some padding factor.
Rescale Z: Rescale the graph in the Z dimension. Button Rescale Z.png --
  • Rescales (Resets) Z to full range + some padding factor.
Scale In/Scale Out: Rescale the graph in X and Y dimensions. Button Scale In.png and Button Scale Out.png -- --
  • Select Scale In button, then drag out rectangle(s) to define axis scale range desired.
  • Reset by clicking on the Scale Out button (no need to drag) several times.
  • Rescales both X and Y.
  • Press ESC (or select another tool) to quit magnifying mode†.
Rescale: Rescale the graph in the all dimensions. Button Rescale All.png CTRL + R Graph: Rescale to Show All
  • Rescales (Resets) all axes to display all data in the layer (+ some padding factor).

† Note that pressing ESC to quit the Scale In tool Button Scale In Tool.png is new behavior for 2018.

If you do not see a toolbar button, it may be turned off. To add or remove buttons from a toolbar, see The Customize Toolbar Dialog Box.

Origin 9.1 SR0 introduced the @nrm system variable to modify rescale behavior when using the Rescale tool or associated shortcut keys:

@nrm = 0: From/To values on the Scale tab of the Axis dialog box will change when Rescale is set to Manual. This is established behavior.

@nrm = 1: From/To values will not change when Rescale is set to Manual. This is new behavior.

Modify the current behavior by opening the Script Window (Window: Script Window), typing @nrm = <value>, then pressing ENTER.

  • Since Origin 2017, we have renamed Manual rescaling to Fixed rescaling. And several advanced selections, one-side fixed rescaling, have been available under this Rescale drop-down list.
  • When using the older Scale In tool you are prompted to override Manual rescaling. However, when @nrm=1 you cannot override the Axis dialog box Rescale setting.

Rotation of 3D openGL Graphs

You can interactively rotate your 3D graphs for purposes of data exploration. When you click on an empty portion of a 3D graph, a floating toolbar displays. You can use the floating buttons to rotate the graph; or you can use your keyboard and mouse.

Hot Key Menu/Action Context
Rotate 3D graphs with the 3D floating buttons
X + Arrow key Rotate the 3D graph around the X axis. With graph layer active and with Rotate button selected in the 3D floating button group.

3D Floating Rotate.png
Y + Arrow key Rotate the 3D graph around the Y axis.
Z + Arrow key Rotate the 3D graph around the Z axis.
Q + Arrow key Rotate the 3D graph in screen.
W + Arrow key Rotate the 3D graph around any axes.
Rotate 3D graphs using the mouse
R + Mouse Drag to rotate the 3D graph in an arbitrary direction. Press "R" before pressing other keys.

Hovering on a 3D graph while pressing "R" changes the Pointer tool Button Pointer.png to a 3D RKey rotate cursor.png. Press other keys, as needed, and drag with your mouse.
R + Ctrl + Mouse Rotate the 3D graph around the X axis.
R + Shift + Mouse Rotate the 3D graph around the Y axis.
R + Ctrl + Shift + Mouse Rotate the 3D graph around the Z axis.

Reading Coordinate Values and Distances

Origin provides several tools to aid in labeling and graphical exploration of your data plots. Most of these tools are available from the Tools toolbar (View: Toolbars). There is a related tool -- Vertical Cursor -- available from the Gadgets menu.

The Annotation Tool

Use the Annotation tool to label a data point. The tool works with most Line + Symbol and Column/Bar plots. Choose from several standard data point labels or create your own custom label using LabTalk script.

To annotate a data point:

  1. Click the Annotation button Button Data Annotation.png on the Tools toolbar and move the cursor to the desired data point. The cursor and the Status Bar will display the current label form.
    StatusBar Annotation Message.png
  2. Use the TAB to toggle between the following standard annotation forms: (X coordinate value, Y coordinate value); (X coordinate value, Y coordinate value)[index number]; X coordinate value; Y coordinate value; index number (row number); or Custom (see Tutorial, next).
  3. When you've selected your label form, double-click to add a label to the data point.

Tutorial: Customizing the Annotation String

The annotation string can be customized by combining literal characters with the X and Y coordinate values:

  1. Start with a graph of your data
  2. Open the Script Window (Window:Script Window) and type the following command, then press Enter:
    system.annotation.customlabel$="X value: $(x,.2), Y value: $(y,*5)
  3. Click the Annotation button Button Data Annotation.png, hover on your graph, then press the Tab key several times to cycle through the annotation choices until the custom string format specified above is displayed in the Status Bar. The cursor will display the word "Custom".
  4. Start double-clicking on data points to add the custom annotation string. The X values will be displayed with two decimal places and the Y values will be displayed with 5 significant digits.
Note: Please view more information on string formatting in the Programming help file:

Help: Programming: LabTalk > Language Reference > Object Reference > Alphabetical Listing of Objects > String

Press the ALT key and drag a label. Point to another data point using the Data Cursor and the label will now read the new data point.

Switch to the Pointer Button Pointer.png and drag to re-position overlapping labels. A leader line is automatically added.

The Screen Reader tool

The simplest data exploration tool is the Screen Reader Button Screen Reader.png. The Screen Reader works with the Data Display window to dynamically display the XY coordinates of the cursor on the graph page. The Data Display window opens automatically when you select the Screen Reader tool from the Tools toolbar.

The Data Display Tool-1.png

You can alter basic properties of the Data Display window by right-clicking on the window title bar or by right-clicking inside the window.

To use the Screen Reader:

  1. Click the Screen Reader button Button Screen Reader.png on the Tools toolbar. This opens the Data Display tool.
  2. Click on a location in the graph page to read its X,Y, and Z coordinates (ternary and contour only). Coordinate values show in the Data Display tool.
  3. To increase cross-hair size, press the space bar.
  4. Click the Pointer button Button Pointer.png on the Tools toolbar to exit screen reading mode.

The Data Reader Tool

Like the Screen Reader, the Data Reader tool is used to read information associated with a data point in your plot. However, because it works in concert with the customizable Data Info Window, it is potentially more powerful. Reported information can include XY(Z) coordinate values, plus metadata and even images describing the data point.

The Data Reader Button Data Reader.png tool is grouped with one related tool -- the Data Cursor Button Data Cursor.png tool. Only one of them will display at a time. To select a hidden tool, click on the small arrow in the lower-right corner of the button and select a tool from the shortcut menu.

To use the Data Reader tool:

  1. Click the Data Reader Button Data Reader.png button on the Tools toolbar. This opens the Data Info window.
  2. Click on a data point to read its X,Y (and Z, if they exist) coordinates. Coordinate values display in the Data Info window (and Data Display window).
  3. To move the cross-hair to the next data point along the data plot, use the LEFT and RIGHT arrow keys or click on the data point using your mouse. If you have multiple plots in a layer, use UP and DOWN arrow keys to move it to a data point on another plot or user mouse to click it.
  4. To change the vertical and horizontal cross hair size, click on a point and press the spacebar to adjust.
  5. Click the Pointer button Button Pointer.png on the Tools toolbar or Esc key to exit the Data Reader tool.

Origin 2017 added a floating tooltip that, when you hover on a data plot, identifies the source dataset. Origin 2018 expands on this, adding a shortcut menu that is opened by right-clicking directly on the tooltip.

Source data on hover 3 2018a.png
  • Go to worksheet pops up the worksheet that contains the source data for the plot.
  • Pick Data Points puts the cursor into data reading mode and opens a Pick Points dialog. Double-click on points in the graph and when finished, click Done. This generates summary data (source, X-Y coordinates, etc.) for your picked points.

If you find the tooltip distracting, you can turn it off by changing the value of LabTalk system variable @PT.

@PT=0; //Disable dataset tooltips
@PT=1; //Enable dataset tooltips for 2D graph (default)
@PT=2; //Enable dataset tooltips for 3D OpenGL graph
@PT=3; //Enable dataset tooltips for both 2D graph and 3D OpenGL graph

The Data Cursor Tool

The Data Cursor tool -- grouped on the Tools toolbar with the Data Reader tool -- allows you to place one or more cursors on a data plot and (using the Data Info window) read the cursor coordinates or measure the X and Y distance between two cursors, or the distance between a cursor and a point selected with the Data Reader.

Tutorial: Using the Cursor Tool to Measure Relative Distance

  1. Import the file Samples\Spectroscopy\Sample Pulses.dat and create a line plot.
  2. Click and select the Data Cursor button from the Tools toolbar.
  3. Double-click on one of the peaks or click once on a data point and press ENTER, to add a cursor object.
  4. Repeat to place a second cursor object on another peak.
  5. Double click in Data Info. window to open Data Info. Report Settings dialog. If this window is not visible, select the View: Show Data Info menu item to open the Data Info. window.
  6. Switch to the Columns tab and then right-click in the gray area to the right of the columns and choose Add Column.
  7. In the new column that is added, click on the source row of new column, and select Relative (Cursor2 - Cursor1) from the drop-down, and then press OK to close the dialog.
  8. Now you can drag and move the cursor objects and the third column in the Data Info window will display the X and Y distances between the two cursors.


The Data Info Window

The Data Info window opens when you choose either the Data Reader Button Data Reader.png, the Annotation Button Data Annotation.png or the Data Cursor tools Button Data Cursor.png. At first glance, the Data Info window seems to duplicate the functionality of the Data Display tool (reading XY coordinates in the graph).

DataInfo window.png

However, the Data Info window is customizable and ultimately, more powerful than the Data Display window. In addition to numerical data, you can display other classes of data -- metadata and images -- associated with a particular data point.

DataInfo window customized.png

To customize the display of the Data Info window, right-click on the Data Info window and choose Preferences... from the shortcut menu; or simply double-click on the Data Info window. Use the controls in the Data Info Report Settings dialog box to customize the display of the Data Info window:

DataInfo Report Settings.png
  • The Title tab is used to specify how the report title is displayed in the upper left corner of the Data Info window.
  • The Rows tab is used to specify which columns in the data worksheet are shown in the Data Info window.
  • The Columns tab allows control over what displays in the Data Info window. In addition to the data groups that are chosen in the Rows tab, the user can choose to show additional information such as the Long Name, Short Name, Units, and data contained in individual cells.
  • The Display tab contains options for customizing the display properties of the Data Info window.
  • At the top of the dialog, there is a Dialog Theme control. The Data Info window customizations can be saved to the graph, layer and even plot level so that every time you use the Data Reader, Cursor, or Annotation tools on an applicable graph, layer or plot, your customized Data Info window will display; Or you can save customizations as a Theme file for later use.

For more information on customizing the Data Info window, see:


Origin provides several Gadgets for data exploration and analysis. These gadgets are accessible from the Gadgets menu when a graph window is active. Three gadgets in particular are suitable for data exploration:

The Vertical Cursor gadget is especially useful for reading XY coordinate values for data points in stacked panel plots or multi-plot graphs, where plots share a common X scale.

To open the Vertical Cursor:

  1. With a graph window active, choose Gadgets: Vertical Cursor... from the main menu. This opens the Vertical Cursor dialog box.

Using the controls in this Gadget's dialog box, you can add data labels to the graph, increase or decrease label font size, hide labels, etc.

Vertical Cursor 01.png

The Statistics gadget returns basic statistics on data points falling inside a rectangular region-of-interest (ROI) on the graph.

  • Display basic statistics for data inside the ROI.
  • Display mean and nth Standard Deviation lines inside the ROI.
  • Update results dynamically as ROI is moved or resized.

Statistics Gadget.png

The Cluster gadget (available in OriginPro) provides the following features:

  • Display basic statistics for data inside a region of interest (ROI).
  • Switch between rectangular or elliptical ROI.
  • View statistics for points inside and outside of the ROI.
  • Edit, copy, mask, delete or group data points.
  • Update results dynamically as ROI is moved/re-sized.
  • Output results to a worksheet.

For 2018, when you use the Cluster gadget to define a category (points within a ROI on a plot), you can apply a differentiating color to points within the ROI.

Cluster Gadget Color Data.png

Cluster Gadget.png

Note: To learn more about these gadgets, see:

Help: Origin: Origin Help > Gadgets

Topics for Further Reading


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