13 Graphical Exploration of Data

Grand image graphical exploration 3c.png

Origin includes a number of tools for graphically exploring your data including those for zooming and panning data plots, reading XY coordinate values and other data point metadata, or highlighting or masking selected data points.

With Origin 2016, OriginLab began releasing add-on tools called Apps. Many exploratory and analysis-related tools have been added to OriginLab's File Exchange since that time. If you find you need some exploratory or analysis tool that is not a standard part of Origin, you might check to see if the tool exists as an App. If it does not, request it!.

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 pan 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 pan do not alter the graph; they only determine which portion of the graph page is visible within the graph window. 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. On the other hand, axis rescaling tools (e.g. Button Scale In.png and Button Scale Out.png) do alter the graph and, thus, 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)
Click the toolbar button; or with the Pointer tool Button Pointer.png active, place the cursor on the graph page and press "A", then ...
  • Use +/- keys or mouse wheel to zoom in or out.
  • Use the arrow keys to pan horizontally or vertically.
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 tools, above.
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

New Hotkey support for Rescaling of 3D Graphs:

  • D + mouse wheel: rescale in Z direction
  • Z + mouse wheel: rescale in X direction
  • SHIFT + Z + mouse wheel: rescale in Y direction
  • Enable clipping on Miscellaneous tab of Plot Details (layer level) hides plots outside of frame.
Action Button Shortcut Key Menu Notes
Rescale: Rescale and pan the graph in both X and Y dimensions. Button Rescale Tool.png -- --
  • Scroll mouse wheel 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.
Pan the graph in the X dimension. -- X + scroll wheel

X + +/- keys

  • Rescales X.
  • Does not rescale Y.
Rescale X: Rescale the graph in the X dimension. Button Rescale X.png -- --
  • Rescales (Resets) X to full X range + some padding factor.
Rescale the graph in the Y dimension. -- SHIFT + Z + scroll wheel

SHIFT + Z + +/- keys

  • Rescale the graph in the Y dimension without limits.
Pan the graph in the Y dimension. -- SHIFT + X + scroll wheel

SHIFT + X + +/- keys

  • Rescales Y.
  • Does not rescale X.
Rescale Y: Rescale the graph in the Y dimension. Button Rescale Y.png -- --
  • Rescales (Resets) Y to full Y range + some padding factor.
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).

You can use the Scale In button Button Zoom In Tool.png to copy an enlarged portion of your 2D graph to a new window. This will also work on any graph that has multiple linked layers as long as the layers are overlapped and share a common axis (% of Linked Layer has Left/Top set to 0 and Width/Height set to 100, plus Straight (1 to 1) linking to the parent layer). With a graph active, press Ctrl then click the Scale In button Button Zoom In Tool.png (Tools toolbar) and drag out a rectangle on your 2D graph. Note that this Enlarged graph is dynamic. Move or resize the rectangle on your original graph and the Enlarged graph is updated.

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.

To prevent an axis from rescaling when using one of the axis rescaling tools, set Rescale = Fixed. If both X and Y axes are set to Fixed and you pick one of these axis rescaling tools, you are reminded that X and Y axes are in "Manual Rescale mode" and are prompted to proceed. Answering Yes will allow you to override and manually rescale in one or both dimensions. If you need to block such manual overrides of Fixed axis scales, set @nrm = 1.

Rotation of 3D openGL Graphs

You can interactively rotate your 3D graphs for to obtain a better view of your plots. 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 R key
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 Ctrl and/or Shift as needed, and rotate by (a) dragging with your mouse or (b) pressing the arrow keys on your keyboard.
R + Ctrl + Mouse/Arrow key Rotate the 3D graph around the X axis.
R + Shift + Mouse/Arrow key Rotate the 3D graph around the Y axis.
R + Ctrl + Shift + Mouse/Arrow key 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.

Data Point Tooltip

Most 2D plot types support a floating, customizable tooltip that reads data point values when you hover on a data point.

Data point tooltip.png

Tooltip Shortcut Menu

For tooltip customiztion and other options, right-click directly on the data point tooltip.

Source data on hover menu.png
  • Go to Sheet pops up the worksheet and highlights the row that contains the source data for the data point.
  • Show Data Plot Tooltip toggles display of a non-customizable data plot tooltip in place of the customizable data point tooltip (see, below).
  • 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.
  • Copy, copies data point tooltip information to the Clipboard.
  • Preferences opens the Data Point Tooltip dialog allowing you to customize tooltip content and formatting.

The Data Point Tooltip dialog is a slightly simpler version of the Data Info window's preferences dialog (Data Info Report Settings). See The Data Info Window for help with customizing your Data Point Tooltip.

By default, the Data Point Tooltip displays with a moderate degree of transparency. You can affect tooltip transparency by changing the value of LabTalk System Variable @TDT. For information on changing the value of a LabTalk System Variable, see this FAQ.

Data Plot Tooltip

There is a second tooltip that can be displayed in place of the Data Point Tooltip and this we refer to as the Data Plot Tootip. This non-customizable tooltip displays the source book, worksheet and coordinate datasets, on hover.

Data Plot Tooltip.png

The Data Point Tooltip displays by default. If you prefer to use the Data Plot Tooltip, right-click on the Data Point Tooltip and choose to Show Data Plot Tooltip. Conversely, right-click on the Data Plot Tooltip and choose Show Data Point Tooltip.

Managing Tooltip Display

You can turn off display of data tooltips by activating the graph window, clicking on the View menu and clearing the check mark beside Data Tooltips.

There is a second way to control tooltip display that is more complicated but allows a greater degree of control. This entails changing the value of LabTalk system variables @PT and @PTI.

@PT=0; //Disable both data plot and data point tooltips
@PT=1; //Enable data plot tooltips for 2D graph (default)
@PT=2; //Enable data plot tooltips for 3D OpenGL graph
@PT=3; //Enable data plot tooltips for both 2D graph and 3D OpenGL graph 
@PTI=0; //Disable only data point tooltips
@PTI=1; //Enable data point tooltips (default)

The Annotation Tool

Use the Annotation tool to label a data point. The tool works with Symbol/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; or single-click on the point and press Enter.

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 (or single-click and press Enter) 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, as specified by your script.

Adjustments using the Pointer Tool:

  • To move a label to another data point, click the Pointer tool Button Pointer.png, press the ALT key and drag the label.
  • To re-position overlapping labels, drag the label. A leader line is automatically added.
  • To copy a label to another data point, press CTRL + SHIFT and drag the label to a new data point.

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

The Screen Reader Tool

The Screen Reader Button Screen Reader.png uses the Data Display window to report the XY(Z) coordinates of the cursor on the graph page. Note that the Screen Reader is not reading data point coordinates; rather it is reading page coordinates relative to the graph axes.

The Data Display window opens automatically when you select the Screen Reader tool from the Tools toolbar (by default, the Data Display window is docked at the bottom of your Origin workspace).

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 window.
  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

The Data Reader Button Data Reader.png is used to read information associated with a data point in your plot. This could be coordinate values or it could be more complex information including metadata or even images that relate to the data point. The Data Reader works in concert with the customizable Data Info window.

The Data Reader tool is grouped with two related tools -- the Data Cursor Button Data Cursor.png and the Data Highlighter Button Data Highlighter.png. Only one of these toolbar buttons will show at any given time. To select a hidden tool, click on the small arrow to the right of the button and select a tool from the pop-up menu.

UG Data Reader Split Button.png

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 the UP and DOWN arrow keys to move to a data point on another plot or use your mouse to click on the point.
  4. To change the vertical and horizontal cross-hair size, click on a point and press the spacebar.
  5. Click the Pointer button Button Pointer.png on the Tools toolbar or Esc key to exit the Data Reader tool.

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 the Data Info. window to open the 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 Highlighter Tool

The Data Highlighter is grouped on the Tools toolbar with the Data Reader and Data Cursor tools. Use the Data Highlighter to pick one or more points in the your graph and simultaneously highlight the corresponding data row in the worksheet. Unselected points are dimmed in the graph and the worksheet. Tools toolbar split button data highlighter.png

While in Data Highlighter mode ...

  • CTRL+click to select multiple points in the graph.
  • Drag out a rectangle on the graph to select multiple points.
  • Use SPACE to toggle between rectangle and freehand selection modes.
  • Use left/right arrow keys to highlight individual points in sequence by row index.
  • In the worksheet (still in Highlight mode), CTRL+click multiple rows or SHIFT+select blocks of rows, and highlight corresponding points in the graph.
  • Press ESC to exit Highlight mode in the graph while keeping highlighted rows selected in the worksheet.

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. When you click on a plotted data point with one of these tools, the Data Info window displays information about this particular data point.

DataInfo window.png

In its default configuration, the Data Info window reports only a column short name, plot designation (e.g. "X") and the XY coordinate values of a data point. However, the window is capable of displaying any of the worksheet-contained information that is associated with a data point including metadata and images.

DataInfo window customized.png

To customize the Data Info window:

  1. Double-click on the Data Info window; or right-click and choose Preferences....
  2. 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 Data Info window can report any information in the source data worksheet. You are not limited to displaying plotted data.
  • The window can display anything that can be inserted into the worksheet cell, including inserted graphs and images.
  • The window can be customized with a Window Title and Report Title.
  • Window configurations can be saved as Themes, including Save to <Graph>, Save to <Layer> and Save to <DataPlot>. This allows, for instance, all graph windows in your project or all graph layers in your multi-panel graph to have a unique Data Info window. Saved Themes can loaded and applied to the current Data Info window.
Data Info Report Unique.png

If you save your Data Info Theme settings in the graph, then save the graph window as a standalone graph window file (OGG, OGGU), know that the OGG/OGGU file travels only with the data that are plotted in the graph. Therefore, if your Data Info Theme uses data in other columns in your worksheet, the Data Info display will be incomplete if, for instance, you reopen the window file in a new project.

Data info save theme with graph.png

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

When labeling plots with the Vertical Cursor, you can opt to combine separate data labels into a single label by clicking the gadget's Show All Info in One Label button.

UG vertical cursor.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.

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