Monday, December 18, 2017

Infinite Graphing Software

Let's say you have a bunch of data in Excel and you want to visualize it in a graph. There are, of course, lots of options for graph-making in Excel, and they're pretty good, but if you want to do a lot with error bars and fancy axes. If you are a genius or simply have a lot of data and a lot of time, you might be using R for all your analysis and graphing, but for the easiest and quickest graphing you've ever seen, GraphPad Prism is the program to choose.

The first time I used Prism, I was astounded with how user-friendly it was. The columns of numbers I copy-pasted from Excel became elegant and accurate graphs, and a huge number of well-explained options were available to tweak graphs and impose formats en masse.

Such good software, of course, comes at a price, and unfortunately for me said price is out of my current wheelhouse. When I was in college, I could use Prism on school computers, and when I was finalizing my thesis, I downloaded the 30-day free trial of Prism and used it happily while it lasted.

And thus Prism left my life for a while, until the day came last week when I once more needed to make graphs. I opened the Prism program I had downloaded so many months ago, but the free trial had expired and to do anything but view a Prism file, I would have to make a purchase. It looked like all hope was lost, but then I remembered my second laptop, an old stuttering machine that I no longer used but had never gotten rid of.

I had previously installed the free trial of Prism on the old laptop as well, and the 30 days were definitely long gone, but a ray of hope remained. I booted up the laptop and was greeted, to my joy, with a still-opened Prism program. The free trial expiration works by only opening Prism in view mode once the thirty days are up, but if you never close the trial program, you can still make graphs as if it was day one. Through my time in the Yukon and months of travel, my old laptop had sat in storage, not dead but sleeping. Prism had been running the whole time.

It was with great happiness, then, that I made my graphs and enjoyed once again the great software that is GraphPad Prism. With any luck, I'll be able to buy it one day.

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