is it possible to display plots in an emacs buffer?

A.J. Rossini rossini at
Mon May 24 15:20:13 CEST 2004

Damon Wischik <djw1005 at> writes:

> Where it comes into its own is with graphics. Mathematica generates
> postscript graphics, and inserts them into the flow of text. You can
> reload the document later, and see the graphics without having to redo the
> calculation. You can also resize the graphics.

Sweave/Noweb and our associated ESS tools make  a poor-man's version
of this.  The only lacking part is a WYSIWYG interface, which would be
partially solved by the use of thumbnails of corresponding graphics.
It shouldn't be too hard to code up, but would take time.  

> It seems to me that it ought to be possible (after some long, hard,
> cunning programming) to generate a graphic in R, to turn it into SVG, to
> export the SVG as text, to load the SVG into a graphical editor with a
> clever SVG-plugin, and to have the editor display the graphic. 

Correct.  And most of the pieces are there.

Some folks are working on friendly XML-capable editing and
corresponding tools for management of literate statistical practice.
We've got SVG, XML parsing by R, SVG generation (sort-of, sigh...).

What seems to be left is the hard part -- a friendly, powerful WYSIWYG

A while back, I started playing with Leo, which was a python-based
folding editor.  Sound/graphics support seemed to be all that it was
missing (this isn't small stuff -- good UI's in this context are hard,
and I didn't particularly like some of the features of mathematica in 
this (the UI) context, though it's been nearly 10 years since I used
it last...

> This is way beyond my own skills, and presumably it's not going to be
> possible in Emacs (at least for a very long time). I think it might be
> possible to take over the Mathematica interface, though -- Mathematica
> have a system called MathTalk which enables communication with other
> processes -- and I plan to have a go at programming this.

Depends on what you want -- all the pieces are there, if you aren't
picky about how it looks, but just in the UI (i.e. not the GUI).

> I wonder if anyone else enjoys this style of working, or if anyone else
> knows of any systems which permit it.

As I mentioned, we've got Sweave and associated tools, it's just not
WYSIWYG, but you get a nice PDF/postscript document at the end which
can be nicely hyperlinked.


rossini at   
Biomedical and Health Informatics   University of Washington
Biostatistics, SCHARP/HVTN          Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
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