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4. Text and Annotation

Use the “v2” files in older versions of IPython, e.g. 0.12

Matplotlib Tutorial: 4. Labeling and Annotation

An important part of making readable plots is labeling and annotating the axes. We've already seen some of this with the set_xlabel, set_ylabel, and set_title commands. In this section we will cover text and annotation using the text and annotate commands, and we will cover the fine-tuning of axis tick labels using Formatter and Locator instances.

Again, we'll enter pylab inline mode:

In [1]:
%pylab inline

Welcome to pylab, a matplotlib-based Python environment [backend: module://IPython.zmq.pylab.backend_inline].
For more information, type 'help(pylab)'.

Adding Text

Text can be added to the axes in several ways. The easiest way is to use the text command. Here's a basic version of the command:

In [2]:
fig, ax = plt.subplots()

ax.text(0.5, 0.5, 'hello world: $\int_0^\infty e^x dx$', size=24, ha='center', va='center')
Out [2]:
<matplotlib.text.Text at 0xa900b6c>

The above command places the text using data coordinates: that is, as we change the x and y limits the text will move around the axes. It is also possible to place text at a static location on the figure. The locations are between 0 and 1, from the bottom-left of the figure to the top-right:

In [3]:
fig.text(0, 0, 'bottom-left corner')
fig.text(1, 1, 'top-right corner', ha='left', va='top')
Out [3]:

It is also possible to place text relative to the axes coordinates, but this is easier with the annotate command rather than the text command:

In [4]:
fig, ax = plt.subplots()

ax.annotate('0.25 on axes', (0.25, 0.25), textcoords='axes fraction', size=20)
ax.annotate('0.25 on data', (0.25, 0.25), textcoords='data', size=20)
ax.set_ylim(0, 0.5)
Out [4]:
(0, 0.5)

Annotate has some more powerful features as well: it can be used to automatically label parts of the axes with arrows.

In [5]:
fig, ax = plt.subplots()

ax.annotate('origin is here', (0, 0), (0.75, 0.75),
            arrowprops=dict(arrowstyle='->', connectionstyle='arc3, rad=0.5'),
            xycoords='data', textcoords='axes fraction')
Out [5]:
<matplotlib.text.Annotation at 0xac57e8c>

There are a number of different arrow styles available: the online documentation has a good set of examples.

Controlling Axis Properties

Often you'd like to be able to fine-tune the tick labels on the axis, explicitly setting where they appear, adding minor ticks, or perhaps turning them off altogether. This is accomplished through the Formatter and Locator objects.

Locator objects control where ticks are located. Here are some of the available choices:

  • plt.MultipleLocator: locate ticks at a multiple of some value
  • plt.MaxNLocator: use a maximum number of ticks for the given plot range
  • plt.NullLocator: do not add ticks to the plot

Formatter objects control what labels are shown at the tick locations. Some useful options are:

  • plt.FormatStrFormatter: use a format string (like '%.2g) at each tick
  • plt.FuncFormatter: specify a user-defined function
  • plt.NullFormatter: do not label the ticks

Any of these options may be applied to either major or minor ticks, using the functions

  • set_major_formatter, set_major_locator
  • set_minor_formatter, set_minor_locator

We'll see some examples below

In [6]:
fig, ax = plt.subplots()

x = np.linspace(0, 10)
ax.plot(x, np.sin(x))


ax.yaxis.set_minor_locator(plt.NullLocator())  # no ticks (default)

ax.xaxis.set_major_formatter(plt.FormatStrFormatter('%.2f'))  # float with two decimals

def format(val, pos):
    if val > 0:
        return "positive"
    elif val < 0:
        return "negative"
        return "zero"
ax.set_ylim(-1.2, 1.2)
Out [6]:
(-1.2, 1.2)

Using these combinations (as well as other options we haven't discussed) leads to some very flexible plots.