Introducing Observatory

Observatory is a desktop app that makes the best damn plots you've ever seen. Use it to visualize all kinds of numerical data: scatter plots, histograms, heat maps, images - even mathematical functions. When you experience Observatory's natural, intuitive interfaces for inspecting and visualizing data, you'll wonder why other software doesn't seem to be written for humans. For the casual user, out-of-the-box features make it easy to launch plots and dig into your data. For the power user, the programmatic APIs (available for .NET, MATLAB, and Python) give an unprecedented level of control and customization, without the overbearing complexity you'll find in other graphics APIs.

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How is Observatory used in the real world?
High Tech Tomatoes: A case study

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Usability

All of your data is worthless to you if you can't understand and interpret it. Observatory provides rich visual environments for inspecting and interacting with data, but you as the user are ultimately in control. Observatory doesn't force you to do things its way; it gives you the flexibility to do things your way.

Quality

We believe in making software that doesn't suck. Observatory is battle-hardened from experience in high-pressure, high-stakes, professional environments. It's designed with a science-grade consideration for representational accuracy, and a business-grade consideration for presentability and aesthetics.

Performance

Observatory is built directly on OpenGL, the global standard for hardware-accelerated graphics. Although hardware-acceleration is not a requirement to run Observatory, on systems that support it, you'll experience video-game caliber rendering performance.

Tutorials

Installing and activating Observatory

In order to get started with Observatory on your computer, follow these steps:

  1. Create a user account at ObservatoryData.com
  2. Download the Observatory library and example source code.
  3. Extract the downloaded zip file (e.g. to C:\Observatory)
  4. In the C:\Observatory\Build folder, run ObsSetup.exe with Administrator Privileges.
  5. Provide the same username/password you used to create the user account in Step 1.
  6. Run any program that uses Observatory (e.g. Examples.exe in the same folder) to confirm that your installation has been activated.

NOTE: If you use the Windows Installer, you can choose to activate your license automatically.

Watch this video to learn how to activate your account and get setup to follow along with all the subsequent tutorials.

Quick-References

Download the quick-reference PDFs:     2D plots      3D plots      Histograms


This video walks through the keyboard and mouse controls and shortcuts that are available in 3D plots.

The controls for 2D plots are essentially a subset of those available in 3D plots. Please refer to the instructional video for 3D plots, and the quick-reference PDFs above.

This video walks through the keyboard and mouse controls and shortcuts that are available when working with histograms.

Accessing Observatory via the .NET API

See the "Getting Started" tab for instructions on how to download and activate Observatory.
Note: The following assumes you installed or extracted Observatory.zip to the folder: C:\Observatory. If you installed elsewhere, adjust the examples below accordingly.

To access Observatory from a .NET application, add the following references to your project:

  • ObservatoryLib.dll - Found in C:\Observatory\Build\
  • System.Drawing - which ships with the .NET Framework

Then, add the statement "using ObservatoryLib;" at the top of your .cs file, and you're ready to start writing some code!

Important Notes:

  • Your project must target .NET 4.0 or later.
  • If you want to copy ObservatoryLib.dll to a different directory, you must also copy ObsAuth.dll alongside it. If you intend to run your project on another computer, also include ObsSetup.exe.

The Observatory download includes several example scripts that demonstrate a wide range of functionality available in Observatory, and they are a great way to get up to speed quickly. You can find them in C:\Observatory\CSharp\Examples.sln.

This video is a simple-as-possible example that creates a new .NET project and launches a plot using Observatory. It assumes you've already downloaded and activated Observatory.

This video demonstrates a few simple and common tasks with the Observatory .NET API, including:

  • Launching a new plot and setting its resolution
  • Adding points, lines, and triangles to a plot
  • Customizing the axis labels
  • Axis scale equality
  • Interacting with the plot after display

NOTE: The MATLAB API is still in BETA.

Accessing Observatory from MATLAB

See the "Getting Started" tab for instructions on how to download and activate Observatory.
Note: The following assumes you installed or extracted Observatory.zip to the folder: C:\Observatory. If you installed elsewhere, adjust the example commands below accordingly.

. You can access Observatory from within MATLAB code in either of 2 ways:

  1. Via the ObsMat interface - a set of MATLAB classes and methods that wrap the underlying Observatory .NET objects
  2. By calling the .NET methods of the ObservatoryLib.dll assembly directly

The ObsMat interface (#1) is usually more convenient, and provides a more familiar syntax for most MATLAB users, but the choice is yours.

The ObsMat interface is a set of MATLAB classes that serve as proxies for their .NET counterparts. They translate MATLAB commands and objects to a format that can be accepted by Observatory, and they translate .NET objects output by Observatory in a format that is natural to digest in MATLAB code. It is highly recommended that you interact with Observatory using the ObsMat interface.

To get started, you need to make MATLAB aware of your Observatory installation. To do this, add the following to your startup.m file, or run these lines whenever you start up MATLAB.

Note: if you don’t have a startup.m file, you can create one. See the Mathworks website for more details.

Note: if you run the Windows Installer, you can choose to update your startup.m file automatically.

% In a MATLAB prompt or in your startup.m file %
>> addpath(‘C:\Observatory\Matlab’);
>> ObsStartup('C:\Observatory');

Restart MATLAB and you should see a message printed out indicating the Observatory root path you just configured.

ObservatoryLib itself is a built .NET assembly. Like other .NET assemblies, its public methods and classes can be called by your MATLAB code directly (see the Mathworks website for more information.). In order to get started, add the assembly to your MATLAB session, and import the ObservatoryLib namespace:

% In a MATLAB prompt %
>> NET.addAssembly(‘C:\Observatory\Build\ObservatoryLib.dll’);
>> import ObservatoryLib.*;

Note that you’ll need to have support for .NET 4.0 or later. For more details, refer to the Mathworks website.

The Observatory.zip download contains a set of examples in MATLAB, all of which use the ObsMat interface. In order to run these examples, please make sure you have configured MATLAB using ObsStartup() as described above. In a MATLAB session, navigate to the Examples folder or add it to your path. From there, run any of the scripts in that folder, by name.

% In a MATLAB prompt %
>> addpath(‘C:\Observatory\Matlab\Examples’);
>> SimplePlot3D();

If you have configured your environment properly, a plot should display within a few seconds.

Reading through and modifying the example scripts is a good way to learn how to use Observatory in MATLAB.

NOTE: The Python API is still in BETA.

Accessing Observatory from Python (Windows)

Note: if you run the Windows Installer, you can choose to update your PYTHONPATH (as described below) automatically.

In order to access Observatory from within Python in a Windows 7+ environment, you need to add a few directories to your Python path. Please check whether you are using a 32-bit Python interpreter or a 64-bit Python interpreter. Note that if you are on a 64-bit operating system, you might still be using a 32-bit Python interpreter. Usually, the easiest way to check is to simply open a Python console, and type the following. Look for “32 bit” or “64 bit” in the printed text that follows.

# In a Python Console #
>> import sys
>> print(sys.version)

The following assumes you extracted ObservatoryLib.zip to C:\Observatory. If you extracted it elsewhere, you need to adjust the path names below accordingly:

32-bit Python users:

  • C:\Observatory\Build
  • C:\Observatory\Python
  • C:\Observatory\Python\PythonForNET\x86

64-bit Python users:

  • C:\Observatory\Build
  • C:\Observatory\Python
  • C:\Observatory\Python\PythonForNET\x64

In order to run the Examples, please make sure you have configured your Python path properly, according to the instructions above. You should be able to run any of the scripts in the C:\Observatory\Python\Examples folder by name, e.g.:

# In a Windows Command Prompt #
>> python C:\Observatory\Python\Examples\HelloWorld3d.py

If you have configured your environment properly, a plot should display within a few seconds.

Get Started

Download Observatory and the example source code used in the tutorials here.

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