Autoplot Essay

Autoplot Essay

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The primary goal of Autoplot is to enable the plotting of data found on the web using a simple and familiar interface. Many of its design features are direct translations of features found in modern internet browsers. An address bar is used to enter the URI location of a dataset. URIs may be bookmarked, and bookmark lists can be exported and imported. Remote files are downloaded and cached locally in a directory named “autoplot_data” in the user's home directory. Currently, Autoplot can handle datasets served over the HTTP, FTP, and SFTP protocols. As shown in Figure 1, loaded data are displayed with axes settings, symbols, and plot style choices that were automatically selected by inspecting the data values as they were read (and by possibly using hints found in the metadata).

Figure 1: Autoplot's interface is similar to that of a web browser. The dataset location, or URI, is entered in the address bar and data are loaded and plotted with reasonable default settings. The metadata tab allows users to drill down into the parameter metadata, data set statistics, and the datum values. Axis and style settings tabs control labels and colors. The vap+cdf: prefix in the URI was inserted automatically by Autoplot when the user entered the URI that starts with "http". This prefix notation identifies the data source plugin that has been used to interpret the URI. Data source plugins are described in Section 4.

Autoplot URIs provide a compact means for referring to data. They are intended to be stored in bookmarks, pasted into emails, and found in parameter lists. The URI refers to a specific dataset, which is a set of numbers and relationships between them, with associated metadata for thier use. The same URI used...


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http://cdaweb.gsfc.nasa.gov/istp_public/data
/ace/swe/$Y/ac_k0_swe_$Y$m$d_v...cdf?Np&timerange=2008-June

will cause all of the files that match the template to be downloaded and combined together to form the complete time series of the parameter Np in June of 2008. The data required to create the complete time series is spread across files having names that include four-digit year ($Y), two-digit month ($m), and two-digit day ($d) that are stored in directories partitioned by year. The ".." following the "_v" in the filename indicates that the file names have two-digits following the "_v" (which represents the version number). If there are two files with the same time values in their filename, but different versions values, the file with the highest version number is selected. An example plot of an aggregated time series is shown in Figure 2.

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