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22.11 Example programs for histograms

The following program shows how to make a simple histogram of a column of numerical data supplied on stdin. The program takes three arguments, specifying the upper and lower bounds of the histogram and the number of bins. It then reads numbers from stdin, one line at a time, and adds them to the histogram. When there is no more data to read it prints out the accumulated histogram using gsl_histogram_fprintf.

#include <stdio.h>
#include <stdlib.h>
#include <gsl/gsl_histogram.h>

int
main (int argc, char **argv)
{
  double a, b;
  size_t n;

  if (argc != 4)
    {
      printf ("Usage: gsl-histogram xmin xmax n\n"
              "Computes a histogram of the data "
              "on stdin using n bins from xmin "
              "to xmax\n");
      exit (0);
    }

  a = atof (argv[1]);
  b = atof (argv[2]);
  n = atoi (argv[3]);

  {
    double x;
    gsl_histogram * h = gsl_histogram_alloc (n);
    gsl_histogram_set_ranges_uniform (h, a, b);

    while (fscanf (stdin, "%lg", &x) == 1)
      {
        gsl_histogram_increment (h, x);
      }
    gsl_histogram_fprintf (stdout, h, "%g", "%g");
    gsl_histogram_free (h);
  }
  exit (0);
}

Here is an example of the program in use. We generate 10000 random samples from a Cauchy distribution with a width of 30 and histogram them over the range -100 to 100, using 200 bins.

$ gsl-randist 0 10000 cauchy 30 
   | gsl-histogram -100 100 200 > histogram.dat

A plot of the resulting histogram shows the familiar shape of the Cauchy distribution and the fluctuations caused by the finite sample size.

$ awk '{print $1, $3 ; print $2, $3}' histogram.dat 
   | graph -T X