Using Formatted Printing and Various Plot Options 

Dr. Kevin G. TeBeest 
Assoc. Prof. of Applied Mathematics 
Kettering University

In this example we will evaluate the shifted normal probability density function (the "bell-shaped curve") at equally spaced points
and print the results using formatted printing with the printf command. We will also plot the points and demonstrate the use of
several plot options, such as the use of title with titlefont, labels with labelfont, gridlines, etc.

Commands covered in this helpsheet:

I recommend beginning each Maple session with restart. When making any changes in your worksheet, it is wise to start here by clicking the restart command.

restart ;
Digits := 16 ;   We will use 16 digit precision arithmetic. Maple's default is 10 digit arithmetic.
16 (1)

with(plots) :     This loads some special plot options.

a := 60.0 ;    We will work on the interval [60, 100].
60.0 (2)
b := 100.0 ;   Intervals endpoints, like a and b, are generally entered as floating point values (with a decimal point).
100.0 (3)
n := 20 ;      Since n represents steps (no. of subintervals), it should be entered as an integer WITHOUT a decimal point.
20 (4)
h := (b-a)/n ; This is the subinterval width (stepsize).
2.000000000000000 (5)
f(x) := evalf( 20 / sqrt(2*Pi) * exp( -(1/2)*((x-78)/5)^2 ) ) ;  This is shifted normal density function.

proc (x) options operator, arrow; `+`(`/`(`*`(20, `*`(exp(`+`(`-`(`*`(`/`(1, 2), `*`(`^`(`+`(`*`(`/`(1, 5), `*`(x)), `-`(`/`(78, 5))), 2)))))))), `*`(sqrt(`+`(`*`(2, `*`(Pi))))))) end proc (6)

The block ("do" loop) below:

1)   calculates the equally spaced x values (called nodes or abscissas),
2)   evaluates function f at each node x, and
3)   prints the results in table form using formatted printing, first in decimal form, and then in scientific notation.

printf("\n    i        x       f (dec.form)    f (sci. notat.)\n" ) :   Click Shift+Enter
printf("  ---------------------------------------------------\n") :     Click Shift+Enter
for i from 0 to n do     Click Shift+Enter
   X[i] := a + i*h :     Click Shift+Enter
   Y[i] := f( X[i] ) :   Click Shift+Enter
   printf(" %5d  %9.4f  %13.9f   %17.10e\n", i, X[i], Y[i], Y[i] ) :    Click Shift+Enter
end do :

   i        x       f (dec.form)    f (sci. notat.)
    0    60.0000    0.012238039    1.2238038602e-02
    1    62.0000    0.047681764    4.7681764029e-02
    2    64.0000    0.158309032    1.5830903166e-01
    3    66.0000    0.447890606    4.4789060590e-01
    4    68.0000    1.079819330    1.0798193303e+00
    5    70.0000    2.218416694    2.2184166936e+00
    6    72.0000    3.883721100    3.8837210997e+00
    7    74.0000    5.793831055    5.7938310552e+00
    8    76.0000    7.365402806    7.3654028061e+00
    9    78.0000    7.978845608    7.9788456080e+00
   10    80.0000    7.365402806    7.3654028061e+00
   11    82.0000    5.793831055    5.7938310552e+00
   12    84.0000    3.883721100    3.8837210997e+00
   13    86.0000    2.218416694    2.2184166936e+00
   14    88.0000    1.079819330    1.0798193303e+00
   15    90.0000    0.447890606    4.4789060590e-01
   16    92.0000    0.158309032    1.5830903166e-01
   17    94.0000    0.047681764    4.7681764029e-02
   18    96.0000    0.012238039    1.2238038602e-02
   19    98.0000    0.002676605    2.6766045153e-03
   20   100.0000    0.000498849    4.9884942580e-04

Notice how tidy and legible the output appears with the printf command.
The output appears in column format and all decimals are properly aligned.
The printf format descriptors are explained below.


About the printf Format Descriptors:

Most students who seek my help with printf or who have poorly formatted output in their assignments simple have NOT read this section!
If you have trouble with the printf command, I will VERY LIKELY tell you to READ (STUDY) this section!

printf gives us total control over how results are displayed.

  1. To format an integer, use the descriptor %Wd where W is the character width of the integer.
    Make sure W is at least as many character lengths as the integers being printed and also large enough to print a possible negative sign.
    Example:  %5d will print a signed integer up to 5 characters in length. That is, it will PROPERLY display all integers between –9999 and +9999.
  2. To format a decimal (floating point) number, use the descriptor %W.Df, where D is the number of decimal places to display, and
    W is the total number of character lengths to use. You should choose W large enough to print your floating point numbers and also
    large enough to print a possible negative sign.
    Example:  %14.8f will PROPERLY display numbers like -####.########
  3. To format in scientific notation, use the descriptor %W.De, where D is the number of decimal places to display, and
    then choose W so that W  ≥  D + 7.
    Example:   Suppose we want to print a quantity in scientific notation to 6 decimal places. Then we MUST use %13.6e or %14.6e or %15.6e, etc.
  4. To print a line break (new line), use \n inside the quotes. This also may be used inside titles and labels to improve spacing. For two linebreaks, use \n\n, etc.
  5. When does one generally use scientific notation?
    Answer:   When quantities in a specific column are expected to be very small or very large.


The following command merely plots the points (X,Y) calculated above with no embellishment (no plot options).
Notice that the plot is boring, nondescript, and even difficult to see, ESPECIALLY when printed on paper.

plot( [ [X[k], Y[k]]$k = 0 .. n ], style = point, size = [500, 360] ) ; 


The following set of 6 lines creates a plot of the same function f(x) above but as a curve with much more embellishment (using plot options) and stores the plot under name plot1.
Since we are storing the plot before displaying it, be sure to end the command with a colon!

plot1 := plot( f(x), x = a .. b, 0.0 .. 8.0, thickness = 4, color = red, size = [600, 400],    Click Shift+Enter
title = "\n Grade Distribution out of 200 Students", titlefont = ["ROMAN", 20],    Click Shift+Enter
labelfont = ["ROMAN", 20], labels = ["Exam Score\n", "% of Students"],    Click Shift+Enter
labeldirections = ["horizontal", "vertical"],    Click Shift+Enter
axis[1] = [gridlines = [20, thickness = 1, subticks = true, color = "LightBlue"]],    Click Shift+Enter
axis[2] = [gridlines = [10, thickness = 1, subticks = false, color = "LightGray"]] ) :

The following creates a plot of the same function f(x) as discrete points with more embellishment and stores the plot under name plot2.
Again, be sure to end the command with a colon!

plot2 := plot( [ [X[k], Y[k] ]$k = 0 .. n ], style = point, symbol = soliddiamond, symbolsize = 24, color = blue, size = [600, 400]) : 

display( [ plot1, plot2 ] ) ;    This displays both plot1 and plot2 on a common graph.


Notice what happens when we reverse the order of the plots in the display command:

display( [ plot2, plot1 ] ) ;


printf   versus  lprint

To appreciate the superiority of the printf command (to obtain formatted printing), let's see how the output appears when we use Maple's basic lprint command.

for i from 0 to n do     Click Shift+Enter
   X[i] := a + i*h :     Click Shift+Enter
   Y[i] := f( X[i] ) :   Click Shift+Enter
   lprint( i, X[i], Y[i], Y[i] ) :   Click Shift+Enter
end do:


Notice how unwieldy, untidy, misaligned, tacky, clumsy, inelegant, unrefined, crude, unpleasant, disagreeable, obnoxious, nauseating, unappealing, objectionable, disgusting, vulgar, hideous, repulsive, and excruciatingly grotesque the output appears with the lprint command. One column is screaming: "Why are you printing all those trailing zeros? Isn't that a bit redundant?!?!"
When would the lprint command ever be used? When you might want a comma delimited (csv) file.

The printf command gives much more comprehensible and legible output.
When printf is used CORRECTLY,

  1. columns should align,
  2. decimal points in a given column should always line up,
  3. the right-most digit of integers in a given column should align,
  4. decimal numbers that are expected to be very small or very large should be printed in scientific notation,
  5. decimal numbers that are expected to be moderate in size should be printed in decimal form, and
  6. table headers should be used for each column and should be CENTERED above their respective columns.
Scroll up to see the printf example again.

See Examples of Bad Tables.

Go to the Maple Help Sheet

Written and maintained by

Prof. Kevin G. TeBeest, Ph.D.
Professor of Applied Mathematics
Kettering University

Created: 03/07/2011
Last modified: 10/13/2023 (corrected one misspelled word)

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Copyright © 2011–2023 Dr. Kevin G. TeBeest. All rights reserved.