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How to get matplotlib in visual studio code

Setting Up Your Environment for Matplotlib

When you're just starting out in programming, the first step to using a new library is to set it up correctly. Matplotlib is a popular Python library for creating visualizations, such as graphs and charts, which can be incredibly helpful in understanding data.

To use Matplotlib, you need to have Python installed on your computer. Since we're focusing on Visual Studio Code (VS Code), a versatile code editor, I'll assume you have it installed as well. If not, download and install it from the official website.

Once you have Python and VS Code ready, you'll need to install Matplotlib. But before we do that, let's make sure you have the Python extension for VS Code installed. This extension makes it easier to write Python code in VS Code.

Installing the Python Extension for VS Code

  1. Open VS Code.
  2. Click on the Extensions icon on the sidebar or press Ctrl+Shift+X.
  3. Type "Python" into the search bar.
  4. Find the official Python extension by Microsoft and click 'Install'.

With the Python extension installed, you're ready to install Matplotlib.

Installing Matplotlib

To install Matplotlib, we'll use a tool called pip. pip is a package manager for Python, which means it helps you install and manage additional libraries that aren't included in the standard Python installation.

Here's how to install Matplotlib using pip:

  1. Open VS Code's integrated terminal by pressing Ctrl+` (that's the backtick key, usually located under the Esc key).
  2. In the terminal, type the following command and press Enter:
pip install matplotlib

This command tells pip to download and install the latest version of Matplotlib.

Writing Your First Matplotlib Script

Now that you have Matplotlib installed, let's write a simple script to create a basic line chart. This is like drawing a line that connects several dots which represent data points on a graph.

Creating a New Python File

  1. In VS Code, go to 'File' > 'New File'.
  2. Save the file with a .py extension, which tells VS Code that it's a Python file. For example,

Importing Matplotlib

At the top of your new Python file, you'll need to import the Matplotlib library. This is like telling Python, "Hey, I'm going to use some tools from Matplotlib, so make sure they're ready for me!"

import matplotlib.pyplot as plt

Here, matplotlib.pyplot is a module in Matplotlib that provides functions to change and create figures. We import it as plt for convenience, so we don't have to type matplotlib.pyplot every time we want to use a function.

Plotting Your First Graph

Let's plot a simple line graph. Imagine you're tracking the number of apples you eat each day of the week.

# Days of the week
days = [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]

# Number of apples eaten each day
apples_eaten = [1, 2, 1, 3, 2, 2, 1]

# Create a line chart
plt.plot(days, apples_eaten)

# Add a title
plt.title('Apples Eaten Per Day')

# Label the x-axis

# Label the y-axis
plt.ylabel('Apples Eaten')

# Show the plot

When you run this script (F5 key in VS Code), a window should pop up displaying a line graph.

Understanding the Code

Let's break down what each part of the code does:

plt.plot(days, apples_eaten): This tells Matplotlib to create a line chart using the days list for the x-axis and the apples_eaten list for the y-axis.

plt.title(...): Adds a title to the chart.

plt.xlabel(...) and plt.ylabel(...): Add labels to the x-axis and y-axis, respectively. This command actually displays the plot. Think of it as opening the curtains on a stage to reveal the graph to the audience.

Customizing Your Graph

Matplotlib allows you to customize your graph in many ways to make it more informative and visually appealing.

Changing Line Color and Style

You can change the color and style of the line in your graph by adding arguments to the plt.plot() function.

plt.plot(days, apples_eaten, color='green', linestyle='--')

Here, color='green' changes the line color to green, and linestyle='--' changes the line to a dashed line.

Adding Markers

You can also add markers to each data point:

plt.plot(days, apples_eaten, marker='o')

The marker='o' argument adds a circle marker at each data point.

Saving Your Graph

Once you're happy with your graph, you might want to save it to your computer.


This line of code will save your graph as a PNG image in the same directory as your script.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

As a beginner, you might run into some issues when trying to use Matplotlib in VS Code. Here are a couple of common problems and how to solve them:

Matplotlib Not Found

If you get an error saying Matplotlib is not found, you might have multiple Python installations and pip installed the library for a different version of Python. Make sure you're using the correct version of pip associated with the Python version you're using in VS Code.

Graph Not Displaying

If your graph doesn't display, ensure that your script includes at the end. Without this command, the graph won't be shown.


Congratulations! You've just learned how to set up Matplotlib in Visual Studio Code, write a simple script to create a line graph, and customize it to your liking. Like an artist with a palette of colors, you now have the tools to start painting with data, turning numbers into visual stories that can be easily understood and shared.

Remember, programming is an adventure. Each line of code is a step on a path to creating something amazing. With Matplotlib and VS Code as your companions, you're well on your way to mastering the art of data visualization. Keep experimenting, keep learning, and most importantly, have fun with it!