Automatically run matplotlib inline in ipython notebook

When working with data visualization in Python, one of the most popular libraries is Matplotlib. However, when using Matplotlib in an IPython notebook, it is necessary to include the magic command “%matplotlib inline” to display the plots inline. This can be a bit cumbersome, especially if you have multiple notebooks or need to share your code with others.

In this article, we will explore three different ways to automatically run Matplotlib inline in an IPython notebook. We will discuss the pros and cons of each approach and determine which option is the best.

Option 1: Modify the IPython configuration file

The first option is to modify the IPython configuration file to include the “%matplotlib inline” magic command by default. This way, every time you start an IPython notebook, the command will be automatically executed.

# Open the IPython configuration file
$ jupyter notebook --generate-config

# Edit the configuration file
$ nano ~/.jupyter/

# Add the following line at the end of the file
c.InteractiveShellApp.exec_lines = ['%matplotlib inline']

By modifying the configuration file, you ensure that every IPython notebook you create will have Matplotlib inline by default. However, this approach affects all notebooks and may not be desirable if you work on different projects with different requirements.

Option 2: Use a startup script

The second option is to create a startup script that automatically runs the “%matplotlib inline” magic command when IPython starts. This script will only affect the current IPython session and will not modify the configuration file.

# Create a startup script file
$ nano ~/.ipython/profile_default/startup/

# Add the following line to the script file
get_ipython().run_line_magic('matplotlib', 'inline')

With this approach, you have more control over when to enable Matplotlib inline. You can choose to run the startup script only when needed, allowing you to work on different projects with different requirements without modifying the configuration file.

Option 3: Use a cell magic command

The third option is to use a cell magic command to run Matplotlib inline for specific cells in your IPython notebook. This approach gives you the flexibility to enable or disable Matplotlib inline on a cell-by-cell basis.

# Add the following line at the beginning of the cell
%%matplotlib inline

By using the cell magic command, you can control which cells display the plots inline and which cells do not. This can be useful when you want to compare different visualization options or when you want to generate a report with both inline and separate plots.

After exploring these three options, it is clear that the best choice depends on your specific requirements. If you always want Matplotlib inline in all your IPython notebooks, modifying the configuration file (Option 1) is the most convenient approach. However, if you work on different projects or prefer more control, using a startup script (Option 2) or a cell magic command (Option 3) may be more suitable.

Ultimately, the choice is yours. Consider your workflow, project requirements, and personal preferences to determine which option is the best fit for you.

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10 Responses

    1. Sorry, but I dont see Option 3 as a game-changer. It might have some advantages, but I think Option 2 is more practical and less complicated. Each to their own, I guess.

    1. I understand your concern about modifying the config file, but sometimes taking risks can lead to great rewards. Its all about weighing the pros and cons. Personally, I think option 3 offers exciting possibilities. What do you think?

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