ASCII Bar Charts for Quick & Easy Visualisation

So you have some data. Let’s say it’s a record of the number of instances of some things. Let’s say it’s the number of movies you own, grouped by the year they were released.

Let’s say you have those data in the form of a dictionary in Python, like so:

years = {2000: 2, 2001: 9, 2002: 10, 2003: 9, 2004: 14, 2005: 11, 2006: 8, 2007: 10, 2008: 14, 2009: 19, 2010: 16, 2011: 17}

The following loop will print out an ASCII bar chart for a quick & easy visualisation of these data:

Which looks like this:

Note I used the ‘pipe’ character in this example. First I used ‘o’, which worked well, but I tried a few others ('O','x','X','*','@',':','/','#','[]','+','-','=','_',':)',…) and liked this the most.

That’s the end of what I wanted the blog post to show, but I may as well throw in how I got my data in this case. I have movies saved in a folder, and by convention I name them with the year in brackets at the end so I used glob to loop through the files in this folder, extract the year, and increment the counter in my years dictionary. I have another blog post in draft about using glob to edit filenames in batch. Coming soon.

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Ben Nuttall

Raspberry Pi Community Manager. Into free software, maths, kayaking, GitHub, Adventure Time & Futurama. @ben_nutall on Twitter