Data formats

The main format we’re using within plottr is the DataDict. While most of the actual numeric data will typically live in numpy arrays (or lists, or similar), they don’t typically capture easily arbitrary metadata and relationships between arrays. Say, for example, we have some data z that depends on two other variables, x and y. This information has be stored somewhere, and numpy doesn’t offer readily a solution here. There are various extensions, for example xarray or the MetaArray class. Those however typically have a grid format in mind, which we do not want to impose. Instead, we use a wrapper around the python dictionary that contains all the required meta information to infer the relevant relationships, and that uses numpy arrays internally to store the numeric data. Additionally we can story any other arbitrary meta data.

A DataDict container (a dataset) can contain multiple data fields (or variables), that have values and can contain their own meta information. Importantly, we distinct between independent fields (the axes) and dependent fields (the data).

Despite the naming, axes is not meant to imply that the data have to have a certain shape (but the degree to which this is true depends on the class used). A list of classes for different shapes of data can be found below.

The basic structure of data conceptually looks like this (we inherit from dict)

    'data_1' : {
        'axes' : ['ax1', 'ax2'],
        'unit' : 'some unit',
        'values' : [ ... ],
        '__meta__' : 'This is very important data',
    'ax1' : {
        'axes' : [],
        'unit' : 'some other unit',
        'values' : [ ... ],
    'ax2' : {
        'axes' : [],
        'unit' : 'a third unit',
        'values' : [ ... ],
    '__globalmeta__' : 'some information about this data set',
    '__moremeta__' : 1234,

In this case we have one dependent variable, data_1, that depends on two axes, ax1 and ax2. This concept is restricted only in the following way:

  • a dependent can depend on any number of independents

  • an independent cannot depend on other fields itself

  • any field that does not depend on another, is treated as an axis

Note that meta information is contained in entries whose keys start and end with double underscores. Both the DataDict itself, as well as each field can contain meta information.

In the most basic implementation, the only restriction on the data values is that they need to be contained in a sequence (typically as list, or numpy array), and that the length of all values in the data set (the number of records) must be equal. Note that this does not preclude nested sequences!

Relevant data classes


The main base class. Only checks for correct dependencies. Any requirements on data structure is left to the inheriting classes. The class contains methods for easy access to data and metadata.


The only requirement for valid data is that the number of records is the same for all data fields. Contains some tools for expansion of data.


For data that lives on a grid (not necessarily regular).

For more information, see the API documentation.