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Thanks for the feedback, "jklymak" -- the purpose of the article was indeed to be tentatively prescriptive, in the hopes that customers like you would point out if we missed anything.

You have a great point that overlaying data series like this can be useful for searching for patterns in multiple data series (what the HCI academics might call "exploratory data analysis"). OmniGraphSketcher does hope to support that type of use, so we will surely keep it in mind. Perhaps the future interface for multiple graphs should be more like a light table, rather than just a "dual y-axes" configuration. That would provide a lot more flexibility for data analysis, and you could just snap the x-axes to an overlaid position in order to get the dual y-axes effect.
Hi Robin,

Thanks for the article, it is nice to have some pros and cons together.
I agree that secondary axis can be confusing, dueling for attention, but I don't agree that that is a reason not to implement it. All graphs can be confusing, and it depends on the designer/drawer and the person reading the graph if it is confusing. I can make single-axis graphs that are confusing and dual-axis graphs that are not confusing.

An example where I needed the secondary axis is mortgage payments: it can show the amount paid per year (interest) and the amount due at the end of each year. The interest is a much smaller amount than the amount due.
Yes, you can show this in two graphs, underneath each other, or you can show it in one graph, if you think this is clearer.

There is another reason to want secondary axis: over here mortgage payments are usually displayed that way, so if people are used to view data on a certain subject that way, it helps if you can present it the way they expect. It feels kinda stupid to use a 'duelling' presentation just because people are used to it and expect it, but sometimes there is just no room to be stubborn and present an alternative.
I really need the secondary Y axis for overlapping horsepower and torque diagrams. I work for a automobile manufacturer, and I need the ability to show both the horsepower and torque curves on one graph, since together they describe an engine's performance. Having one graph for horsepower and one for torque would be pointless.
Numbers finally has it and that has made a big difference for my presentation preparation. Now that I've purchased omnigraphsketcher, I'm really missing the feature. It would make this application much more useful to me!
I could definitely use a secondary y axis in some of the graphs that I need to create at work.
One more vote for two- and four-axis graphs.

Thank you for putting a paper together on this topic. I agree with the attractiveness of small multiples and of the frequent confusion of two- and four-axes graphs, but I also share other commenters' views that your paper is prescriptive.

The Economist magazine uses two vertical axes graphs with great precision, clarity, and compactness. Their trick is to use a common grid line and color the axes labels with the color of the data represented on them (see, e.g., 8/28/10, p. 61). Oh, that OmniGraphSketcher could do that! The eye spends no time learning the lay of the land.

Could a small multiple do as well in the same space? I'm not so sure. You'd introduce another horizontal axis (reducing your data-ink ratio), or introduce a single-axis interpretation issue (say if you "stacked" the data in two regions on the single y-axis), or introduce a competing scales issue (e.g., even stock prices in dollars and volumes in millions may have vastly divergent dynamic ranges).

Are correlation plots a perfect substitute? I agree with the paper that sometimes they are the preferred option because correlation is the analytical issue at stake. However, they mask time, and that may be a high-stakes variable. Exploration may require being able to observe, "These series diverge in the late 1990s and converge in the early 2000's."

Will users aesthetically abuse the second-axis capability if it exists? No doubt. But that's their responsibility not yours, especially if you built in a default to color the axis labels by the data series color and plot on a common grid.

By the way, kudos to your development team! OGS is a DREAM to work with. It's got just the right mix of tweak-ability and speed and it's got very creative features I've wanted for decades (like shading under a curve). OGS reinforces my decision to switch to Mac every time I use it. It Just Works.

Now, when will you jump into the GIS space?
I really need this feature for my ipad's OmniGraph Sketch. in fact, such advanced features are the VERY REASON I spent $15 on the app, far more than on almost any other app I've purchase.

Last edited by tekkster; 2011-11-02 at 05:34 PM.. Reason: made a mistake
I would make use of a secondary y-axis also.
After not doing much graphing for a while, I need to make a graph today. The first thing I needed was convert a small table with numbers into a graph, which worked like a charm. The second thing I needed was a secondary Y-axis. Not because of bad design, but because of customs in the field.

Is there any progress on this, or should I just stop banging my head to try to do this with my favorite tools, and go back to Numbers to do this kind of graphing?

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