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NCL is quite good indeed, but I would like to know whether there are other options.

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Why restrict yourself to dedicated software? In my experience you quickly outgrow dedicated software and find yourself wanting to do something that only general purpose software, with a flexible system, can do.

Often dedicated software is only used because its the convention, or because only it can read the file formats.

If you want real flexibility you need a first-class programming language with a top-notch graphics capability, and that would mean looking at Python or R - both have packages for reading spatial data, and great plotting functions.

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