Question: ❓❓❓

Matplotlib offers there functions:

cla()   # Clear axis
clf()   # Clear figure
close() # Close a figure window

The documentation doesn’t offer a lot of insight into what the difference between these functions is. When should I use each function and what exactly does it do?

Good Answer: 👌👌👌

They all do different things, since matplotlib uses a hierarchical order in which a figure window contains a figure which may consist of many axes. Additionally, there are functions from the pyplot interface and there are methods on the Figure class. I will discuss both cases below.

pyplot interface

pyplot is a module that collects a couple of functions that allow matplotlib to be used in a functional manner. I here assume that pyplot has been imported as import matplotlib.pyplot as plt.
In this case, there are three different commands that remove stuff:

plt.cla() clears an axis, i.e. the currently active axis in the current figure. It leaves the other axes untouched.

plt.clf() clears the entire current figure with all its axes, but leaves the window opened, such that it may be reused for other plots.

plt.close() closes a window, which will be the current window, if not specified otherwise.

Which functions suits you best depends thus on your use-case.

The close() function furthermore allows one to specify which window should be closed. The argument can either be a number or name given to a window when it was created using figure(number_or_name) or it can be a figure instance fig obtained, i.e., usingfig = figure(). If no argument is given to close(), the currently active window will be closed. Furthermore, there is the syntax close('all'), which closes all figures.

methods of the Figure class

Additionally, the Figure class provides methods for clearing figures.
I’ll assume in the following that fig is an instance of a Figure:

fig.clf() clears the entire figure. This call is equivalent to plt.clf() only if fig is the current figure.

fig.clear() is a synonym for fig.clf()

Note that even del fig will not close the associated figure window. As far as I know the only way to close a figure window is using plt.close(fig) as described above.


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