A propos

DesmosGraph Calculator is an incredibly powerful tool to display curves ( Cartesian, polar, implicit ) and a lot more (with animation, sliders, summation and derivatives, custom functions, vectors of parameters, fitting, regression, stats, …). Firstly dedicated to pupils and high-school activities, it is also of interest for the scientist, the engineer and the university student. But the simplicity of principles and the minimalist manual hide some of the power of the tool. Conversely, some things are uneasy (and many think impossible) to do if you don’t know how to twist the tool.
In this blog, we will explore some of these points.

Disclaimer: I’m not related to the development team. I’m just a hard user of the tool 🙂

Some official links:

Useful hacks

More available colors

Desmos Graph only allows a very small palette of 6 colors, even if you can simulate more by superimposing layers with transparency.

Mr H. Here to Help proposed a useful hack to add more, via javascript:


                                                                         Example  ➛

  • Open the Javascript Console of your browser ( via menu, or shortcut F12 )
  • In the console, type Calc.colors.COLORNAME = "#RGB" , where RGB packs the R,G,B color components encoded in hexadecimal from 0 (min intensity ) to F (max intensity).  E.g., Calc.colors.olive = "#880"
  • Variant: You can have more precision in the tint by encoding the colors as "#RRGGBB" , i.e.  2 digits for each color component from 00 (min intensity ) to FF (max intensity). E.g., Calc.colors.olive = "#808000"
  • You can then close the Javascript tab with the close button or F12.
  • Now, the color menu shows the extra colors !

Attention: the object colors are correctly saved, but at loading they will no longer appear as choice in the color menu.

Conveniently packed by Andre Issa as a Color Picker plugin 
   [ not working well on my ubuntu, though ]


[ To be continued ]

See also: secret geometry features , undocumented details

Drawing geometry (secret features inside :-) )

If you practice even a bit of Desmos Graph, you already know many way to draw curves (explicit, implicit, parametric, polar plot…) and to fill them (using inequalities).  We also presented here how to draw series of curves and do more complex regions painting. With this we can already produce polygonal figures from equations:
polygons  concentric polygons   stars       involved constructions
desmos-graph (23).png  desmos-graph (24).png    desmos-graph (25).pngdesmos-graph (26).png

But it is also possible to directly draw and manipulates shapes, and there are even undocumented features to do so.

At the base is the point: we already use them to draw parametrics  ( X(t), Y(t) ) , or to get visual sliders ( a, b ). This set point syntax. But there is a lot more you can do with points:

  • You can name them: A = (1,2)
  • Indeed they can even contain a list:
    • X = [1,2,3]  Y = [4,2,7]  P = (X,Y)desmos-graph (27).png
      Or directly as T = ( [1,2,3], [4,2,7] )
      Or using an array.    Example: Delaunay triangulation :
    • Vectors allows to define point sets:
      P = ( cos( 2Pi[0...N]/N ) , sin( 2Pi[0...N]/N ) )
  • You can access point coordinates with P.x and P.y
  • You can draw polygons:
    •  polygon( A, B, C ),
      polygon( (1,1), (0,5), (5,3) ),
      polygon(P) with P defining a set above.
      The attributes button let you tune the look as for curves, with more options.
    • Indeed you can also directly draw polygons when defining points set as P above: The  attributes button let you join them with lines and tune exactly the same set of parameters.
    • Arrays also let you display columns as point sets and tune attributes, allowing to draw points and join then with lines. But there is no easy way to make them loop, appart by duplicating the first point to the last position (explicitly, or by storing the duplicate values in some variables).
  • You can compute the distance between points (simples or sets):
  • You can get the midpoint(A,P)
  • Alas we can’t directly operate on points (using +, -, *scalar ) like we can do on vectors, or even solve or compare (e.g., midpoint( (0,0),(x,y)) = (5,5) ).
    But we can do it on anything scalar:

    • via their coordinates,
    • we do can solve and compare with the distance operator:
      distance( (x,y), (0,0) ) <= 1 draws a filled circle.
      distance( (x,y), (0,0) ) = [0...N]/N draws a series of circles.
      distance( (x,y), (0,1) ) = distance( (x,y), (x,0) ) draws a parabola.
      Attention: distance( (x,y), P ) = 1 with P as above would traces a series of circles, one around each points in the set, but distance( (x,y), P ) = [0...N]/N won’t turn them into a double series (multiple circles around points): remember than vectors are synchronous in expressions, so each element of the vector of radii will fit the corresponding element in the vector of points.
  • Of course, ou can also do geometry with points encoded as vectors, using points only for display and controls.  Example here.  Then,desmos-graph (28).png
    • you can add, substract, weight points-as-vectors, cf 3D ellipse:
    • dot product is  total(V1*V2),
    • distance is  sqrt(total(V1²)),
    • multiplication by matrix is [ total(V*[M00,M01]) , total(V*[M10,M11]) ],
    • etc.
    • ( drawing grids and vector fields: treated here ).


Desmos traps: “why is it not working ?”

It’s not uncommon to have either unexpected results or puzzling error messages in Desmos. Here are some classical examples and solutions.

Misleading functions

  • Desmos log means log10. Not to be confused with ln , that also be noted log_e.
  • Desmos stdev means the statistical estimator, not to be confused with the real standard deviation of a set, noted stdevp. ( stdev = sqrt(N/(N-1))*stdevp ).

 Misleading span of variables

  • There is no local variable. Sum_n prevents you to use n anywhere else again (and the error message will be puzzling)… but in other sums.
  • Lists are kind of vectors, but with common alignment for all expressions in your session. Don’t expect to enlarge the combinatory by passing an extra vector where a constant was expected.

Ambiguous syntax

  • The syntax for tracing the locus where a variable or function equals something looks a lot like what you would do for defining it, and Desmos easily think it’s a second definition of the same thing, which it allows… as long as its not used in another expression (then you’ll get a puzzling error message).→To avoid f(x) = 3 ambiguity, either trace 3 = f(x) or f(x)+0 = 3
  • Conditions look like a separate statement, but indeed it’s part of the expression.That’s why ( x, y ) { cond } can’t work, for a point is not a value. Use (x, y { cond } ) .


  • From Desmos Graph to exterior, you will always get LaTeX form of equations. So Desmos can be used as a LaTeX editor, but you can’t get simple text version.
  • From outside text to Desmos Graph: it works… but for operators like sqrt, |.|, {.}, sum …Indeed Desmos expect some LaTeX source, and just extend syntax to some text names like sin so that simple text expressions accidentally work. Conversely x_a = \sum{\sqrt{x}} works, or any complex LaTeX formula.But \{, that block the pasting.

Out of conceptual space

Many limitations can be twisted, like drawing in 3D, making random numbers, or emulating vector algebra. But some concepts remain definitively out of reach:

  • In fact all expressions are precomputed by Desmos. So don’t expect to reproduce really evolving states, like dynamics simulation.Even recursivity won’t work, for conditions are just functions like the others, rather than algorithmic structures.
  • There is no way you can get the inverse of a function. But you can trace it.
  • or between conditions is near impossible, appart duplicating the function and applying the alternate condition (for plotting)  or putting the whole content in piecewise form (for definitions): f(x) = { cond1: val, cond2: same-val }
    (and can be obtained with the m < x < M syntax for simple cases or by nesting { cond } statements.

Generating random numbers and points

Undocumented functions: (see more)

  • random(N)creates an array of N uniform random numbers in range 0..1.
    random(N,s) provides a seed s allowing producing different sequences.
  • Distributions: uniformdist(), normaldist(), poissondist(), binomialdist(), tdist() (student)
  • random(normaldist(...) , ... )  or  normaldist(...).random(...) :
    creates an array of random numbers with target distribution.

See example.


  • A classical hash function is obtained by tacking least significant bits of a high frequency sin: e.g., R(i) = mod(10⁴.sin(10⁴i),1)  , to be evaluated at discreet i values.
    Examples:  uniform dots , cloud covariance ,  lightening random walk , bush
    desmos-graph (15)    desmos-graph (16)  desmos-graph (18).pngdesmos-graph (14)
    more (with animation):
  • You can make a 2D hash function the same way. An historical tuning giving good quality values is H(i,j) = mod( sin(i*12.9898 +j* 78.233) * 43758.5453, 1)

desmos-graph (21)

Enriching graphics

Thick or varying thickness curves

The curve tracing engine of DesmosGraph is very efficient. So you get thick curves by a twist: add a very high frequency oscillation ! e.g.:  sin(x) + .1*sin(1000x)
cf more elaborate example:
desmos-graph (3)

Emulating two parameters parametrics

the idea is to take a large range for parametric parameter t, and to slice it in chunks using mod(t/N,1) as parameter 1, parameter 2 being the slice number given by floor(t/N). If you want a full grid rather than parallel curves, duplicate the plot and swap the floor() and mod().
The same principle extends to 3 parameters using floor(mod(t,N)), floor(t/N), mod(t/N,1).

desmos-graph (10).pngdesmos-graph (9).pngExamples:

  • See rest grid here:
  • See m() in spiral galaxy:
  • See isometric ellipsoid below
  • This can also be used to draw a field of vectors or circles (another example). Note that thin details can sometime be missed by the display engine.

desmos-graph (13)    desmos-graph (11)      desmos-graph (12) desmos-graph (14)

3D plots

Filling / Painting

  • Inequations let you color areas, with plain or dash border depending on inclusive vs strict inequality.
  • You can avoid the border line by putting the inequation in the condition:
    0 < 1  { sin(x)sin(y) < -0.5 }
    ( alas the resulting colors varying very non-linearly with the number of semi-transparent layers, and get quickly opaque, at a different rate depending on the base color ).
  • desmos-graph (5).pngYou can get several lever of shade by superimposing layers, thanks to array parameters:
    0 < 1  { sin(x)sin(y) < -1+2*[0,.3,...1] }

extreme examples:
Ray-tracing sphere           tests on color composition
desmos-graph desmos-graph (4)

Undocumented details

The manual is very short: many more can be done !
( Many additional info is scattered in the help center, if you take time to crawl it 🙂 ).

Variables and function names

  • x,y, r,θ  are the default parameterization in Cartesian and polar coordinates,
  • π,τ,e are the special constants.
  • Possible names: a0, A1, B_whatever, α (type "alpha"), β, φ,  α1, α_whatever,
  • More: since LaTeX inputs are valid, you can get any other Greek variable name, in caps or not, by copy pasting from outside (or from a text field in DesmosGraph): \gamma, \Gamma, \epsilon, etc. Once there the symbol can be copy-pasted between fields.

Arrays / lists

Expressions and thus resulting variables and functions accept arrays: it’s like using vectors instead of scalar. It also allows to graph a full family of curves of areas instead of one, whatever the plotting method (Cartesian, polar, implicit, inequations…)


e.g.:desmos-graph (6) A = [1,...,10]  →  sin(A*x) ,
2*A/10-1 , etc. More: here.
sin(x)*sin(y) <= -1+2*[0,.3,...1]

Complex examples:
Array of threads   ,  Fractal braid  ,  Push hole in param
desmos-graph (1).png desmos-graph (2)  desmos-graph (2)

Variable length

  • Array can be set as [1,...,N] , or [0,1/N...1]
  • Slider can be set between 0 and expressions like a+pi/2


  • All trigonometrics also have their inverse, comprising sinh(x), etc.
    Moreover, you can also get them using sin^-1(x)  (alas, this does not work for custom functions).
  • min , max  works with any number or parameters, as well as lists (like all the stats functions).
  • nth root (e.g., cubic):  nthroot
  • The gamma function, generalization of the factorial, is just x!
  • Piecewise function / expression: f(x) = {cond1: expr1, cond2: expr2, ... , default_expr}
  • Derivatives: d/dx f(x) , f'(x) , f''(x) , d/dx d/dx f(x)
  • Summation, product, integrals:  sum, prod, int
  • From statistical distributions: f = normaldist(0,1)
    → draw: g(x) = pdf(f,x) or g(x) = f.pdf(x) . Same with cdf.
    Distributions: uniformdist(), normaldist(), poissondist(), binomialdist(), tdist() (student)
  • random(N) creates an array of N uniform random numbers in range 0..1.
    random(N,s) provides a seed s allowing producing different sequences.
  • random(normaldist(...) , ... ) or normaldist(...).random(...) :
    same for normal law (or any distribution).
    → See example.

Restrictions / Range

  • Domain limited function / expression: f(x) = expr {cond}

    • Range condition: 0 <= x < 1
    • AND of conditions: {cond1}{cond2}
    • For parametrics curve, the condition must be *in* the parenthesis:
      ( t,  sin ( t ) { t > 0 }  )
  • Variable slider: a reminder to tune the bounds, and possibly the step ( 1 for integers).
  • For points used as (bi)sliders, remember to set limits on the associated variable.
    If you want the point to only move in one axis, or not at all, the settings menu let you restrain it (and do many other things).
  • For parametric and polar curves, a reminder than you can tune the bounds as well. You can even abuse of it to generate 2D parameters using mod() and floor() :-).

Geometry & drawing:

  • There are undocumented operators and features for geometry ! We explain these here.
  • histogram(A [,step]) : plot the histogram of array A for values every steps.
    dotplot(A [,step]) :  same with points instead of bars
    boxplot(A) :  draw a box encoding mean, stddev, range.

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