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None as tick label converted to empty string #15630

wesbarnett opened this issue Nov 7, 2019 · 2 comments


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@wesbarnett wesbarnett commented Nov 7, 2019

Bug report

I was surprised that when None is a tick label it gets converted to an empty string instead of NaN or simply None. Maybe this is a weird cornercase, but I actually have a case where one category is None and another category is "" so when they are used as labels, they show up as the same thing.

Code for reproduction

labels = ["A", "B", "C", "", None]
values = [1.0, 2.0, 3.0, 4.0, 5.0]
plt.barh(np.arange(len(values)), values, tick_label=labels)

In contrast and as a counterexample from another package, when used as index values, pandas actually converts None to NaN. For example, run:

pd.DataFrame(values, index=labels)

Actual outcome


Expected outcome


Alternatively, if I plot using pandas

pd.DataFrame(values, index=labels).plot.barh()

I get the following plot:


Matplotlib version

  • Operating system: macOS Mojave (10.14.5)
  • Matplotlib version: 3.1.1
  • Matplotlib backend (print(matplotlib.get_backend())): module://ipykernel.pylab.backend_inline
  • Python version: 3.7.4
  • Jupyter version (if applicable): 1.0.0
  • Other libraries:

I installed matplotlib via pip in a virtual environment.

@wesbarnett wesbarnett changed the title None as xtic label converted to empty string None as tick label converted to empty string Nov 7, 2019

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@timhoffm timhoffm commented Nov 7, 2019

None resulting in no label is the intended way of working in Matplotlib. Casting None to a string would be a bit of an assumption. I can't speak for pandas, but None -> NaN conversion seems like a type coercion (may happen if you force a list containing non-numeric data into a numeric column).

If you want the string "None", you should pass it in as such [str(l) for l in labels], or map(str, labels).


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@anntzer anntzer commented Nov 8, 2019

fwiw I think the situation with labels is pretty awkward: we convert everything to strings, except None (and that change is quite recent (depending on the specific place) -- #10392, #14660). If someone wants to write robust, generic code, they can't rely on that autoconversion unless they know for sure the label can't be None (basically, it's the OP's issue).
I would support deprecating passing parameters other than str or None. (cf. plot(["1", "2"]) which used to mean plot([1, 2]) before the implementation of categoricals -- well I don't know whether that really supports doing the change given the havoc that the change caused, but I see these as being the same kind of change)

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