The book “Handbook of Mathematical Functions” of Abramowitz and Stegun is a very important book, if someone does any complicated calculations in physics or mathematics.
Hmm, there is obviously not any out there. I tried many of them. I actually battled all of them. All suck. Big times. But there is gnuplot. It’s cross plattform, which is not a bad thing if you are working at a research facility. It’s not as easy as other programs, because you need to input commands in shell to get a plot. But this is also the biggest advantage of gnuplot.
So gnuplot is perfect if you make a lot of calculations or experiments and have a lot of data to process – you just write a script and load it into gnuplot and you get all plots. Save them in many different file formats (png, gif, ps, latex, …). No hundreds of clicks every time for one plot. You can even have publication quality plots if you invest more time though origin might be a better choice here.
Actually, did I mention that it’s free?
There is also a nice website out there, which has a lot of tips and tricks, the not so Frequently Asked Questions about Gnuplot Website.
If you want to digitize a plot in an article or report to e.g. do some calculations with them, there is a good program, which is free and cross platform: Plot Digitizer. You scan a plot to png or gif, or cut out a plot from a pdf file and save it as png and gif. Load it into Plot Digitizer, tell it where the minimal and maximal x- and y-values are – voila: you “cracked” the plot.