Famed statistician John Tukey created the boxplot in 1970. It shows a distribution summary in a small amount of space. Hadley Wickham and Lisa Stryjewski look back on the old standby and its evolution up to present. Keep it in mind, while still used today, the boxplot was created with pencil and paper.
One of the original constraints on the boxplot was that it was designed to be computed and drawn by hand. As every statistician now has a computer on their desk, this constraint can be relaxed, allowing variations of the boxplot that are substantially more complex. These variations attempt to display more information about the distribution, maintaing the compact size of the boxplot, but bringing in the richer distributional summary of the histogram or density plot. These plots can overcome problems in the original such as the failure to display multi-modality, or the excessive number of “outliers” when n is large.
Alright, computers are useful. I guess.