“Visualizations act as a campfire around which we gather to tell stories.” Al Shalloway (2011)
Data is most effective when visualized. Why should we suffer the dull monotony of a sheet of numbers when the same data can be visualized in colorful graphs brimming with vitality? Over the past few years a number of useful and free visualization tools have made it more and more easy for us to consume data in meaningful and insightful ways. Here is a list of 10 such free data visualization tools with examples:
[ A dashboard on PriceWeave made using D3]
2. Tableau Public
Tableau aims to make databases and spreadsheets understandable to ordinary people. It has hundreds of visualization types, such as maps, bar and line charts, lists, heat maps and more. Two important features of Tableau are its built-in mapping which automatically geocodes down to the city and zip code level and its built-in date functionality, which lets readers filter to a time period or drill down from months to days to hours. You can even combine views into a dashboard to show different sides of the same story.
Some features on Tableau Public are reserved for paid users. More about Tableau Public at: https://www.tableausoftware.com/products/public
3. Many Eyes:
Many Eyes is probably the simplest tool to start using. It combines graphical analysis with community, encouraging users to upload, share and discuss information. It is very well documented and includes valuable suggestions on when to use what kind of visual data representation.
Many Eyes includes more than a dozen output options — from charts, graphics and word clouds to treemaps, plots, network diagrams and some limited geographic maps. The only seeming drawback of Many Eyes is that both visualizations and data sets are public on the Many Eyes site and can be easily downloaded, shared, reposted and commented upon by others. Access Many Eyes here.
Processing is a stand out interactive visualizations tool. It enables you to write much simpler code which is in turn compiled into Java. There is also a Processing.js project to make it easier for websites to use Processing without Java applets, plus a port to Objective-C so you can use it on iOS. It is a desktop application, but can be run on all platforms.
5. Google Chart Tools:
Google Chart Tools offers an API for creating Web graphics from data. Google offers a comparison of data size, page load, skills needed and other factors to help decide which option to use.The visualization API includes various types of charts, maps, tables and other options and helps pull data in from a Google spreadsheet.
Weave is a web-based visualization platform designed to enable visualization of any available data by anyone for any purpose. It is an application development platform supporting multiple levels of users – novice to advanced – as well as the ability to integrate, analyze and visualize data at “nested” levels of geography, and to disseminate the results in a web page. Learn more about Weave at http://oicweave.org/
Here is a visualization on trees in Boston made using Weave: http://demo.oicweave.org/weave.html?file=demo_Boston_Trees_meters_2011.weave
DataWrapper is an open source tool that covers the entire cycle of cleaning, visualizing and publishing data. Visualizations using Datawrapper have appeared in high profile publications such as Washington Post, Der Spiegel and The Guardian. You can find more details on the DataWrapper site: http://datawrapper.de/
Chartbuilder began as an inhouse project of the design loving team of Quartz who were frustrated with the sub standard charts they found online. Chartbuilder works best when you have to turn out beautiful and aesthetically pleasing graphs in a short time. It is open source and the full code can be found here: https://github.com/Quartz/Chartbuilder/
Jolicharts helps users build and share dashboards and export data. You can upload your data in JSON, CSV or XLS to Jolicharts and your data will be automatically prepared for analysis. It is free to use for up to 50 MB of calculation power and 5 datasources per dashboard. Learn more about it here: https://jolicharts.com/
Plotly is a collaborative data analysis and graphing tool. It provides online graphing, analytics, a Python command line, and stats tools for individuals and collaboration, as well as scientific graphing libraries for Python, R, MATLAB, Perl, Julia, Arduino, and REST. Plotly claims to streamline one’s workflow, all in one place and comes very close to doing it. Take a look at the plotly gallery.
Source: Plotly Visual
What visualization tools do you use on your projects? How has your experience been with them? Let us know in the comments below.