Subscribe / Unsubscribe Enewsletters | Login | Register

Pencil Banner

22 free tools for data visualization and analysis

Sharon Machlis | Jan. 3, 2012
There are many tools around to help turn data into graphics, but they can carry hefty price tags.

Code help: Wizards, libraries, APIs

Sometimes nothing can substitute for coding your own visualization -- especially if the look and feel you're after can't be achieved without an existing desktop or Web app. But that doesn't mean you need to start from scratch, thanks to a wide range of available libraries and APIs.

Choosel (under development)

What it does: This open-source Web-based framework is designed for charts, clouds, graphs, timelines and maps. Right now, it is geared more for developers who create applications than it is for end users who need to save and/or embed their work; but there's an interactive online demo that lets you quickly upload some data to visualize.

What's cool: As with Tableau Public, you can have more than one visualization on a page and connect them so that, for example, mousing over items on a chart will highlight corresponding items on a map.

Drawbacks: This is not yet an application that end users can use to store and share their work. And I found the online demo to be finicky about uploading data -- even after I corrected field formats for dates (dd/mm/yyyy) and location (latitude/longitude) as documented, my data wouldn't load until I had another text field added (rather than just having numerical fields). It was also unclear how to customize labels. This project shows promise if it's further developed and documented.

Skill level: Expert

Runs on: Chrome, Safari and Firefox.

Learn more: There's a short video called Choosel -- Timeline and Basic Features and a sample titled Earthquakes With 1,000 or More Deaths Since 1900.

Exhibit

What it does: This spin-off of the MIT Simile Project is designed to help users "easily create Web pages with advanced text search and filtering functionalities, with interactive maps, timelines and other visualization." Billed as a publishing framework, the JavaScript library allows easy additions of filters, searches and more. The Easy Data Visualization for Journalists page offers examples of the code in use at a number of newspaper websites.

Of course, "easy" is in the eye of the beholder -- what's easy for the professionals at MIT who created Exhibit might not be that simple for a user whose comfort level stops at Excel. Like most JavaScript libraries, Exhibit requires more hand-coding than services such as Many Eyes and Google Fusion Tables. On the other hand, Exhibit has clear documentation for beginners, even those with no JavaScript experience.

What's cool: For those who are comfortable coding, Exhibit offers a number of views -- maps, charts, timeplots, calendars and more -- as well as customized lenses (ways to format an individual record) and facets (properties that can be searched or sorted). You're much more likely to get the exact presentation you want with Exhibit than, say, Many Eyes. And your data stays local unless and until you decide to publish.

 

Previous Page  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  Next Page 

Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.