22 free tools for data visualization and analysis
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.
Drawbacks: For newcomers unused to coding visualizations, it takes time to get familiar with coding and library syntax.
Skill level: Expert.
Learn more: There are a number of examples you can look at, including Red Sox-Yankees Winning Percentages Through the Years, U.S. Cities by Population and others.
What it does: Unlike Google Fusion Tables, which is a full-fledged, self-contained application for uploading and storing data, and generating charts and maps, Chart Tools is designed to visualize data residing elsewhere, such as your own website or within Google Docs.
For the simpler static graphics, there's a wizard to help you create a chart from some sample formats; it goes as far as helping you input data row by row, although for any decent-size data set -- say, more than half a dozen or so entries -- it makes more sense to format it in a text file.
The visualization API includes various types of charts, maps, tables and other options.
What's cool: The static image chart is reasonably easy to use and features a Live Chart Playground, which allows you to tweak code and see your results in real time.
Skill level: Advanced beginner to expert.
Runs on: Any Web browser.
What sets this tool apart from many others is the highly polished graphics it creates from just basic code samples. InfoVis creator Nicolas García Belmonte, senior software architect at Sencha Inc., clearly cares as much about aesthetic design as he does about the code, and it shows.
What's cool: The samples are gorgeous and there's no extra coding involved to get nifty fly-in effects. You can choose to download code for only the visualization types you want to use to minimize the weight of Web pages.
Drawbacks: Since this is not an application but a code library, you must have coding expertise in order to use it. Therefore, this might not be a good fit for users in an organization who analyze data but don't know how to program. Also, the choice of visualization types is somewhat limited. Moreover, the data should be in JSON format.
Skill level: Expert.
Learn more: See demos with source code.
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