KDnuggets Home » News » 2012 » Sep » Software » Top Visualization Tools, from maps to charts to infographics  ( < Prev | 12:n22 | Next > )

Top Visualization Tools, from maps to charts to infographics

From simple charts to complex maps and infographics, this round up of the best - and mostly free - tools has everything you need to bring your data to life

Net Magazine, By Brian Suda, September 17, 2012

In this article, I want to introduce you to 20 different tools for creating visualisations: from simple charts to complex graphs, maps and infographics. Almost everything here is available for free, and some you have probably installed already.

... Online visualisations

3. Google Chart API
The portion of the toolset for static images has been deprecated, so the Google Chart Tools site now only offers tools for dynamic charts. They are robust and work on all browsers supporting SVG, canvas and VML, but one big problem is that they are generated on the client side, which creates problems for devices without JavaScript, offline use - or just when saving in different formats. Static images didn't have the same issues, so I'm sorry to see them go.

However, the API has just about everything but the kitchen sink, from bar charts and line graphs to maps and even QR codes. You will probably find the right visualisation for your needs as long as you are comfortable with the Google look and not in need of extreme customisation

Google Charts

4. Flot
Flot is a great library for line graphs and bar charts. It works in all browsers that support canvas - which means most of the popular ones, with some extra libraries to get canvas to work as VML in older browsers. It's a jQuery library, so if you're already familiar with jQuery, it's easy to manipulate the calls back, styling and behaviour of the graphics.

5. Raphaël
Raphaël is another great JavaScript library for creating charts and graphs. The biggest difference to other libraries is that it focuses on SVG and VML as output. This has pros and cons. Since SVG is a vector format, the results look great at any resolution; but since it creates a DOM node for each element, it can be slower than creating rasterised images via canvas. However, the upside is that you can interact with each DOM element and attach events, just like HTML.

6. D3
D3 (Data-Driven Documents) is another JavaScript library that supports SVG rendering. The examples go beyond the simple bar charts and line graphs to much more complicated Voronoi diagrams, tree maps, circular clusters and word clouds. It's another great tool to have in your toolbox, but I wouldn't always recommend D3 as the go-to library. It's great for creating very complicated interactions - but just because you can, it doesn't mean you should. Knowing when to stay simple is a big part of choosing the right visualisation tool.

D3 Visualization

7. Visual.ly
If you are in need of an infographic rather than a data visualisation, there is a new crop of tools out there to help. Visual.ly is probably the most popular of these. Although primarily an online marketplace for infographic designers, its Create option lets you pick a template, connect it to your Facebook or Twitter account and get some nice cartoon graphics back. While the results are currently limited, it's a useful source of inspiration - both good and bad - and a site I expect to see grow in future, accepting more formats and creating more interesting graphics.

Read more.

Data Mining Software

KDnuggets Home » News » 2012 » Sep » Software » Top Visualization Tools, from maps to charts to infographics  ( < Prev | 12:n22 | Next > )