Data Visualization Resources: An Annotated Bibliography

Data Visualization Resources

1.     The St Louis Federal Reserve

The St Louis Federal Reserve Economic Data series is perhaps the most comprehensive repository of time-series data. It also offers an in-browser, cross-platform, data visualization tool. The time series are collected from a huge variety of US government sources, as well as a number of international organizations such as the OECD and World Bank. The FRED tools, including charts, graphs and maps, are extremely simple and user-friendly. They lack the flashy design of other data visualization kits, but preserve a consistent and legible style across all platforms.

Keywords: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Audience: economists, political scientists, advocacy groups, journalists

2.     Google Charts

Google Charts is a simple browser-based data visualization utility, specifically designed for web functions, including data sourcing and display. Website display of the charts is extremely durable, making Google Charts a good choice for projects where browser-compatibility is a priority.  Google Charts is tightly integrated with Google Spreadsheets, including dynamic updating of the chart when the source data changes. The statistical processing available in Charts is basic, making Charts a poor choice for complex analyses. The styling of the charts is basic, in keeping with Google’s minimalist aesthetic, and not CSS customizable.

Keywords: Google, html

Audience: students, teachers, advocacy groups

3.     Gephi‎

Gephi is an elegant and powerful system for graphing network data. It furnishes dynamic data visualization as an aid to reasoning and hypothesis development. This presentation also facilitates data cleaning through the simple visual identification of outlying or faulty data. While Gephi is capable of analyzing a variety of big data, it is particularly strong on network analysis, supporting networks of up to 50,000 nodes and 1,000,000 edges with a surprisingly low demand for processing power. Gephi includes a variety of tools to help with data presentation, including the ability to customize size, color and labels. While it is strongest as a real-time data visualizer, Gephi also supports exports in PDF and SVG formats. Gephi is licensed under the GNU General Public License, which contributes to the wide variety of third party plugins available to expand Gephi’s functionality.

Keywords: social network analysis, networks, data visualization, visual analytics, exploratory data analysis

Audiences: students, journalists, advocacy groups, researchers

4.     Many Eyes

Many Eyes is an in-browser big data visualization platform provided by IBM. Named for the open source proverb “many eyes make all bugs shallow”, the great strength of the platform is its community structure, which brings together experts, enthusiasts and novices in mutual support. Many Eyes offers the standard collection of data visualizations: bar-, matrix- and pie charts, scatterplots, histograms etc., in a plain but highly legible presentation. The platform is highly user-friendly, and does not require programming knowledge. Many Eyes has two main limitations. All data sets uploaded to the site are made public, making it useless for analyzing proprietary data. The maximum dataset size is 5mb, placing Many Eyes at the lower end of big data resources in terms of power.

Keywords: big data, user-friendly, simple

Audience: researchers, advocacy groups, statisticians

5.     Tableau Public

Tableau Public is a data visualization package specifically for web display. It offers a variety of interactive dashboard-type displays. The level of in-browser interactivity in Tableau displays is impressive. This makes it a great option for online publishers, such as bloggers, journalists, and advocacy groups. Tableau runs on a drag-and-drop interface that makes it more user friendly than coding-based packages. Nevertheless it is not among the user-friendliest packages listed here. Tableau has the same public data requirement as Many Eyes, and is therefore not suitable for proprietary data.

Keywords: dashboard, web publishing, interactive

Audience: bloggers, journalists, advocacy groups

6.     Highcharts

‎Highcharts is a JavaScript library that makes simple, interactive charts for the web simple. It supports a wide range of basic charts, with a small set of style sheet options. The interactivity of High charts is its greatest strength. It allows viewers to interact with chart displays, including mousing over items to see exact figures, zooming in and out, and turning data displays on and off.

Keywords: JavaScript, interactive

Audience: students, advocacy groups, bloggers, journalists

7.     Flat

Flot is a JavaScript plotting library for jQuery. It produces graphical plots from data points, and contains no data analysis capacity. Flot is simple, attractive and makes it easy to incorporate animation and interactivity into charts and graphics. Flot’s main limitation is its small selection of chart types: bar, area, points, and lines.

Keywords: JavaScript, arbitrary data points, animation, interactive

Audience: advocacy groups, students, teachers

8.     Circos

Circos is a data visualization tool that displays relationships between data points in a circular layout. The tools was originally developed for use in genetics studies, hence its distinctive format, but it is useful for presenting any data that primarily describe relationships, such as migration data, or website traffic. The strength of Circos is the simplicity of the visual representation, once the basic principles of circular plot reading have been grasped. Circos’ requires data to be presented in a specific format, and in this respect lacks the “seamlessness” of other tools described here. There are tutorials available on the Circos website and elsewhere to explain how to format data for Circos. This difficulty notwithstanding, if you believe a circular plot is appropriate to your data, Circos is really the only tool to consider.

Circos is released under the GNU license.

Keywords: circular, genetics, relationship, directional

Audience: genetics researchers, urban planners, web developers

9.     Polymaps

Polymaps is a desktop JavaScript data visualizer specific to cartographic data. Polymaps point of difference is that it can load data across a range of scales (e.g. country, state, and county level), allowing information to be presented dynamically at different levels. Polymaps supports a variety of inputs from image-based web maps such as OpenStreetMap, CloudMade, and Bing. Polymaps also offers a variety of visual styles, making it a much more simple and effective way to present cartographic information than other, non-specialist platforms.

Keywords: mapping, interactive, dynamic, geographic, cartographic

Audience: social scientists, political scientists, economists

10.  iCharts

iCharts is an in-browser data visualization service that focuses on cross-platform data integration and visualization. The service offers a user-friendly experience from generating/uploading basic data (including support for a variety of cloud-based storage services), through to analysis, presentation, publication and sharing. iCharts’ strongest feature is its design, presentation and publishing support.  iCharts primarily targets professional users and data providers (owners and vendors of large datasets), though it has a free service that leverages much of the power of the premium services, while excluding features likely to be of little interest to the individual user.

Keywords: integration, sharing, publication, big data

Audience: statisticians, economists, bloggers

11.  Plotly

Plotly provides in-browser data visualization alongside sophisticated analytics capacity. It supports the majority of popular data input formats such as Google Charts, Excel, Matlab, CSV, TSV, TXT and MS Access, and offers limited data formatting, such as find and replace, and column/row swapping.  Plotly’s most important feature is its wide range of statistical tools, including descriptive and inferential statistics, ANOVA, chi-squared test, and T-test. It offers the standard range of basic plots, though this includes heat maps and error bars. Plotly does not offer geographic analysis.

Keywords: statistics, analytics, ANOVA

Audience: statisticians, economists, sociologists

12.  Jolicharts

Jolicharts is a cloud-based, in-browser data visualization package. It features support for a range of data inputs, including the possibility of permanently linking your Jolicharts account with your Google Spreadsheets. Jolicharts is similar to Tableau Public in that it focuses on dashboard displays. This makes it particularly suitable for those who favour Google Spreadsheets but want a more elegant presentation of data and/or dashboard functionality. Jolicharts offers a larger than average collection of charts and outputs, including maps provided by Google Maps. The basic service is free up to 50 MB of calculating power and 5 data sources per dashboard.

Keywords: dashboard, interactive, charts, big data, cloud

Audience: journalists, bloggers, students, advocacy groups

13.  Silk

Silk is something of an outlier in this list. It is a blogging platform built around data integration. The presentation of data is incredibly stylish, aided by the fact it never has to stray far from its native platform. Silk pages are designed to be interactive and easily read. The selection of visualizations is limited to bar-, pie-, and line-charts, and Google Maps integration. Silk pages work best when they integrate more than one of these data formats, interspersed with textual explanation. Silk will appeal to those with small datasets, and an ambition to present these in the most reader-friendly format possible.

Keywords: blog, interactive, attractive, stylish

Audience: bloggers

14.  Creately

Creately is an online data visualization tool built using Apache Flex. Creately is designed for intra-organizational communication, rather than online communication. It contains a huge library of communication templates, including infographics, organizational charts, and mind maps, all of which are uncommon among the products featured in this list. The free, personal use plan makes limited use of this functionality and prevents Creately from being a one-stop data visualization platform, but it would be useful for those running a single data visualization project with a number of collaborators.

Keywords: data visualization, Apache Flex, infographics

Audience: students, professionals

15.  Infogram

As the name suggests, Infograms is a specialized infographics platform. Inforgrams makes it easy to produce the sort of long, vertical, scrolling infographics that are all over the Internet today. The platform makes it easy to create a simple, readable infographic in minutes, with a basic list of preloaded charts – including such infographic staples as fuel gages, and human outlines variously colored to represent a population distribution. There is little tutorial support or community, and some of the functions are frustratingly limited; however, Infogram is a new platform and may well grow into something more impressive. In its current form Infogram is not likely to be appropriate to more than a small range of datasets and tasks, but could be a good option if you are interested in clarity and speed.

Keywords: infographics, simple

Audience: bloggers, infographics

16.  Better World Flux

Better World Flux fits into the category of pre-loaded data visualizers. It was designed to host and publicize the World Bank’s development data, and comes preloaded with a number of datasets related to development indicators. The visualizer is most appropriate to early level teaching, but could be useful as a way to quickly explore patterns in the major development indicators.

Keywords: inequality, development, visualizer, pre-loaded

Audience: students, teachers

17.  Weave

Weave is a desktop data visualization package with powerful statistical capacity. Weave has an interactive dashboard functionality to rival that of Jolicharts and Tableau, and offers a full complement of chart types and maps. The visualizations are among the most impressive of the packages featured here, though Weave’s aesthetic is more high-tech than the minimalist charts produced in Silk, Jolicharts, etc. Weave requires viewers to be running an up-to-date version of flash, making it problematic for projects targeted at a broad audience.

Keywords: dashboard, interactive, visualization, Weave, big data

Audience: University professors and students

18.  D3.js

If you’ve been blown away by data visualization on the websites of the New York Times or Washington Post in the past year, chances are you were looking at D3 (Data-Driven Documents). D3 is a JavaScript library that allows you to bind data to a graphical form and then apply data driven transformations to that form. D3 shares many similarities with other DOM frameworks such as jQuery or Prototype, and competent users of these frameworks will find the transition relatively straightforward. D3 is nowhere near as simple and user friendly as some of the other platforms profiled here, though there are a range of tutorials available to ease the transition. D3 renders its graphical content using Scalable Vector Graphics, meaning it functions well on Chrome, Safari and Firefox, and less ably on Internet Explorer, which is something of a limitation.

Keywords: jQuery, Prototype, SVG

Audience: journalists, academics

19.  Google Fusion Tables

Google Fusion Tables is a powerful in-browser platform for the storage and visualization of data. Fusion Tables’ most compelling feature is it makes collaboration and sharing simple within the Google ecosystem. Fusion tables also offers the largest supported data sets of any of the browser-based products profiled here, currently at 250MB per user. Fusion Tables works best with simple charts and map visualizations. Fusion Tables does not offer the range of customization and styling options of other products profiled here, and is less suitable for the presentation of smaller datasets in an aesthetically pleasing manner.

Keywords: Google, mapping, sharing, collaboration, big data

Audience: journalists, geographers, students

20.  Raphael

Raphael is a small JavaScript library for creating charts and graphs. Rafael uses JavaScript to draw SVG objects. Raphael has no built in capacity to analyse or store data, it is solely a canvas for JavaScript drawing. Raphael contains a library of built in shapes, which makes drawing many common chart types much easier.

Keywords: data visualization, SVG graphics

Audience: journalists, bloggers

21.  Splunk

Splunk is a data visualization and analysis tool specific to machine data. This makes it suitable for web developers, system administrators, and companies analyzing sales data, among others. Splunk may also be a good choice for those who want to hedge their bets with regard to Hadoop, with plans to release a separate product, Hunk, to run on top of Hadoop in 2014/15.  Splunk’s best feature is its powerful (proprietary) data search and retrieval system, which in the new release (6) has been integrated into a GUI. Version 6 also incorporates a data visualizer, including a dashboard function, though this feature is more focused on data analysis than communication.

Keywords: Hadoop, data visualization, web developers, machine data

Audience: web developers, Hadoop users

22.  Flare

Flare is an ActionScript library that allows the creation of complex data visualizations using the Adobe Flash Player. Flare supports the entire standard chart options, and also includes a suite of layouts to map the relationships between nodes. The advantage of Flare over other similar applications is the ease of animating these simple visualizations. Flare is built on the Apache Flex application, and is open source.

Keywords: charts, visualization, Flash, Apache, ActionScript, animation

Audience: journalists, students, genetics researchers

23.  Axiis

Axiis is similar to Flare in that it is built on Apache Flex and is useful for the easy and effective visualization of data. It contains no data analysis or statistical capacity. It is most effective for dynamic and interactive visualizations of simple charts. Axiis provides pre-built visualization tools, as well as the option to code.

Keywords: visualization, Flash, Apache, animation, interactive

Audience: journalists, advocacy groups, marketers/advertisers

24.  Network Workbench

Network Workbench is a desktop data visualization tool specifically for network analysis, making it most suitable for social scientists, biomedical researchers, and physicists. Network Workbench visualizes networks with powerful layout algorithms, allowing for detailed visualizations of network data. The strongest feature of Network Workbench is its compatibility with a variety of network data formats.

Keywords: network analysis, data visualization, node

Audience: social scientists, biomedical researchers, physicists

25.  KNIME

KNIME is a complete desktop data analysis and visualization package. It contains over 1000 data tools for the cleaning, pre-processing, modeling, and analysis of data. Its visual workbench provides a flowchart of data operations, allowing users to easily keep track of their data manipulations. One of the most interesting features of KNIME for big data researchers is the availability of downloadable extensions for distributed frameworks such as Hadoop through the Actian RushAccelerator for KNIME.

Keywords: data mining, analysis, visualization, open source, Hadoop, big data

Audience: data scientists, big data users on commodity hardware, statisticians

This entry was posted in Careers And Work, Data Visualization, Information Technology, Resource-a-rama and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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