Last week we explored tools for creating infographics. This week, it’s time to create data visualizations. When it comes to creating visual representation of hard data, things can get interesting. Some data visualization tools rely on HTML, SVG and CSS to render visual, interactive graphics, while others require advanced Javascript. The tools I reviewed below are easy to use and don’t require any complicated downloads or developer knowledge. However, they do work best using Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari. Chrome didn't handle all these sites well. 

Tools for Data Visualization

TimelineJS

TimelineJS can pull in media from different sources. It has built-in support for Twitter, Flickr, Google Maps, YouTube, Vimeo, Dailymotion, Wikipedia, SoundCloud and more media types coming in the future. TimelineJS literally tells stories. While it’s not a traditional data visualization tool, what it does is pretty cool. You can download TimelinesJS or install the WordPress plugin, or you can use its embded generator. Using the embed generator, you can upload a dataset from a Google spreadsheet and set your parameters. It even provides a template so it’s as easy as adding in the appropriate data. We used its template to create the following timeline:

Many Eyes

Many Eyes is an experiment brought to us by IBM Research and IBM Cognos software. The site provides an opportunity to glean ideas from what others have created and to create your own data visualizations. To get started, you can upload your own dataset or use one of its to see what you can do. Once uploaded, there are many ways to showcase your data, ranging from word trees and tag clouds to advanced value comparisons, data relationships and more worldly perspectives.

Using one of its datasets, we created the following. It was as easy as customizing the parameters of the visualization as appropriate, selecting colors, naming, tagging, adding a description and pressing publish. Once published, you have the ability to share via social media or email or embed either statically or dynamically. 

Test Visualization Many Eyes

Quadrigram

Currently in beta, Quadrigram lets users “prototype and share ideas with your data” as well as create compelling interactive visualizations, animations or dashboards. It’s not free and plans start at 65 Euros for a 3-month subscription. There is also a trial period. However, you can play with examples on the site to get a better feel for what’s possible. And it’s really cool. Quadrigram lets users develop unique perspectives from the same data. The user interaction is easily captured and used to dynamically center, filter, and adjust these perspectives.

 

Tableau Public

Tableau Public is a free application that brings data to life. Users can create and share interactive charts and graphs, stunning maps, live dashboards and fun applications in minutes then publish anywhere on the web. While it is free, it does require a download, which unfortunately is only available for Windows. (However, if you are using a Mac that has an Intel processor, you can use virtualization software such as VMWare Fusion or Parallels Desktop to install Windows and run Tableau Desktop Public Edition. Alternatively, you can use a built-in utility called BootCamp to install Windows and run the Tableau software.) Tableau Public’s website serves up a vast online community full of tutorials and examples.

MapBox

MapBox lets you design fast and beautiful interactive maps and share them on the web and mobile devices. MapBox can create maps from any level with any dataset. MapBox gives users extreme design control built on technology that can scale for the highest performance environments. You can use MapBox for free or subscribe to a plan starting at US$ 5/month, which offers online support and other enhancements. Chances are you’ve probably already seen MapBox in action, as many sites such as Foursquare, NPR and U.S. Department of Energy use it.