Data / Information Visualization Tools

Note: I've edited the page and restructured the list of links - ideally some of them should be added under the relevant existing pages here on the toolkit.
Page also needs examples and tips, will see if I can find some but please feel free to jump in!

Brief Description

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Creating visualizations of data can offer another way of communicating and sharing that data with others. Visuals can stimulate conversation and meaning making around data that is different from simply presenting the textual or numerical data. This is especially important when working across cultures and languages. Please note that visuals carry as much cultural connotation than any other communication form, so this does not mean that a visual will necessarily have a universal interpretation!

Data visualization closely relates to information graphics (infographics). Even if these terms are often used interchangeably, it is possible to identify some differences between the two.

According to a recent article from Idealware, "data visualizations take complex sets of data and display them in a graphical interface – for example, in a chart or on a map – which allows the user to gain deeper insight into patterns and trends. Infographics use data visualizations in concert with text and other tactics to tell a story, make a point or communicate a concept.

However, both allow to make a different use of the data you have available and transform them into a compelling presentation or powerful story. These types of products are highly share-able on social media channels and social networks and, when well done, they can give more mileage to your content.

When to use

  • To analyze your data
  • To convey complex data and abstract information in a digestible format
  • To visualize information, systems, networks and flows
  • To illustrate timelines and relationships
  • To tell your story effectively and reach your different audiences
  • To make your message more compelling

How to use

The practical use differs very much according to the tool you are using; some applications are web based only while other can be downloaded on your own laptop.

Tools to use

Many different tools can be grouped under the heading of data and information visualization. In the list below, we try to organiza the tools according to the contebt object we can produce, or the type of data and information visualized.

Visualizing development data (development related statistics)

  • DevInfo, a tool for organizing, storing and presenting data in a uniform way to facilitate data sharing at the country level across government departments, UN agencies and development partners
  • GapMinder, see statistics on world's most important trend and submit your own datasets.
  • World Bank Data Visualization Tools, list of tools supported by the World Bank to display development indicators with graphs and charts

Data visualization tools

  • Data Visualization, Swiss website presenting a collection of 39 data visualization tools (some require technical skills)
  • Tableau Public, desktop application to build interactive graphs, tabs, maps and more
  • Google Fusion Tables, web based application to visualize and publish data
  • Many Eyes, for shared visualization and discovery
  • Prefuse, A Java-based toolkit for building interactive information visualization applications (manual)
  • ZoomCharts Ultimate interactive html5 based data visualization software chart and graph library. Time Chart, Net Chart, Geo Chart, XML Chart, Pie Chart, Facet Chart - all html5 based, super fast and responsive. Optimized for mobile devices.

Infographics

  • Infogr.am, create interactive infographics with charts, tables, pictures, videos and text
  • Easel.ly, create infographics using different available templates
  • Visual.ly, a one-stop shop for the creation of infographics and a community to share your creations

Flow charts/diagrams/organizational charts drawing tools

Word clouds

  • Wordle, a tool to generate word clouds from the text you provide

Timeline drawing tools

  • xtimeline, a free web-based tool to create and share timelines with pictures and videos
  • Timeline, to write HTML timelines with javascript.
  • Timeplot, Timeplot is a DHTML-based AJAXy widget for plotting time series and overlay time-based events over them (with the same data formats that Timeline supports).
  • 99 Mind Mapping Resources, Tools, and Tips

Mind mapping/drawing tools


Network mapping/analysis/visualization tools

  • Networkx is a Python package for the creation, manipulation, and study of the structure, dynamics, and functions of complex networks
  • NetDraw, a free program for visualizing both 1-mode and 2-mode social network data
  • Pajek, Program for Large Network Analysis
  • InFlow, Social Networking Mapping Software
  • BINViz, (Bidirectional Interactive Network Visualization) is a JavaScript library for network and graph visualization. The goal of this tool is to provide a better way to visualize complex graphical models and the underlying data in a web-based environment
  • KeyLines, a commercially licensed JavaScript network visualization toolkit
  • Sixdegrees Network Analyser, C++ and Python based open source graph visualization and analysis software, primarily intended for use in the analysis of social networks (other applications are also conceivable)
  • UCINET, a comprehensive package for the analysis of social network data as well as other 1-mode and 2-mode data

Related Methods / Tools / Practices

Tips and Lessons Learnt

(add yours)

Examples & Stories

  • For a great example how data can be visualised take a look at the Ted Talk from Hans Rosling (founder of Gapminder): "It's a real tour de force of amazing graphic animations that deconstructs a few development myths and challenges many assumptions that, in Rosling's view, stem from data being difficult to access. Perhaps more importantly for the purposes of knowledge management for development, he forcefully makes the point that the fact that data are buried in a variety of restricted access databases and/or are provided without any user-friendly graphic interface seriously hampers policy formulation and development work on the ground."
  • DevInfo, offers a good data visualization toolkit which makes it easier to interactively explore the data.

More Information/References/Related Resources


Who can tell me more?

  • Gerard Sylvester (gerard.sylvester [at] fao.org)
  • Pier Andrea Pirani (pier [at] euforicservices.com)

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Page Authors and Editors


Data Visualization