Beautiful data visualisation for all

There is a growing crop of beautiful and useful data visualisation tools. Many need programming skills, but quite a few don’t. While we at Selective Analytics write a lot of software we know other people don’t have the time of inclination to do that. We have therefore assembled a list of tools that the non-programmer can use, most of which are free (do read the licensing rules). Because we mainly work with geographic data we will comment on that in this blog post.

We have not used all the packages listed but have heard good things about them and offer them for your consideration. Also we have left out Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint, which we think are great tools but we we are pretty sure you are aware of those already.

An example fusion table map

Google Fusion Tables

Google Fusion Tables is a free, online spreadsheet which is geographically aware, i.e. if you include an address or latitude/longitude in a row then it can display it on  a map. Clicking any of the locations then brings up the rest of the information you included alongside the location.

Our verdict: We love Google Fusion Tables and use them all the time. You can do some clever things if you play with map styles. Useful links are:

  • About Google Fusion Tables – link
  • Gallery showing different types of maps/charts – link
  • Our blog on how to show postcodes using fusion tables – link

One of many chart types from Tableau Public

Tableau Public

Tableau Public is a free, Microsoft Windows based software product that allows a massive range of different and dynamic visualisations of data. The range of visualisation is really good and their maps can show data by lat/long, which is good. The basic method is that you work on the visualisation on windows and when you are ready you can publish it to the web.

Our verdict: We think Tableau Public is really excellent. Anyone used to Excel should find it fairly easy to get used to. Useful links are:

  • Tableau public home page – link
  • Gallery showing different types of visualisation – link
  • How to videos. First video provides a good introduction – link

Many eyes visualisation is a web based service

Many Eyes

Many Eyes is a free, online visualisation service from IBM and Cognos. Like Tableau software it has a wide range of visualisation types including maps, but maps are limited to aggregation to state/county level. Be aware that all data is public so don’t put up something that is private or confidential.

Our verdict: We found the system a bit slow and lacked some of the geographic features we would like. Useful links are:

  • Many Eyes home page – link
  • Gallery showing different types of visualisation – link
  • Quick start link – link

if you are a computer programmer do look at d3.js

And finally…

This blog is quite short but if you want a comprehensive list of visualisation tools then go to This is a beautifully crafted site listing a whole range of visualisation tools, some free and some you have to pay for.

If you are a non-programmer then when you go to the datavisualization click the x in the top right corner where it says ‘Code?‘. That will turn off any of the visualisation tools that needs programming experience.

Happy visualisation.


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