Visualisation Tools and Resources

Drawing by numbers organises data visualisation tools under four categories - Charts and graphs; Mapping and mashups; Design, layout and presentation; and Data management tools. Browse through them below.

However advanced their capabilities, most of the tools profiled here address fairly simple data and design tasks. They also have feature sets that anyone with a little technical knowledge (and some persistence) could use to make something. They all have acceptable support structures and materials and a degree of non-English language support. They are also all free to use or open source. There are commercial alternatives to these tools as well, and we will be profiling them soon.

The Waiting room lists tools that we haven't yet profiled, but are still reviewing. If you know of a tool or resource that you think should be in here, please do contact us. We've also compiled Resources under each tool - learning materials and tutorials from other websites - to get you started on some basics.

Charts & graphs

Charts & graphs

a sophisticated, code-based toolkit that helps you create exceptionally rich and complex data driven visualizations.
powerful desktop software for making professional-looking interactive charts, maps and tables that you can share online.
an interactive tool for exploring, visualising and understanding large network graphs.
a website where you can make interactive charts with your own data.
powerful desktop software for making professional-looking interactive charts, maps and tables that you can share online.
software for making charts, maps and diagrams for your website.
a website where you can create images that show which topics stand out in a text.
Mapping & mashup

Mapping & mashup

a free tool that automatically extracts content from websites and publishes it in different formats which you can reuse.
powerful desktop software to create three-dimensional maps of the world onto which you can overlay your own information.
a free-to-use, searchable online map of the world that you can use to show your own data.
a free online map of the world, created by it users.
NEW WORKTHROUGH showing how we created a heat map.
a free, easy-to-use web service that automatically maps news from any RSS feed.
desktop software which can turn Geographic Information System (GIS) based data into beautiful thematic maps.
a website to collect, show and share information about a series of events like an election or a crisis as it unfolds in real time, or after the fact.
a free online tool that enables you to grab, mix and filter data before displaying the results in feeds, lists or on maps.
Design, layout and presentation

Design, layout and presentation

a free tool for drawing and working with pictures.
Free, open source web application for creating dynamic presentations.
a free web service that lets you create simple online infographics and charts.
a tool for drawing and making illustrations.
a free tool for making slideshow presentations.
an online tool for making exciting-looking presentations.
free software for creating the layout of your publications.
free software for Linux and MacOS that can create rich and detailed timelines for your websites.
Data management tools

Data management tools

an online tool that can be used to reformat, clean up and organise your dataset.
an online database for creating big online datasets from different sources and then making online maps from it.
an online spreadsheet with useful data collection and visualisation features.
NEW WORKTHROUGH showing how we used Open Refine to find and correct errors in data.
a tool for organising data and information in tables, and making charts out of it.
a tool that helps you to make sense of time-based data through the use of timelines and chronologies.

Waiting room

A professional tool that helps you create interactive, web-based maps. Includes a limited, free plan.
Dex
A powerful windows software that helps you visualize data on your desktop.
Open source for creating interactive web-based maps, charts and tables
Professional tool for plotting data onto 2d or 3d charts
Online programming environment for transforming data from the Internet into visualisations
A javascript library for creating interactive vector maps
A free online tool that converts Excel, CVS or tab-delimited data into web-friendly formats.

Other resources and manuals

A good overview that doesn't drop down into much detail.

A free, collaborative handbook from those at the heart of data journalism - explains the process from start to finish plus international case studies

Web tools, desktop tools and other resources for developers in the open source mapping community

For experienced data journalists.

Carl Bialik writes a column - The Numbers Guy' - for the Wall Street Journal

TTC's info design guide - downloadable