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50 New Tools Democratizing Data Analysis & Visualization

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Leonard Murphy from GreenBook outlines 50 new tools for visualizing and analyzing data.

Just as we’ve seen the shift to “DIY” data collection platforms, we’re also seeing the development of a whole new class of self-service data exploration and visualization tools. These are not necessarily replacements for SPSS, SAS, R, and other traditional analytical suites: those enterprise level systems are often still needed to do more complex and advanced statistical analysis. However, in many ways these newer entrants have a leg up over legacy providers: they are less expensive (in many cases free), more flexible, easier to use, and are built with the needs of a variety of users in mind. Today it’s possible to find many tools that can help the most inexperienced user quickly begin doing sophisticated analysis and produce great visualizations from many different types of data.

The democratization of data exploration is well underway.

Of course there have always been many software options available to analysts and researchers, so increased choice in and of itself isn’t revolutionary. For instance, when thinking only of the market researcher industry, for years survey-based data collection platforms have integrated fairly advanced data exploration tools into their offerings, but they have been mostly limited to the data collected in that system and don’t easily allow for the synthesis of external data sets. Even though they are often capable of much more, general usage has been confined to field management and some early stage client-access rather than truly integrated data reporting. Since my beginnings in MR at the turn of the century, the standard data processing workflow was generally export data in a delimited format to SPSS, clean it up in that package, export again to WinCross or other tabulation package, produce voluminous crosstabs, and create Excel charts from the tables. Software like e-Tabs and MarketSight sought to streamline some of that process and of course some organizations did more fully leverage the capabilities of data collection systems or develop homegrown solutions using macros, but for much of the industry this was SOP.

To be fair, that was generally all that was expected of market researchers: to analyze discreet data sets and produce a variety of graphical depictions of the major findings. This expectation started to change with the advent of dashboarding platforms such as Xcelsius, Crystal Reports, Dundas Charts and others in the early 2000s as we began to see client demand for new ways to interact with data emerge, but often those platforms were still dependent on a phased approach requiring data collection from one system, export into a statistical package for cleaning and exploration, and then additional export into a database structure such as SQL or even spreadsheets like Excel for the dashboard tools to access. The process was cumbersome and prone to breakage. Few MR suppliers embraced dashboard delivery systems and were content with the status quo, allowing the IT and Business Intelligence sectors to lead the early stages of the data visualization revolution using these and similar tools.

Data visualization and analysis tools

Tool Category Multi-purpose
visualization
Mapping Platform Skill
level
Data stored
or processed
Designed for
Web publishing?
Data Wrangler Data cleaning No No Browser 2 External server No
OpenRefine (formerly Google Refine) Data cleaning No No Browser 2 Local No
R Project Statistical analysis Yes With plugin Linux, Mac OS X, Unix, Windows XP or later 4 Local No
Google Fusion Tables Visualization app/service Yes Yes Browser 1 External server Yes
Impure Visualization app/service Yes No Browser 3 Varies Yes
Many Eyes Visualization app/service Yes Limited Browser 1 Public external server Yes
Tableau Public Visualization app/service Yes Yes Windows 3 Public external server Yes
VIDI Visualization app/service Yes Yes Browser 1 External server Yes
Zoho Reports Visualization app/service Yes No Browser 2 External server Yes
Choosel Framework Yes Yes Chrome, Firefox, Safari 4 Local or external server Not yet
Exhibit Library Yes Yes Code editor and browser 4 Local or external server Yes
Google Chart Tools Library and Visualization app/service Yes Yes Code editor and browser 2 Local or external server Yes
JavaScript InfoVis Toolkit Library Yes No Code editor and browser 4 Local or external server Yes
D3 Library Yes Yes Code editor and browser 4 Local or external server Yes
Quantum GIS (QGIS) GIS/mapping: Desktop No Yes Linux, Unix, Mac OS X, Windows 4 Local With plugin
OpenHeatMap GIS/mapping: Web No Yes Browser 1 External server Yes
OpenLayers GIS/mapping: Web, Library No Yes Code editor and browser 4 local or external server Yes
OpenStreetMap GIS/mapping: Web No Yes Browser or desktops running Java 3 Local or external server Yes
TimeFlow Temporal data analysis No No Desktops running Java 1 Local No
IBM Word-Cloud Generator Word clouds No No Desktops running Java 2 Local As image
Gephi Network analysis No No Desktops running Java 4 Local As image
NodeXL Network analysis No No Excel 2007 and 2010 on Windows 4 Local As image
CSVKit CSV file analysis No No Linux, Mac OS X or Linux with Python installed 3 Local No
DataTables Create sortable, searchable tables No No Code editor and browser 3 Local or external server Yes
FreeDive Create sortable, searchable tables No No Browser 2 External server Yes
Highcharts* Library Yes No Code editor and browser 3 Local or external server Yes
Dundas Dashboard Visualization app/service Yes Yes Browser 3 Local or external server Yes
Panda Project Create searchable tables No No Browser with Amazon EC2 or Ubuntu Linux 2 Local or external server No
PowerPivot** Analysis and charting Yes No Excel 2010 and some 2013 versions on Windows 3 Local No
Weave Visualization app/service Yes Yes Flash-enabled browsers; Linux server on backend 4 Local or external server Yes
Statwing Visualization app/service Yes No Browser 1 External server Not yet
Infogr.am Visualization app/service Yes Limited Browser 1 External server Yes
Datawrapper Visualization app/service Yes No Browser 1 Local or external server Yes

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Source: GreenBook

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