What are some award-winning scientific visualizations

17 helpful tools for data visualization

There are so many data visualization tools out there that it is difficult to find the right one out of the wide range. They are all slightly different and offer free and paid models. Here is a list of some of the best tools out there.

We will keep updating this list with new tools. If you have any suggestions for other tools, please let us know.

Plotly

Chart types: Common variants, interactive, maps, mathematical and scientific.
Difficulty level: It takes a bit of practice.
Price: Free with some paid plans.

Plotly is one of the best data visualization tools for general use. Unlike other free tools, many elements are customizable and it provides a good level of interactivity. All charts can be exported or embedded as images (HTML and iframe code are available). It takes a while to get used to the tool, but basically you can insert data and start working with it right away.

Two features that stand out are, on the one hand, that you can save your charts and data within your account and create folders to keep track of things. On the other hand, it has an excellent feature for creating visualizations with multiple charts, which can be very helpful, e.g. for comparing different data sets.

Flourish

Chart types: Common variants, interactive, maps, Twitter timeline and other specific, interactive charts.
Difficulty level: Pretty straightforward, some charts take some time to get used to.
Price: Free with some paid plans.

Flourish is a fantastic tool. It has a solid selection of common charts, with additional animation on landing and useful interactivity. The built-in color palette is great and you have the option to create your own. In some places there is also the option to adjust things yourself.

What makes Flourish special is that you can't find some charts anywhere else, at least not that easy to create.

In the image above, you can see a screenshot of an animated map showing points over time. The interesting Twitter timeline chart is great for events and the survey visualization is impressive. The ability to sort and compare using different data points makes the visualization very useful for analysis.

Tableau Public

Chart types: Common variants, interactive maps, dashboards and infographics.
Difficulty level: Requires some practice.
Price: Free.

Tableau is a big name in the data world. While they have other paid products that can do a lot more, we'll only go into Tableau Public here. It's free software that you can download and use to create data visualizations. It comes in a variety of different types, with a wide range of customization and design options.

You can also combine charts into one content document to create interactive dashboards and infographics. There is some great work that has been created with this tool. To get the most out of the tool, be sure to check out their tutorial.

Highcharts cloud

Chart types: Common variants and interactive charts.
Difficulty level: Suitable for everyone.
Price: Free.

Highcharts Cloud is one of the data visualization tools that are very easy to use but still very good. This free solution is offered by Highcharts, which offers many more visualization products. More information can be found here. The tool has the most popular chart types. All you have to do is enter your data and you have a nice, clean visualization.

One disadvantage is the low level of customization options. You have limited options in what the chart looks like and how the data is presented. But if you're looking for a quick and easy visualization, Highcarts Cloud is the one.

D3.js

Chart types: Common variants, interactive, maps, scientific, mathematical and technical.
Difficulty level: you need a developer for this.
Price: Free.

D3.js is not a tool in itself, it is rather a Javascript library that can be used to create data visualizations. That means you need someone with developer skills if you don't have them yourself. D3.js is very powerful and versatile. So it is worthwhile to familiarize yourself with it and there are a few tutorials to support you.

The possibilities of what you can do with the tool are enormous. Coding gives you no limitations like other tools. It can be anything from simple line charts to completely unique visualizations that you may never have heard of. Here are some examples of what is possible.

FusionCharts

Chart types: Common variants, interactive and maps.
Difficulty level: You need a developer to do this.
Price: Minimum of $ 199 per year for a license, additional pricing plans are available.

Another Javascript library, not free this time. FusionTables is a paid product that provides more than 90 charts and many variations and adjustments are possible. You also have a wide range of cards to choose from.

FusionCharts is more tailored to companies and reporting than content creation. This may explain why some examples look a bit out of date (plus the use of the dreaded 3-D pie chart). One advantage is that you get good support when you use the product. It's worth a look depending on what you're up to with a data visualization tool.

Carto

Chart types: Interactive maps with the possibility of creating histograms.
Difficulty level: Requires some practice.
Price: Free with paid models to unlock more features and data.

If you are looking for interactive maps, Carto is probably the best tool for that. The tool is used for location intelligence and journalism and you can use it to create some impressive maps without having to have any technical knowledge. With the built-in wizard you can create complex things without having to write a line of code.

However, it will take some time to familiarize yourself with some data formats that you may not be familiar with. Bringing in a developer can make Carto less restrictive and more powerful, so it makes sense to consider this option. On the other hand, if you take some time to read and familiarize yourself with it, you will quickly get the hang of it.

QGIS

Chart types: Maps.
Difficulty level: Requires some practice.
Price: Free.

QGIS is all about maps. The “GIS” in the name stands for “geographical information system”. It's free and open source. It is software and not a browser-based tool. QGIS is very powerful with some great functionality for creating high quality content. There are many tools in the software that can be used to manipulate, analyze, and visualize data (plus plenty of plugins that you can download).

However, it is a difficult tool to use. You can't just go ahead and work with it. Spend a while on tutorials (this one is a very good one) and get some practice. It won't take much time to master simple maps, but more complicated things will take more time.

Chart types: Common variants.
Difficulty level: you need a developer for this.
Price: Free.

This is another code-based offering. Chart.js, free and open source, doesn't have the largest selection (there are eight charts to choose from), but it has a great style. The design is clean and minimalistic and that is definitely always a plus with data visualizations.

Since the tool is based on Javascript, you will need a developer, but it's worth the effort as it has some great features. The interactivity of these charts is not complex, but it is straight to the point and useful. Exactly what you'd expect from an interactive chart.

Data wrapper

Chart types: Common and interactive charts, maps.
Difficulty level: you can get started right away.
Price: Up to 10,000 views for free. There are also several price packages.

Datawrapper is a fantastic tool for making great charts in a simple way. It's very easy to upload data and customize your chart with a fair amount of design options. There is a good selection of the usual charts and some options for mapping too.

The biggest disadvantage is the view limit. Once your graph hits 10,000, the chart will no longer work and you will need to get a paid account. For some, this won't be a problem, but for large traffic sites you should consider other options or choose the paid option.

Vizia

Chart types: various charts, maps and network diagrams.
Difficulty level: you can get started right away.
Price: case based. Get in touch for more information.

Vizia is our own tool so of course we need to include it here. It is a tool for creating and presenting visualizations to better incorporate data into your business decisions. Information is very easy to upload and you can implement data from many sources such as Brandwatch, Salesforce, Google Analytics and Hootsuite.

Vizia is often used to monitor business goals and KPIs, as a command center for companies or for internal presentation. It is very versatile and customizable, but at the same time very easy to use.

Book a free Vizia demo.

TimelineJS

Chart types: Interactive timelines.
Difficulty level: Easy, but a little unwieldy.
Price: Free.

TimelineJS is very unique and offers a tool with which interactive timelines can be created in a simple way. The tool is already used by media such as CNN, Le Monde and Time. So if you want to create your own timeline, you are in good company.

In order to create one, a provided table template must be filled out. It's not difficult and you get used to the setup quickly. You can then upload it and share the timeline on your page or send it to people. Very easy.

Infogram

Chart types: Popular interactive charts, infographics, reports and maps.
Difficulty: Getting started is very easy.
Price: Free, but has paid packages to enable certain restrictions and extra features.

Infogram is another simple and versatile tool. The free version has a good selection of charts (35+) with a wide range of customization. The charts are interactive and can be easily embedded. You can also create maps.

It's very good for reporting and infographics, and there are options that allow you to create whole content within the tool. The basic style and design of the chart are also very appealing. You can get a lot out of this free tool.

R.

Chart types: Common variants, maps, technical, mathematical and scientific.
Difficulty level: You need a developer (or willingness to learn R) to do this.
Price: Free.

R has its own statistical computer language and environment. It's very powerful and the language is widely used by data scientists as it is tailored to work with data. Unsurprisingly, it will take you a long time to get used to it unless you have someone who is experienced.

If you are serious about data visualizations, then investing your time in R is worth it. There are a number of tutorials and plugins, making the tool very versatile. You can also use it to process large datasets and create very interesting charts.

Gephi

Chart types: networks.
Difficulty: Some tutorials needed, more complex projects may require a specialist.
Price: Free.

Gephi is a tool that can be used to create network visualizations. They can be very simple or incredibly complex with a high level of interactivity. Gephi is more of a niche product in our tool list, but best for this type of visualization. It's not useful for everyone, but if you need to visualize a network then this is it.

In terms of usage, a few tutorials are enough for simple projects, but more complex things may require the help of a network specialist or expert. There are many documents online that can help with familiarization.

RAWGraphs