It is widely known that a picture is worth a thousand words. In relation to that, visual analytics tools can process lots of data quickly and translate it into a more or less complicated picture (tree, graph, etc.).
Visual Analytics is often defined differently in different areas of its application. Most widely used is the scientific one that claims that visual analytics is an outgrowth of the fields of information visualization and scientific visualization that focuses on analytical reasoning facilitated by interactive visual interfaces.
It simplifies masses of information and helps the human mind. How? People use visual analytics tools and techniques to create visual representations to help them make decisions by synthesizing information and deriving insight from massive, dynamic, ambiguous, and often conflicting data.
In other words, visual analytics integrates new computational and theory-based tools with innovative interactive techniques and visual representations to enable human understanding of complicated data.
In addition to that, what is great is that those who use visual analytics tools are often lucky enough to discover the unexpected prior to taking action or making a decision, which was almost impossible before the development of this area.
The process of visual analytics is always the same: Data collection – Data Preprocessing – Data Summarization – Data Transformation -Transformed results – User Interaction.
However, the area is very complex and it brings together several scientific and technical communities from computer science, information visualization, cognitive and perceptual sciences, interactive design, graphic design, and social sciences.
The roots of visual analytics are traced back to the 1970s and 1980s with the development of CAD/CAM technologies in areas such as medicine, car technologies and education. In the 90s, it spread to information visualization fields and Web and Virtual environments, which bring us to today. It is important to say that this area is still developing, and there are still a lot of problems that need to be tackled, but it has already brought a lot of good things to the areas such as emergency response management (detecting and following earthquakes and flu outbreaks), business decision mapping, social network analysis software, visual reasoning, text analytics, and more. Of course, a lot of scientists promise that the best is yet to come.
There are a great number of Visual Analytic Tools that differ in complexity, price and applicability.
There are many tools, particularly for professionals skilled in statistical analysis. But their prices are generally high, and are not suitable for less skilled users who occasionally need to display data in graphical form. However, there is, for those whose budget is limited, a surprising number of very interesting tools for visualization and analysis of data that are free of charge. Visualization tools allow you to manipulate the data and display it across multiple graphical representations. They are particularly useful in revealing patterns or trends.
These tools offer different viewing options. Some are confined to conventional graphics (sectoral performances, histograms …), but most offer a variety of additional choices such as tree-maps to display hierarchical data or word clouds. Some also have geographic representations.
Google Fusion Tables
Fusion Tables is a new app from Google that gives you a very easy way to turn data into graphics. You can use it to display tabular data, create maps, graphs charts, animations and much more. It’s highly customizable and gives you the ability to really craft visual data with your own personal touches attached to it. It’s simply enough for novices to use and works on any web browser, not just Chrome.
Quadrigram might not be completely free, but there is a free trial period during which you can use the tool to create excellent visual representations of your data. It’s very intuitive and flexible, giving you a lot of options for translating your information into a variety of visual forms.
Many Eyes project (IBM)
If you are working with data that is sensitive, then you might want to avoid this tool. Since all of your datasets will appear publically. Otherwise, Many Eyes is a very versatile way to translate stats into pictures. It offers pie charts, word clouds, tree maps, Venn diagrams and much more. It is definitely one of the more sophisticated looking free tools out there.
The greatest thing about Tableau is that it gives you suggestions on the type of visualization you should create based on the data that you have entered. The software is a bit more complex, but once you get a hang of it, the drag and drop options for creating your visualizations are very effect. It might take you a bit longer to get a hang of the software, but once you do it is an exceptional option for turning information into visuals.
If you are someone who is making visual presentations for business purposes most of the time, you might want to check out Zoho Reports. You can actually import your data from other file formats, such as Excel files, and turn them automatically into tables, pivot tables, pie charts and much more. The service also allows you to publish your reports on the web or share them with others very easily.
Anyone looking for a quick and easy open source tool should give Datawrapper a try. It’s not too advanced when it comes to features, but of you need something simply and quick, it’s definitely hard to beat.
Infogr.am is not really a professional tool, but it can be fun to use. It’s preferably used to turn data into pictures that you can share with your friends via social media. It might not be something that you can use for your next business meeting, but it’s a fun and creative tool nonetheless.
This is a great tool because it enables you to import your statistical data from Excel or Google Spreadsheets and then analyze it and create visual representations of it in real-time online. You can also turn your visualizations into slideshows that can be shared easily.
Here is yet another tool that allows you to important information from your already existing spreadsheets. It gives you well over 2,000 graphics to choose from in order to create a personalized infographic with your data. It is not a free tool completely, but does give you a free trial.
If you are looking to create visual data that is strictly related to maps and geography, this is probably the best tool to use. It enables you to combine statistics with great mapping visuals easily.
This is an open source tool that’s especially great for teachers to use. It can be used to create web pages that give you advanced filtering options and advanced text search possibilities. It’s great for creating informative and fun interactive content for students to use.
Here’s another great free tool for building interactive visualizations in order to express your data in picture form. There are lots of options when it comes to charts, graphs and diagrams to choose from and it’s absolutely free to use.
Excel might not have the greatest amount of features and options, but you can still use it to make simple charts and graphs from your spreadsheet data. If you want to get ready to use data from PDF into Excel, you can use our free PDF to Excel converter.
photo credit: paperjam via photopin cc