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Data Visualization: Tools

Guide for data visualization support.



  • Coblis: Colour blindness simulator
  • ColourBrewer2.0: Tool to help select appropriate colour palettes based on your project.


Charts, Graphs (& simple maps)
  • Datawrapper: Tool with an open tier for creating charts, maps and tables (I love the annotation functionality on this tool!).
  • Excel: Familiar tool, good for creating charts, graphs and dashboards. Try using Sparklines to get an overview of your data. Active community forum for support and instructional videos. Integrates with Office365.
  • Google Sheets: Online app, part of Google Drive. Good for sharing data and creating charts and graphs.
  • PowerBI: Create sharable charts, graphs and dashboards. Free service, active community forum for support and instructional videos. Integrates with Office365.
  • RAWGraphs: Web app that processes your data in the web browser (not the cloud). Over 25 visual models to visualize quantities, hierarchies, time series and find insights in your data.
    Tableau Public: Create sharable charts, graphs and dashboards. Free service, active community forum for support and instructional videos.
  • Piktochart: Create sharable infographics, free service, but sign-up required. Lots of free tutorials.
  • Visme: Create sharable infographics and charts. Free tier with limited storage and projects, has ability to export as .jpg.
Maps (GIS)
  • ESRI Software (ArcGIS Pro, ArcGIS Online, StoryMaps etc). Proprietary suite of tools for doing GIS analysis and geospatial data visualization. UM users have access to all these tools as well as training materials through our educational site license. There is a large forum of people online who post their questions and solutions.
  • QGIS: Open-source program for GIS analysis. Good entry point into geospatial analysis for those who do not need the in-depth tools and services provided by ArcGIS. Active community of support and learning materials.
Network Mapping
  • Gephi: Open-source tool for network and system analysis to find new patterns. Steep learning curve but high quality results.
  • Kumu: Web tool with free tier for creating network map- great beginner tool. In free tier all maps are public.
  • NodeXL: Add-on for Microsoft Excel that supports social network and content analysis. 
  • VosViewer: Desktop tool for constructing and visualizing bibliometric networks. Can also be used for text mining.

Graphic Design (Open tools)

  • Inkscape: Open-source vector graphics editing software (equivalent to Adobe Illustrator).
  • GIMP: Open-source raster graphics editing software (equivalent to Adobe Photoshop).
  • Scribus: Open-source desktop publishing software (equivalent to Adobe InDesign).

Qualitative Data

  • ATLAS.ti: Proprietary software that systematically analyzes complex phenomena hidden in unstructured data. Free trial available.
  • Automap: Open tool to extract, analyze and represent relational data from texts, developed by at Carnegie Mellon.
  • Dedoose: Proprietary web based tool for mixed methods research developed by at UCLA. Monthly subscription model.
  • NVIVO: Proprietary software used to organize, analyze and find insights in unstructured or qualitative data. Free trial available.
  • Taguette: Open tool for qualitative data analysis. Import your research materials, highlight and tag quotes, and export the results, no visualization options, but very stable.


I'm not artistic and I need to visualize...


All font has personality, try selecting one for a header and one for body text.
  • FontPair: Tool to help pairing Google Fonts
  • Tool to help pair Fonts using examples from lives sites.
  • Typespiration: Examples of font pairings and colour palettes


Don't overwhelm the user, try to keep things as simple as possible.
  • ColorBrewer: Marketed as a cartographic resource, but great for selecting colours for any research visualization
  • HTML Color Codes: Browse colour, find codes and harmonies to use in your graphics tools
  • ColourLovers: Over a million palettes with codes
Note from Meg:

There are many different visualization options available. Be kind to your future self and pick the one that makes the most sense for you and where you are in your project!