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Data Visualization: Tools

Below is a list of commonly used data visualization tools as well as information on how to access them. Please be aware that tool availability and methods for accessing tools may have changed -- for the latest information, please check with Information Technology Services. For software not listed here, please check the following guides:

 

For all data visualizations related to mapping, please see the GIS subject guide.

 

Pay-to-use tools you may have access to through Northeastern

These are tools that typically require a paid license to use and that you may have access to as a student, faculty, or staff at Northeastern.

If a tool you are interested in using would normally be accessed using computers on campus, you can look into the possibility of accessing software from Northeastern computer labs using a virtual desktop.

Tool Description Access
Adobe Illustrator A graphic editing tool that can be used to create more illustrative visualizations (such as infographics) as well as to edit graphics created in other programs. Illustrator can also be used for design projects such as creating and editing posters.

In response to COVID-19, Adobe has made Adobe Creative Cloud temporarily free for students to use on their personal computers for institutions such as Northeastern that have a license for use on-campus in computer labs. To access it, log in at https://www.adobe.com/creativecloud.html using your username@northeastern.edu email address. This is currently scheduled to last until July 6, please check Adobe's website for the latest information https://helpx.adobe.com/enterprise/kb/covid-19-education-labs.html.

Students can access Adobe Creative Cloud for free on-campus by using computers in ITS-managed computer labs. For more information on the locations this software is available, see the ITS-managed computer lab available software guide. For access to Adobe Creative Cloud on personal computers, students would need to purchase an Adobe Creative Cloud license (subscription) and can do so at a discounted student rate. For more information on purchasing a student Adobe license, see Adobe's website.

Faculty and staff can access Adobe Creative Cloud for free both on Northeastern managed computers and on their personal computers. For more information, see ITS's guide to accessing Adobe Creative Cloud.

Excel A standard data analysis and visualization tool that is used extensively in fields such as business or finance.

Students, faculty, and staff can access Excel for free as part of Microsoft Office 365 on both their personal computers and on-campus by using computers in ITS-managed computer labs. For personal computers, see ITS's guide to Microsoft 365 for Windows or ITS's guide to Microsoft 365 for Mac. For on-campus computers, see the locations this software is available at in ITS's guide to software available in computer labs.

 

Please note, as of the time this guide was created, the Excel "Ideas" function is only available in the online version of Excel which can be accessed by logging in to https://www.office.com/.

MATLAB MATLAB is a tool for high powered calculations and data visualization. It is frequently used in engineering.

Students, faculty, and staff can access Matlab for free on both their personal computers and on-campus by using computers in ITS-managed computer labs. For personal computers, see ITS's guide to MATLAB. For on-campus computers, see the locations this software is available at in ITS's guide to software available in computer labs.

NVivo A tool designed to help researchers analyze qualitative (non-numerical) or unstructured data. Students, faculty, and staff can access NVivo for free on both their personal computers and on-campus by using computers in ITS-managed computer labs. For personal computers, see the myNortheastern "Software Downloads" section of ITS's guide to installing software. For on-campus computers, see the locations this software is available at in ITS's guide to software available in computer labs.
PowerPoint / Word While these are primarily presentation / word processing tools, both have the ability to create SmartArt diagrams that are useful for describing networks and processes. Students, faculty, and staff can access PowerPoint and Word for free as part of Microsoft Office 365 on both their personal computers and on-campus by using computers in ITS-managed computer labs. For personal computers, see ITS's guide to Microsoft 365 for Windows or ITS's guide to Microsoft 365 for Mac. For on-campus computers, see the locations this software is available at in ITS's guide to software available in computer labs.
SAS SAS is a popular statistical software for analyzing and visualizing data. Students, faculty, and staff can access SAS for free on both their personal computers and on-campus by using computers in ITS-managed computer labs. For personal computers, see ITS's guide to SAS. For on-campus computers, see the locations this software is available at in ITS's guide to software available in computer labs.
SPSS SPSS is a popular statistical software for analyzing and visualizing data.

Students, faculty, and staff can access SPSS (IBM SPSS Statistics and IBM SPSS Modeler) for free on both their personal computers and on-campus by using computers in ITS-managed computer labs. For personal computers, see ITS's guide to SPSS. For on-campus computers, see the locations this software is available at in ITS's guide to software available in computer labs.

Stata Stata is a popular statistical software for analyzing and visualizing data.

Students, faculty, and staff can access Stata (StataSE) on-campus by using computers in ITS-managed computer labs. For more information, see the locations that this software is available in ITS's guide to software available in computer labs.

Tableau A point-and-click visualization tool that is commonly used to create dashboards for business intelligence.

Tableau Desktop is a pay-to-use tool for which Northeastern does not have a university-wide license. However, students may be eligible for a free student license through Tableau and faculty/staff may be eligible for a free teaching license through Tableau.

Tableau Public is a free-to-use tool that can be used as alternative to the pay-to-use desktop version. It can be accessed by creating an account on Tableau's website.

 

Free-to-use tools

Point-and-click tools (non-coding)

There an incredible number of free data visualization tools available online and new tools are being created all the time. If you know the type of visualization you want to make, we suggest conducting a search yourself for the latest highly recommended tools. Otherwise, this is a list of some commonly used tools.

Tool Description Access
Tableau Public Tableau Public is a free-to-use tool that can be used as alternative to the pay-to-use desktop version. It can be accessed by creating an account on Tableau's website. Access at https://public.tableau.com/en-us/s/.
Gephi Free to download software that is popular for creating static and interactive network diagrams. Download from https://gephi.org/.
Data Wrapper A tool built by journalists that allows you to upload CSV files and quickly create interactive visualizations in a classic newsroom style that can then be embedded on a website. Access at https://www.datawrapper.de/.
Voyant An easy-to-use online text analysis tool. Access at https://voyant-tools.org/.

 

Programming Languages & Libraries (Coding)

These are some of the most common programming languages and libraries used for creating data visualizations. While all of them require some amount of coding, it is worth noting that languages such as P5 and Processing were specifically designed to be accessible to beginners and that R comes with a development environment (interface) and many supporting tutorials.

Tool Description Access
D3.js A JavaScript library for creating interactive data visualizations. While it produces powerful visualizations, it can be intimidating to start from scratch so it is recommend that you start with example projects. Download from https://d3js.org/.
P5 A JavaScript library for "creative coding" that focuses on making coding accessible and inclusive for artists, designers, educators, and beginners. Download from https://p5js.org/.
Processing A Java library and development environment designed for the visual arts community that focuses on making programming accessible. Download from https://processing.org/.
Python A programming language that has many popular libraries such as Matplotlib, ggplot, and Plotly that can be used to create data visualizations. Download from https://www.python.org/.
R / R Studio A programming language and development environment frequently used for statistical computing and graphics. Download from https://rstudio.com/.

 

Additional Tools

These tools can't be used to generate data visualizations but can be used to improve the design of visualizations created in other programs.

Tool Description Access
Coblis An online tool to help you test the accessibility of your data visualizations for color blindness. Access at https://www.color-blindness.com/.
Color Brewer An online tool to help you pick legible color schemes for maps. Access at http://colorbrewer2.org/.

 

Questions about Data Visualization?

Please contact Kate Kryder, Research Data Analyst, for further assistance