On this page, you will find a number of books, website and tools that may be useful when you are required to communicate numbers and visualise data.
These resources are broken down into four sections:
- Further reading
- Charting and statistical analysis tools
- Programming environments
- Other software
I hope you find them useful.
But be careful. Although the tools shown can be used to create effective visualisations, they can just as easily be used to confuse and complicate: Obscuring the message you intend to deliver.
Books and websites you may want to explore to expand on the topics covered by this website and my course Communicating Numbers: Effective visualisation of data.
Stephen Few founded Perceptual Edge in 2003. He is now a leading expert in data visualization for communication.
Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic has refined her data visualisation skills through analytical roles in banking, private equity, and most recently at Google, where she developed and taught a course on communicating effectively with data.
ET has been showing us how to visualise data with simplicity, clarity and elegance, since the mid-1970s. He tirelessly campaigns against ‘chartjunk’ and other design practices that lead to complication of the message being presented.
Charting and statistical analysis tools
This section contains the basic tool of the trade. Tools that let you carry out data analysis and visualisation.
Microsoft Excel is widely regarded as the industry standard for spreadsheets. It allows you to: perform calculations and analyse data; create charts and graphs; and develop applications using the macro programming language Visual Basic for Applications.
All examples on this website and in my courses/tutorials are created in Microsoft Excel.
Microsoft state that Power BI is a suite of tools that allow you to transform, analyse, and visualize your data. Free and paid options.
The team at Tableau claim to make analysing data fast, easy, beautiful and useful, with software for anyone and everyone. Paid service.
Tableau Public is a fee option that allows you to publish data visualisations on your website, and make them interactive so readers can explore further.
An experimental data visualization web application to gather, visualize, and share data tables.
Worth considering if you have need for a bespoke solution and you have a programming background, or you can work with others who do.
Python is a cross-platform interpreted, interactive, object-oriented programming language. As well as being a useful tool for data analysis and visualisation, its capabilities for general purpose programming make it an excellent choice for building data-centric applications.
R is a free, cross-platform software environment for statistical computing and graphics. Many people believe that R compares well with other popular (commercial) statistical packages, such as SAS and STATA.
Google Charts provides a great way to visualise data on your website. From simple line charts to complex hierarchical tree maps, there are a large number of ready-to-use chart types.
Some visualisations need to be built from the ground up. Icon arrays for example. And Infographics are typically created manually, with a blend of different visual design elements (like charts, diagrams and illustrations).
Professional graphic design tools like Adobe Illustrator, and Adobe Photoshop are used by many data visualisation practitioners. But if you don’t already have these, or they are just too complex for your needs, consider the following options.
You may already have Microsoft PowerPoint, or Apple Keynote presentation software. Although somewhat limited in their graphic design capabilities, they can be used to create basic diagrams, flow charts and the like.
Other options include:
A graphic design tool, useful for creating supporting graphics. Free and paid options.
A simple to use infographic creator. Allows you to easily include chart and maps. Free and paid options.
An online image editor containing a lot of the features that you normally see in desktop graphic and photo editing applications. Free and paid options.
GIMP is a free cross-platform image editor. It provides a sophisticate tool set for graphic designers, photographers, and illustrators.