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New tools and resources of 2014

The year was filled with new data visualization and infographic creation tools, as well as other resources

December 20, 2014

We continue our special posts with the best data viz related content of the year, with a useful list of new tools and resources that were made available throughout 2014. A pretty straightforward compilation that was much harder to produce than initially expected, we must say, since the number of mentions to include was way beyond our initial (poorly made) estimates. So many new options out there!

So, we had a hard time gathering 20 of those new platforms, tools and resources – if you’re a frequent reader of our weekly Data Viz News posts, you’ll might recall several of the mentions in this list, -, and we deliberately left out the new releases, versions and updates of existing tools, such as CartoDB, Mapbox, Tableau, D3.js, RAW, Infogr.am and others.

Of course, there’s always Visualising Data’s list of 250+ tools and resources for a much broader view of what’s available out there.

For now, here are the new resources and tools that caught our attention in 2014:

TOOLS

The winner of this year’s SXSW ReleaseIt, Visage is the new web-based platform by the folks at Column Five, “that transforms the uninspired data in your reports into beautiful, branded visualizations that make your message more impactful—and make your work look good. The easy-to-use software helps you create high-quality, professional visualizations that are accurate, effective and elegant.”. Later in the year, we talked with Visage’s CEO Jason Lankow about the tool’s successful launch and the plans for the future.

Visage, new infographic tool by Column Five
Visage, new infographic tool by Column Five

 

Like we said recently, what a year for ProPublica. In the new tools ‘front’, their contribution came in the form of Landline, an open source JavaScript library for turning GeoJSON data into browser-based SVG maps. It comes with Stateline, which builds on Landline to create U.S. state and county choropleth maps with very little code out-of-the-box. The full documentation is over at GitHub.

Partial screen capture of the interactive map Nursing Home Inspect
A variation of ‘Landline’ in action | ProPublica

 

Great to see the one of the latest project from our friends at O EcoLab going live in 2014. Yby is a new software focused on facilitating organizations to create their own crowd-sourcing platforms. Basically, it’s a collaborative mapping platform that allows users to draw points, polygons and areas, and associate media content to them. All source-code is open-source and available on GitHub, and the team is eager for feedback, via the issues section, so try it out.

Partial screen capture of the website Yby
(image: Yby, by O EcoLab)

 

Mirador is a tool that provides an overview of large datasets, by visualizing their underlying dependency structures and identifying groups of explanatory variables. The best way to get started with it is to read this manual and open one of the examples after downloading the app from the homepage.

Partial screen capture of the website Mirador
(image: mirador, by Fathom)

 

Plotly, another free data analysis and graphing web app, built on d3.js, and therefore, a good alternative if you’re not a coder, but want some of the flexibility and richness that d3.js affords. Plotly charts can be downloaded as SVG, EPS or PNG, so they are simple to import into Illustrator, Photoshop, AfterEffects, or Keynote.

One of the charts available on Plot.ly
(One of the charts available on Plot.ly)

 

In this article, Andy Kirk talks about Visits, a new visualization tool by Alice Thudt, Sheelagh Carpendale and Dominikus Baur that lets you browse your location histories and explore your trips and travels. The tool is based on a research project from the University of Calgary. You can find the corresponding publication here.

 

We said we would avoid to speak about companies with launched products, but as soon as CartoDB presented Odyssey.js, an open source library that allows journalists, designers and creators to weave interactive stories on the web, new examples of interactive map-based narratives start to appear. The development of this free tool was possible thanks to the support of John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Partial screen capture of the interactive map Virginia Beaches
(image: Virginia Beaches, developed by Jonah Adkins with Odissey.js)

 

While celebrating the 26th anniversary of the launch of Wolfram Research’s Mathematica, the computational knowledge engine company made available to the public the Wolfram Programming Cloud. This new offering – the first in a sequence of products based on the new Wolfram Language -, is specifically designed to let users create and deploy cloud-based programs.

Partial screen capture of the website Wolfram Programming Cloud
(image: Wolfram)

 

“Our mission is to make data visual for everyone. Using our simple user interface we empower individuals and organizations to easily create and share beautiful visualizations.” That’s the introductory line for this new data visualization tool, selected to become the first early-stage company to join the Daily News Innovation Lab. You can have a glance at its possibilities in the video below.

 

An object-oriented API for business analytics powered by d3, the aim of dimple is to open up the power and flexibility of d3 to analysts. It aims to give a gentle learning curve and minimal code to achieve something productive. It also exposes the d3 objects so you can pick them up and run to create some really cool stuff.

Partial screen capture of the website Dimple
(image: dimple)

 

BlockSpring is a product that lets you build visualizations from ‘blocks’ developed by engineers within your organization, and from around the world. Along side with the announcement, a detailed tutorial explaining how to use it. And the possibilities that BlockSpring offers are much broader than just visualization.

Partial screen capture of the website Blockspring
(Image: Blockspring)

 

One of the latest new resource/tool of the year was extremely well received by the data viz community. The D3 Deconstructor is a Google Chrome extension for extracting data from D3.js visualizations. Developed in the VisLab at UC Berkeley.

Partial screen capture of the website D3 Deconstructor
(image: D3 Deconstructor, by VisLab, UC Berkeley)

 

RESOURCES

It’s not been that long since we’ve mention this ONE. The Data Visualisation Catalogue is currently an on-going project developed by Severino Ribecca, and was defeinetely one of the great new resources for those taking their first steps in visualization. If you have any suggestions on how the site can be improved, especially in terms of helping you find the right data visualization method for your needs, then feel free to message Severino on the suggestions page.

The Data Visualisation Catalogue, an on-going project developed by Severino Ribecca.
The Data Visualisation Catalogue, an on-going project developed by Severino Ribecca.

 

Of course, also worth mentioning in the context of this post is Severino’s collaboration with our good friend Jon Schwabish, to develop the The Graphic Continuum poster, that we highlighted here and here.

The desktop version of The Graphic Continuum, by Severino Ribecca and Jon Schwabish
(the desktop version of The Graphic Continuum, by Severino Ribecca and Jon Schwabish)

 

One of two galleries of visualizations from apps and websites in mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets that we saw coming out in 23014. This was was pulled together by Sebastian Sadowski, and the other one, MobileVis, was developed by Bocoup, and we’ve featured it in this round up with visualization galleries to bookmark.

Partial screen capture of the interactive gallery MOBILE INFOVIS
(image: Mobile Infovis | Sebastian Sadowski)

 

A great resource by Kaiser Fung, properly contextualized in a very detailed article. The Trifecta Checkup is a general framework for data visualization criticism, that allows him to classify all data visualization critiques into eight types. We’ve mentioned it occasionally in this space, when featuring Fung’s posts, but now he made available a “definitive guide” to his framework, making it easier to understand how it works and how to apply it when analyzing all sorts of data visualizations.

(image: Kaiser Fung)

 

In a section of the first chapter of Communicating Data with Tableau (O’Reilly, 2014), Ben Jones lays out six principles of communicating data. Now, he converted these six principles into a simple checklist that anyone can use to be reminded of all the important ingredients that go into a successful communication effort.

Partial screen capture of the Six Principles of Communicating Data Checklist
(Image: the Six Principles of Communicating Data Checklist, by Ben Jones)

Created by the American Statistical Association, This is Statistics is the informational website for the organization’s national public relations campaign that will launch August 19. The goal of this campaign is to introduce high-school juniors and seniors and undergraduate students to the diverse and in-demand career opportunities in statistical science. This website will serve as a platform for raising awareness among students of opportunities in the field of statistics, and the importance of statistical literacy.

Partial screen capture of the This is Statistics website
(Image: This is Statistics | American Statistical Association )

 

First mentioned here on Visualooop, Newsvis is a new site by Robert Kosara, launched with three main objectives: “surface the work that is done but not as visible as The New York Times or The Washington Post; make them searchable by the chart type, etc., rather than just text; and serve as inspiration for people doing visualization.”

Newsvis.org, a new website for infographics from news outets
Newsvis.org, a new website for infographics from news outets

 

Data Viz Done Right

Created by VizWiz Andy Kriebel, this is another late addition to this list, since it was launched very recently. ALso, it’s actually the only blog of this selection, and the reason is simple: besides curation the best visualizations around the web, Andy points out what he likes and what he would improve. A simple detail that, as far as we ‘re concern, makes all the difference, either if you’re an expert, someone beginning or even if you’re the author of one of the visuals.

Partial screen capture of the website Data Viz Done Right
(image: Data Viz Done Right, by Andy Kriebel)

 

Before we close this article, here’s a reminder that this series began with some of the most insightful interviews (here and here), and will continue until the first weeks of January – so don’t miss our next updates and keep watching this space.

And have another favorite new tool and resource from 2014? Share it with us on Twitter.

Written by Tiago Veloso

Tiago Veloso is the founder and editor of Visualoop and Visualoop Brasil . He is Portuguese, currently based in Bonito, Brazil.

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