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8 cool tools for data analysis, visualization and presentation

Sharon Machlis | March 28, 2012
Reporters wrangle all sorts of data, from analyzing property tax valuations to mapping fatal accidents -- and, here at Computerworld, for stories about IT salaries and H-1B visas. In fact, tools used by data-crunching journalists are generally useful for a wide range of other, non-journalistic tasks -- and that includes software that's been specifically designed for newsroom use. And, given the generally thrifty culture of your average newsroom, these tools often have the added appeal of little or no cost.

Skill level: Intermediate

Runs on: Excel 2010 on Windows only.

Learn more: There are links to demos and videos on the PowerPivot main page, as well as an introductory tutorial on Microsoft's TechNet.

Related tools: Zoho Reports can take data from various file formats and turn it into charts, tables and pivot tables.

Weave

What it does: This general-purpose visualization platform allows creation of interactive dashboards with multiple, related visualizations -- for example, a bar chart, scatter plot and map. The open-source project was created by the University of Massachusetts at Lowell in partnership with a consortium of government agencies and is still in beta.

What's cool: The visualizations are slick and highly interactive; clicking an area in one visualization also affects others in the dashboard. The platform includes powerful statistical analysis capabilities. Users can create their own visualizations on a Weave-based Web system, or save and alter the tools and appearances of visualizations that have been publicly shared by others.

Drawbacks: Requires Flash for end-user viewing. It's currently somewhat difficult to install, although a one-click install is scheduled for this summer. And because it's so powerful, some users say that implementations must consider how to winnow down functionality so as not to overwhelm end users.

Skill level: Intermediate for those just creating visualizations; Expert for those implementing a Weave system.

Runs on: Flash-enabled browsers. Server requires a Java servlet container (Tomcat or Glassfish, MySQL or PostgreSQL, Linux and Adobe Flex 3.6 SDK).

 

 

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