Data Visualization today was not even in the same ballpark as it was just 10 years ago and it surely wasn’t even in the same universe just 20 years ago. Data Viz experts like Nathan Yau, Aaron Koblin, Stephen Few, Edward Tufte, Ben Fry, and David McCandless have taken this new data rich reality and made it much more visual. The challenge that you, the new data army, has now is that there are hundreds of tools to build great, high quality, and scalable visualizations and yet it doesn’t make sense to learn them all so you need to focus on what’s going to be best for you based on your needs.

Below I’ve picked out 5 really good data visualization tools. Each of them require you to know  a bit of a programming language but nothing that isn’t fairly easy to get started and build something cool and exciting. With each of these tools there are hundreds if not thousands of other users who are more than happy to help lend a hand for those getting started.



D3.js is a JavaScript library for manipulating documents based on data. D3 helps you bring data to life using HTML, SVG, and CSS. D3’s emphasis on web standards gives you the full capabilities of modern browsers without tying yourself to a proprietary framework, combining powerful visualization components and a data-driven approach to DOM manipulation.



Tableau Desktop is data viz tool that’s easy to learn, easy to use, and 10-100x faster than many other existing solutions. It’s built on technology that translates pictures of data into optimized database queries. Tableau is great tool for businesses as its able to quickly tap into nearly any data source imaginable and start building charts & graphs in no time. My personal opinion is that this tool is worth every penny.



Processing.js is a JavaScript port of Processing, a programming language designed to write visualizations, images, and interactive content. It allows web browsers to display animations, visual applications, games and other graphical rich content without the need for a Java applet or Flash plugin. Processing.js uses JavaScript to render 2D and 3D content on the HTML canvas element, and is supported by browsers that have implemented this element.




R is a language and environment for statistical computing and graphics. R provides a wide variety of statistical (linear and nonlinear modelling, classical statistical tests, time-series analysis, classification, clustering, etc) and graphical techniques, and is highly extensible. One of R’s strengths is the ease with which well-designed publication-quality plots can be produced, including mathematical symbols and formulae where needed.


MicroStrategy Analytics Desktop


MicroStrategy develops and sells business intelligence, mobile software, and cloud-based services. MicroStrategy 10.1 shows amazing potential especially with the new Analytics Desktop which is looking to compete with Tableau. There is a ton of amazing features but the one that I think is the best news of all is around the fact that Analytics Desktop is going to integrate with D3.js to help build even better visualizations with more control.

Leave a note in the comments!

If you are an expert in any of these tools and have a good site or resource for getting up to speed on these tools please post in the comments for everyone!

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About The Author

Joshua Burkhow

Joshua is an experienced analytics professional with focus on areas such as Analytics, Big Data, Business Intelligence, Data Science and Statistics. He has more than 13 years experience in Business Intelligence & Data Warehousing, Analtyics, IT Management, Software Engineering and Supply Chain Performance Management with Fortune 500 companies. He has specializations in building Analytics organizations, Mobile Reporting, Performance Management, and Business Analysis.

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