22 Free Tools for Data Visualization and Analysis

You may not think you've got much in common with an investigative journalist or an academic medical researcher. But if you're trying to extract useful information from an ever-increasing inflow of data, you'll likely find visualization useful -- whether it's to show patterns or trends with graphics instead of mountains of text, or to try to explain complex issues to a nontechnical audience.

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What it does: Billed as a Photoshop for data, this open-source beta project is designed for visualizing statistical information, including relationships within networks of up to 50,000 nodes and half a million edges (connections or relationships) as well as network analyses of factors such as "betweenness," closeness and clustering coefficient.

Runs on: Windows, Linux, Mac OS X running Java 1.6.

Learn more: Try this Quick Start tutorial (PDF).

NodeXL

What it does: This Excel plug-in displays network graphs from a given list of connections, helping you analyze and see patterns and relationships in the data.

NodeXL merges the older and current definitions of SNA. It's "optimized for analyzing online social media -- it includes built-in connections to query the APIs of Twitter, Flickr and YouTube, allowing you to draw networks of users and their activity," according to Peter Aldhous, San Francisco bureau chief for New Scientist magazine.

It also handles e-mail and conventional network analysis files (including data created by the popular -- but not free -- analysis tool UCINET).

Runs on: Excel 2007 and 2010 on Windows.

Learn more: Download this detailed free NodeXL tutorial (PDF) or these basic step-by-step instructions on analyzing your own Facebook social network (PDF). One Facebook app for downloading your own friend information for use in NodeXL is Name Gen Web.

Sharon Machlis is online managing editor at Computerworld. Her email address is smachlis@computerworld.com. You can follow her on Twitter @sharon000, on Facebook or by subscribing to her RSS feeds:

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