Overview of Visualization Tools

MS Office

Microsoft Office is a widely-used software that provides many easy-to-use visualization tools. While it is not free, it is typically available at school and thus to teachers and students.  Some of the Office products commonly used for data analysis and visualization are Excel, PowerPoint, and Visio.

  • Excel helps the user create spreadsheets, which are useful for storing and analyzing data. There are built-in functions that can help perform calculations about the data. Excel also has many built-in charts, which can be used to visualize the data.
  • PowerPoint is used for presentations and has many visual aspects, including different graphics and charts. Common mistakes when preparing a Powerpoint presentation are presented by comedian Don McMillan in an effective way. Your students should watch it!
  • Visio allows users to create simple diagrams to illustrate more complex data interactions.


Infographics seeks to take information and clearly present it in a creative, visual way. There are many resources available that make creating Infographics simple. Students should beware of common pitfalls in using these tools, however. Their simplicity and the many options available make it easy to create cluttered visuals that don’t tell a coherent story. All tools, however simple, should be used thoughtfully according to the guidelines for good visualizations.

  • Piktochart https://magic.piktochart.com/ requires an account, but it can be used for free. It provides many templates for different types of graphics, including posters and infographics. It also provides built-in guides to help first-time users to create interesting visuals.
  • Cool Infographics http://www.coolinfographics.com/tools/ contains blogs with examples of infographics. It also has a list of online tools for creating visualizations.
  • Venngage https://venngage.com/ is similar to Piktochart. It requires an account but can also be used for free. It helps the user create different kinds of visuals, including reports and posters, and it has many templates and examples.

Google Charts

Google Charts is a free tool that allows one to create visualizations drawing from an extensive list of templates. Google Chart users typically write JavaScripts and embed them in a web page. The Google Chart website provides many templates and examples that allow a user with little to no experience with Java Scripts to create and customize charts.  Charts supported include Geo Charts, Scatter Charts, Histograms, Pie Charts, Bubble Charts, Treemaps, Timelines, Calendar Charts and more.

The visualization posts <link> contain two examples using Google Charts along with explanations allowing students to get started.

Visualization Packages in Programming Languages

Python supports various visualization libraries and packages including pandas, NumPy, matplotlib, and SciPy. They allow effective visualization of data. Specifically:

  • pandas provides tools for data analysis and modeling
  • NumPy is used for scientific computing and allows integration of C/C++ and Fortran;
  • matplotlib is a library for creating 2-dimensional graphs
  • SciPy is a collection of software for math, science, and engineering. It includes the three packages already mentioned.

R is a language for statistical computing and it supports data analysis, statistics, and graphical models.  Choosing R or Python for data analysis? An infographic provides a comparison.


Tableau is a commercial software for interactive data visualization. A slimmed down version can be downloaded for free while other versions have a free trial period before payment is required. Site licences for schools are available. Tableau provides powerful tools for data analytics and visualization. It has drag and drop capabilities that make creating visuals to analyze data simple as visual patterns in the data become clear.  Exploring Tableau is be fun for an interested student.