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Data Visualization (Data Viz)

Data Viz Tool Barrier to Entry

Data Viz Tools

Excel is a common data visualization tool. This popularity is due, in large part, to its intuitive functionality and ability to handle large data. It offers a variety of quick and efficient ways to store, clean, and visualize data in one convenient environment. In particular, "pivot tables" allow the user to  visualize thousands of records, in real time, with only a few mouse clicks. The popularity of Excel stems also from it's broad compatibility with other visualization software. If you're looking for a powerful, efficient, and broadly compatible environment to work with data then Excel may be the correct choice. 



Learning Tools


Tableau is an increasingly popular data visualization specific tool that brings the ease of a drag-and-drop graphical interface to data visualization. One may have familiarity with creating charts and graphs in Excel. Tableau offers a way to bring Excel-file datasets (.xls), as well as many other file formats, into an easy-to-use visualization environment where you can choose to explore your data or create finished visualizations for whatever final product you are looking to create (printed poster, interactive dashboard for a web browser, etc). If you are looking for data visualization software that is easy to start using, but has near limitless potential, then Tableau may be right for you. 



Different flavors of Tableau:

  1. Tableau Server - Allows one to access and distribute workbooks online. It is installed on a server and accessible in a browser. 
  2. Tableau Desktop - Allows one to access workbooks locally. It is installed on a workstation or computer. 

Learning Tools

Tableau tutorials and training can be found on the official Tableau website as well as through Lynda.

Official Tableau Resources:

  1. Tableau's Free Training Videos
  2. Tableau Whitepapers - Tableau Whitepapers is a collection of articles written by experts in data visualization and Tableau, covering different topics of interest within the field of data visualization. Here you will find papers that cover Tableau and Big Data, explain why we use visual analytics, offer tips on how to make your data clearer, talk about the evolution of data storytelling, and more.
  3. Tableau Public Gallery -




R is a free programming language and environment that can be used to create visualizations and perform statistical computing. It is extremely versatile with respect to the types of visualizations that can be made and the manipulation of datasets. Though it may be initially less intuitive than other visualization means, it compensates by rewarding the user with a near endless selection of packages that make cleaning and visualizing data immensely customizable. It's longstanding popularity with researchers, academics, and businesses is a testament to it's utility in numerous contexts. If you want to clean and visualize your data in one place, with practically limitless customization, then R may be the right tool for you. 

Get R

Download R (Programming Language):

Download RStudio (IDE):

Learning Tools



Python is a free, general purpose, and high level programming language that can be used to create data visualizations. Python offers near limitless varieties of visualization capabilities. It is a language that is extremely common  across academia and industries. Because it is so common, it is a good choice if you want to integrate visualizations into pre-existing applications. If you have a programming background and are looking for a highly versatile way to visualize data, then Python may be a good option for you.


Learning Tools: - This website lists 55 different data visualization tools that cover those that involve programming and nonprogramming (you can filter tools based on this aspect).

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