Monday, February 10, 2014

Plot.ly and Graf.ly: Interactive visualization for the masses

Sometimes I'm asked about what kind of software tool I'd like to see released in the near future. My answer is long: (a) A point & click, drag & drop interactive visualization program which combines the flexibility of Adobe Illustrator to design complex compositions with the data-handling capabilities of Excel, plus the easy interaction features of Flash; (b) based on code (Python, d3.js) which the user can manipulate at will; (c) that lets you not only create graphs, charts, and maps, but also combine them into dashboards, or multi-section narrative infographics; (d) that allows for rich labeling; and (e) that exports in multiple formats, including SVG, EPS, and PDF. That'd be a dream come true for me, and for many designers who prefer moving things around rather than coding everything from scratch.

I've not found anything like that yet, even if Tableau is getting closer little by little. However, Plot.ly and Graf.ly, two free tools that have been recently brought to my attention, meet many of those requirements already. Both are very promising, so I'm looking forward to seeing future developments. I've been in touch with their creators, and they are two creative and enthusiastic groups. They deserve our support. Give their tools a try. They are worth your time.

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