Data journalism is ever-evolving and so are the tools of the trade. Aside from Microsoft Excel (which I’ve blogged about here and here), these are the tools which are, in my opinion, the most useful for data journalism at the moment.
Google Fusion Tables
The gateway drug for most data journalists, Google Fusion Tables is a user-friendly mapping tool which allows users to upload their data to the application, select the columns of data they would like to map and simply create the map. It also allows users to pinpoint various areas on the map which can be interacted with to show, for example, the name of and data for that particular street when exploring the map.
TreeMap provides an easy, yet extremely powerful means of creating beautiful treemaps for analytical and presentation purpose. Importing data from a wide variety of file formats (including Excel), as well as connecting to databases (such as MySQL and SQL Server) it’s user friendly and scales to big data.
BacthGeo is free and user-friendly data-mapping software, which allows users to copy and paste data from their spreadsheets in order to map it. You can also visualise patterns in the data by location and store your data within the site with BatchGeo pro.
Slightly more obscure than some other data journalism tools, Tiki-Toki is a good example of the timeline visualisation software out there. It comes with loads of features including date formatting options, built-in search and filtering, spacing modes and four different view types – and the finished products are visually stunning.
Datawrapper is a free software tool which enables users to create charts and graphs and embed them into blog posts or elsewhere online. It can be used on their free hosted service or self-hosted and the finished charts and graphs are fully customisable in terms of fonts, colours and design. Datawrapper is easy to use, simple and the finished charts have a slick look and feel.
PopIt is an opensource website created by MySociety, which aims to become a website of ‘components’ for open data. Taking inspiration from their previous websites such as TheyWorkForYou, PopIt’s creators state that contributors to the site will not need to know code. While they provide data from various organisations, they aim for data contributions to the site including bills, legislation and attendance records to create a fully functioning transparent-data website.
Tableau is another, slightly more advanced data mapping tool using geocoding technology, so there is no need for latitude or longitude data. As well as built-in geocoding, it also has custom geocoding for advanced ‘geospatial analysis’, and can add added layers of data, such as demographic information, and integration with other specialised maps.
Colour Scheme Designer
When creating your data visualisations, it’s important to remember that some people are colour blind so the entire effect will be lost on them if you select the wrong colours. (The most common types of colour blindness are green/red and blue/yellow). Tools such as Colour Scheme Designer allow you to tailor your visualisations by exporting colour pallets via html, URL, CSV, text or XML and you can select specific colour pallets even according to the varying types of colour blindness.
Many Eyes is a data visualisation tool which allows the advanced creation of graphs, pie charts, word clouds, treemaps and so on, but it is an opensource platform so once you’ve created something, it is archived within the site. This does mean, however, that you can explore data sets and visualisations, create a topic centre and comment on other users’ work.
For the slightly more advanced data journalist, Google Refine is a power tool for cleaning up messy data before you can go on to visualise it. It works by being able to transform between formats, extending to other web services and can link to other databases.