Welcome back! Visualizing your data is one of the most important things you can do to gain valuable insight, luckily, there are a lot of ways to visualize your data with free tools! Here’s a list of some of my favorite tools available for free for data visualizations!
Google Data Studio
I believe the best free option for data visualizations right now is Google Data Studio, this is Google’s free offering of data visualizations. First off, unlike most of the other options on this list, Google Data Studio doesn’t require any downloads, everything is within your browser. Now, this can be a disadvantage for some, mostly if you’re handling classified company data, but if you’re developing reports for any other case (unclassified data), then this is a very useful option.
There are alot of built in functions within this tool, you can develop charts, geo maps, graphs, data tables, pivot tables and so much more. Because this is from Google, you will be able to access your data from Google Sheets as well, this can be a huge advantage for some who house their data within Google Sheets, but that’s not the only place you can get your data from. You have your typical Excel sheets and CSV’s that you can bring in, but you can also connect to different databases as well, these are the databases Google Data Studio currently supports: BigQuery, MySQL and PostgresSQL, this is a massive feature to have on a free tool that’s available to anyone online. Out of all of these tools that I list in this article, this is by far my favorite one.
Next up we have Tableau Public, the free version of the massively popular Tableau data visualization tool. This tool originally came out in 2003 and was eventually sold to Salesforce in 2019. Now, Tableau has a ton of functionality which makes it one of the most important tools any data engineer, scientist or analyst could learn, almost every data job requires experience for this software. Tableau has a ton of capability, arguably more than Google Data Studio, but it is a piece of software you have to download and install so keep that in mind. Tableau Public has the same functionality as the paid version of Tableau, except for the ability to download your actual Tableau workbooks, so you can use this software with all of its features but you can’t save it on your PC. Otherwise, the functionality from this software is crazy, if you plan on just creating graphs or reports and plan on presenting it, or if you want to screenshot the graphs, this software is an amazing data visualization tool.
Next up we have Power BI, the main advantage is that this program is free, the disadvantage is that it’s only available for Windows, iOS or Android, no MacOS support yet. PowerBI is one of the newer data visualization tools on this list, but don’t let that stop you from using this software, Microsoft (who built this software) is spending a ton of money on developing out this software. PowerBI shares almost the same type of layout as Excel, but this is a full fledged data visualization tool, there are a few paid features that you can use, but the actual features are completely free. As I mentioned before, PowerBI has a ton of funding right now, so there are tons of features being added all of the time. On top of this, because it is a Microsoft product, you know it’s going to have a massive community behind this tool as well. The best way I can sum up this tool is it’s a Microsoft version of Tableau, although I still like Tableau a bit more, PowerBI is a very awesome option considering it’s free.
RShiny, GGPlot2 and Seaborn
Finally, we have some options that require a bit of programming. As you may know, I talk alot about programming, specifically with R and Python. With packages like RShiny, GGPlot2 and Seaborn you can expand the capability of your data by using your programming language without having to export the data to an actual data visualization tool. RShiny is a package within R that allows you to create standalone web applications, meaning, you can develop out a full dashboard without having to use a third party tool, this is some of what these dashboards look like:
You can also use GGPlot2, this is a very popular graphing library within R as well. GGplot2 allows you to build out graphs super easily, export these graphs in your IDE and also save those graphs as images.
Seaborn is a very popular Python graphing package as well, this package has a very large community behind it and allows you to build out tons of different graphs in very little effort. Take a look at what Seaborn can do:
Ultimately, I believe these are probably my go to recommendations for free data visualization tools, regardless if you know any programming or not. As always, familiarizing yourself with all of these technologies can lead you to becoming a much stronger engineer. I’ve applied to many positions throughout the last few years, ranging from software engineering, data scientist, data analyst, etc. and i’ve always seen these jobs require experience visualizing data, so you will be doing yourself a favor by learning these softwares.
As always, if you have any suggestions, thoughts or just want to connect, feel free to contact / follow me on Twitter! Also, below is a link to some of my favorite resources for learning programming, Python, R, Data Science, etc.