Web-Based Visualization Tools - dummies

Web-Based Visualization Tools

By Lillian Pierson

These two data visualization tools are worth your time to check out. These tools are a little more sophisticated than many of the others available, but with that sophistication comes more customizable and adaptable outputs.

Getting a little Weave up your sleeve

Web-Based Analysis and Visualization Environment, or Weave, is the brainchild of Dr. Georges Grinstein at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. Weave is an open-source, collaborative tool that uses Adobe Flash to display data visualizations.

Because Weave relies on Adobe Flash, you can’t access it with all browsers, particularly those on Apple mobile devices — iPad, iPhone, and so on.

The Weave package is Java software designed to be run on a server with a database engine like MySQL or Oracle, although it can be run on a desktop computer so long as a local host server (such as Apache Tomcat) and database software are both installed. Weave offers an excellent Wiki that explains all aspects of the program, including installation on Mac, Linux, or Windows systems.

You can most easily install Weave on the Windows OS because of Weave’s single installer that installs the desktop middleware, as well as the server and database dependencies. For the installer to be able to install all of this, though, you need to first install the free Adobe Air run-time environment on your machine.

You can use Weaver to automatically access countless open datasets or simply upload your own, as well as generate multiple interactive visualizations (such as charts and maps) that allow your users to efficiently explore even the most complex datasets.

Weave is the perfect tool to create visualizations that allow your audience to see and explore the interrelatedness between subsets of your data. Also, if you update your underlying data source, your Weave data visualizations update in real-time, as well.

The following figure shows a demo visualization on Weave’s own server. It depicts every county in the United States, with many columns of data from which to choose. In this example, the map shows county-level obesity data on employed women who are 16 years of age and older. The chart at the bottom-left shows a correlation between obesity and unemployment in this group.


Knoema’s data visualization offerings

Knoema is an excellent open data source, but it also offers open-source data visualization tools. With these tools, you can create visualizations that enable your audience to easily explore data, drill down on geographic areas or on different indicators, and automatically produce data-driven timelines. Using Knoema, you can quickly export all results into PowerPoint files (.ppt), Excel files (.xls), PDF files (.pdf), JPEG images (.jpg), or PNG images (.png), or even embed them on your website.

If you embed the data visualizations in a web page of your website, those visualizations automatically update if you make changes to the underlying dataset.

The following figure shows a chart and a table that were quickly, easily, and automatically generated with just two mouse clicks in Knoema. After creating charts and tables in Knoema, you can export the data, further explore it, save it, or embed it in an external website.


You can use Knoema to make your own dashboards, as well, either from your own data or from open data in Knoema’s repository.


These figures show two dashboards that were quickly created using Knoema’s Eurostat data on capital and financial accounts.