If you search for “data visualization tools”, you will find lots of blog posts with lists, sometimes mixing enterprise with prosumer solutions, tools for people with coding skills (D3, Python) and plug-and-play ones.

This list is shorter and focused on tools used extensively by newsrooms or suitable for individual creators that need visualize data within a narrative or a presentation.

The selected solutions offer all of them a free edition or they are natively 100% free and open-source and are all compliant with the EU GDPR.


FLOURISH 👉 https://flourish.studio/

FREEMIUM – One of the most used tools by newsrooms in Europe (The Guardian, BBC, FT, die Welt…), designed with journalism in mind and focused on graphs that the broader audience can understand. The basic tool, made for non-coders, offers already lots of customisation options. Flourish also makes an SDK for developing your custom templates with D3.js or other libraries. The standard solution is based on the Flourish´s cloud environment, but you can use their API to take the visualisation into your CMS and publishing environment. 

Reasons to use Flourish: 
– all graphs are responsive and can be customised to fit best on mobile
– supports animated charts (e.g. the bar race) and storytelling
– most style elements can be changed without writing any line of code
– it is effortless to change the chart type and explore data visually
– the free, public edition is feature-rich 
– flourish is also a marketplace, through its Flourish Expert Network

DATAWRAPPER 👉 https://www.datawrapper.de/

FREEMIUM – CHARTS AND MAPS This is another excellent visualization tool, also built with journalism and storytelling in mind. Made in Germany by a group of passionate information designers, it has been adopted by renowned newsrooms such as The New York Times, Wired, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Vox Media, Zeit among others

Datawrapper has everything you can expect for flexible usage and ingestion in your own CMS. It deploys a rich catalogue of templates, including choropleth and symbol maps as well designed interactive tables allowing readers to sort, select and interact with data. 

What´s more, Datawrapper is keen to educate users on information design: it offers resources, suggestions, a knowledge base (Academy) and an insightful blog, not the usual “SEO-content-marketing-stuff” but one driven by a passion for data storytelling and full of great food for thought. The price for professional users is reasonable. The free version for personal use has limited features (you cannot export the chart as a vector, but only as PNG). However, it is more than suitable for a personal non-commercial blog.  

RHUMBL 👉 https://rhumbl.com/

FREEMIUM – NETWORK MAPPING Data visualisation is not only charts and maps. In the world of connected data, relationships matter. Representing and visualising relationship is not easy, especially if you have a massive amount of data and multiple connections.

In journalism, the case of the Panama Papers leaked is still mentioned as the most prominent example of a graph database built to explore those data: the investigative work took months to execute and some millions dollar invested in coding, analysis and reporting.

However, if you are not working with big data, you might not need a full graph database solution like Neo4j (the best and the most used worldwide). You need more often a simple way to read and organise a table and convert it into a relationship map.

Rhumbl, born from a group of researchers at the MIT, offers a simple tool for making network visualisations, with a free edition and some very affordable premium options. The tool helps you to adjust your source data, typically a spreadsheet, to make them readable and easy to see/extract the relevant relationship among entities. Visually, the result is simple and easy to navigate online. Rhumbl is developed with the world of academic research in mind, but it works well with more popular topics as well.

KUMU.IO 👉 https://kumu.io

FREEMIUM – NETWORK MAPPING A small team, an awesome tool. Kumu aims to map everything relationship-driven: concepts, projects, ideas… It is at the same time a network mapping tool and a mind mapping tool. It strives to add storytelling ability, by enabling each entity to open an information card, nicely displayed aside from the relationship map. The result is like a micro-site, with the ability to embed other rich media information such as Youtube and Vimeo videos. The free edition is for public projects, but with a small monthly fee, you can make your project private. Kumu.io is a simple, elegant solution to cover any network mapping that do not need big data analytics.

RAWGRAPHS 👉 https://rawgraphs.io/

FREE OPEN SOURCE. Developed within the and maintained by the DensityDesign Research Lab (Politecnico di Milano, RAWGraphs is an open-source web application for the creation of static data visualisations. 

Free and available both as an online app under https://app.rawgraphs.io/ as well downloadable from Github, a new version is being developed thanks to a crowdfunding campaign that took place in Q4 2019.

The platform, built on top of the D3.js library, provides simple ways to map data dimensions onto visual variables. It presents a chart-based approach to data visualisation: each visual model is an independent module exposing different variables that can be used to map data dimensions. Graphs and charts can be exported as vector graphics. Built initially for information designers, Rawgraph works well also for non-developer. 

FREEMIUM – CHARTS The quickest solution if you need to add elegant, simple charts to your presentations, blog or social media. Not for sophisticated visual analytics, but suitable for customising the style of the most used chart formats. With the free edition, you get already a lot but branded by Ceros. If you want to adopt your brand identity and use Chartblocks as a white label solution, there is a professional subscription for 16.5 EUR monthly.

Charticulator 👉 https://charticulator.com/index.html

FREE AND OPEN SOURCE BY MICROSOFT. Developed by a Team by Microsoft Research, the tool offers an intuitive, code-free way to convert structure data into charts. The UI is a mix between Tableau and MS Powerpoint and the whole tool is optimised for embedding the graphs in Microsoft Power BI or Powerpoint Presentations. The abundant visual customisation options make Charticulator perfect for who needs to display charts in documents and presentations. Visualisations can be exported as images (png, jpeg, SVG), Html, Power BI Visuals, or templates in .json.

Datamatic 👉 https://datamatic.io/index.html

FREE BY GOOGLE – A quick and easy way to create standard charts and maps, starting from a gallery of templates. Funded by Google News Initiative, Datamatic is natively integrated with Google Drive. The charts can be linked and embedded in web pages, but not downloaded.

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