Excel has a great charting engine, and perhaps the most commonly used tool to create charts. We have also shown you a number of applications and web apps that you can use for charting. Tableau is another service that takes charting to a whole new level.
Tableau Public is available for Windows and the download is free, although they do ask for your email address. A 17MB download Tableau Public installs in a snap.
The new visualization interface requires a little getting used to at first. Tableau Public is however easy to use, so to create charts and graphs is as easy as drag and drop. For instance you can use data from something as simple as a text file to an Excel spreadsheet to a database. All the major DBMS are supported. Once you connect the data source from then on, charts can can be created via simple drag and drop operations.
The amount of control you get and the intuitiveness can put Excel’s charting to shame any day. You can easily edit the Axis labels, the scale, colors, shapes being used in the charts. In fact there are so many options that mentioning them here in a sentence or two won’t do justice to the application. That being said, it is just as easy to use the default options and create charts and graphs quickly.
If the interface and the host of options perturb you, have a look at some of the training resources that are available on the Tableau Public site. These are excellent to get you started with the application. Sample data sets are also available that you can try your hands on. There are walkthrough videos to help you get familiar with the software and even introduce some of its intricacies.
A downside however is that you cannot save your charts locally. All the charts are stored online within a public gallery. While this may not be a issue if you plan to share your charts anyway, it does mean that you cannot use Tableau Public to create charts using confidential data. If on the other hand you want to share the charts with the world, Tableau Public provides a number of features that have you covered. In fact as the site points out, it is being actively used by bloggers, researchers, journalists and students alike.
Since you cannot save your work locally, this doesn’t mean you have to start afresh everytime. The visualizations/charts you create using Tableau Public are all stored online. While the inability to save content locally may seem like a pain, on the flip side this means that the data that has been visualized using Tableau Public can be viewed online. There is an excellent gallery that you can browse through to see content created by others.
On the whole if you need to create impressive charts or visualize/present some data and you don’t mind sharing the results with the world, then Tableau Public is one of the best solutions out there. If on the other hand you would like to keep the results to yourself, you can always go for the professional version.
Do you know of any other data visualization tools that are better or as good as Tableau Public? Tell us about them in the comments.