Comparing data visualization tools

I do a lot of work (a lot of work!) visualizing data sets using online tools. To date I've:

1. used by hand "build a table"
2. Google data viz
3. jquery based charting tools
4. jquery + datatables.net

What I've learned:

1. The new "dashboard" toolset from google is simple awesome. The trick is to create a json data source and then use this to drive the google data visualizations.

Once you have created a google compliant data source - the rest of the process is straight forward.

++Free, easy to use and very flexible presentation
--The data source itself is finicky. google have strict requirement for defining data types

2. Using datatables.net to create interactive tables for simple data presentation is so easy there is little reason for using anything else...


+++Free, easy to use and VERY flexible in terms of data types. The best part of the entire plugin was its native ability to recognize 'dates' and sort accordingly. Put in 1/1/2012 and 10/1/2012 and the plugin sorts according to data correctly. In google land you have to type the data, and then have the json feed put in the dates as {v:new Date(2012,1,11)} being careful to use zero based dates. This means that if you are already spitting out dates in user friendly format you have to create another routine to spit out dates in json friendly format.

--not quite a cool in terms of charting flexibility.

My take away? Use them both. I created a json data feed which i use when i need a time chart and then use the datatables.net jquery plugin to render chart/spreadsheet data. The result in my opinion is the best of both worlds.

Happy coding!


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