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Data Analysis and Visualisation: Visualisation Tools

Visualisation tools available at the University of Sydney

The University of Sydney provides licences to some commercial software packages for staff and students. Please visit the list of software available through the university to see what software you are eligible to access, and for information on how to obtain access to the available packages.

Tools specific to data visualisation that are available at the University are listed and described below. Keep in mind that analysis and visualisation are often overlapping activities, so be sure to check both the analysis and visualisation sections to ensure that you don’t miss the ideal tool for your data!

Adobe Illustrator – A vector graphics editor that can be extremely useful for creating figures or touching up those made in other programs, including adding annotations. Illustrator can also be useful in creating outreach visuals, such as infographics. Illustrator is part of the Adobe Creative Suite. Get Illustrator from ICT.   

Microsoft Visio – A diagramming and vector graphics application that can help you simplify complexity with dynamic, data-driven visuals. Visio shapes can be linked to multiple data sources including Microsoft Excel. Get Visio from ICT

Freely available visualisation tools

In addition to commercial software, a host of open-source and/or freely available tools exist for data visualisation. We have collected a short list of some of the more widely used, or easy to use tools that are available. Keep in mind that analysis and visualisation are often overlapping activities, so be sure to check both the analysis and visualisation sections to ensure that you don’t miss the ideal tool for your data!

Interactive Visualisation

Tableau Public – A tool that allows you to create and share interactive charts and graphs, maps, live dashboards and applications. All work will be saved to your Tableau Public profile, visible online.

D3.js – A JavaScript library for manipulating documents based on data. D3 allows you to create interactive web-based visualisations of your data, and helps you bring data to life using HTML, SVG, and CSS.

Highcharts JS – A JavaScript library that allows you to add interactive charts to a website or web application. Free for non-commercial purposes, but requires a license if you wish to use it for a commercial website or project.

VizKit – Developed by the University of Sydney TechLab, VizKit allows you to make use of the D3 and Highcharts JavaScript libraries to create interactive web-based plots without needing to know any JavaScript yourself.

Network Data

Gephi – An interactive visualisation and exploration platform for all kinds of networks and complex systems, dynamic and hierarchical graphs.

Palladio – A browser-based tool specifically designed for exploring and displaying historical networks. Data can be displayed using network graphs, maps, timelines, and a gallery. 

Diagrams and Flowcharts

LibreOffice Draw – Part of the open-source LibreOffice suite, Draw is basically an open-source version of Microsoft Visio (it can even open files created using Visio). Draw is a really useful tool for easily creating diagrams and flowcharts. 


Canva – A browser-based graphic design tool with a drag-and-drop infographic creator. Lots of templates to get you started and you can download your finished creation as a jpg, png or pdf. – A website that features free infographic templates and design objects which users can customize to create and share visual ideas. Finished inforgraphics can be exported as jpegs or pdfs. Easy to use with a drag and drop interface, it can lack flexibility, and there are limitations on what it allows you to do.

The Noun Project and Flaticon – Both of these are libraries of free to use icons, which can be really handy when you want to create your own infographics. The icons are released under Creative Commons licences, so you will need to provide attribution to the icon creator if you use their icon.

3D Data and Big Data

ParaView – A data analysis and visualisation application allowing users to quickly build visualisations to analyse their data using qualitative and quantitative techniques. The data exploration can be done interactively in 3D or programmatically using ParaView’s batch processing capabilities. ParaView was developed to analyse extremely large datasets using distributed memory computing resources. It can be run on supercomputers to analyse datasets of petascale size as well as on laptops for smaller data.

Tabular Data

Google Fusion Tables – A web application to gather, visualise and share data tables. Data from separate tables can be easily merged, and can be simply visualised as geographical maps.

If you know of other freely available tools that you think other researchers would benefit from knowing about, then get in touch with