Data Visualization Toolkit: Charts Tools

Charts icon

When we think of visually representing data, charts (or graphs) are typically what first come to mind. To avoid having charts that look like Excel defaults or uninspired, here are some tips for creating charts that accurately represent the data and fuel engagement in data-based action.

Charts Tools

Microsoft Excel

Microsoft Excel is one of the most widely used platforms for analyzing and charting data. It’s possible to generate the most common chart types from the raw data in a spreadsheet. Although Excel is somewhat limited in default options, skilled users can create a large variety of effective data visualizations. Also, Microsoft PowerPoint has a limited set of charting options that are based on the Excel platform. You can import an Excel chart into PowerPoint by copying and pasting it in as an image.


Datawrapper is an online automatic chart-maker. You can upload or copy-paste your own data and Datawrapper will automatically generate and allow you to customize various bar charts, dot plots, circle charts, line charts, and even maps. Figure 12, for example, shows a split bar chart created using Datawrapper. Charts can then be downloaded as images or embedded in websites.

Advanced Statistical Software

Advanced statistical software such as SAS, SPSS, and Stata are used to manage and analyze large, complex data sets. These programs also have the capability to graph analyses of data using syntax to write programming code or graphical user interfaces to select commands. Advantages of using these programs to create charts are that you do not have to transfer analytic output needed for the chart to another program (like Excel), and you can analyze datasets quickly to get the data needed for charts. Disadvantages are the cost of the programs and the skill needed to use them effectively. This section focuses specifically on SAS.

Google Fusion Charts

See Interactive Displays Section


See Interactive Displays Section

Suggest Additional Tools or Resources

Are there additional chart tools or resources that you use to present data effectively? Suggest tools or resources for inclusion in the toolkit.