Originally posted by Manuel Lima on November 18, 2007 (extinct section in VC)
I receive many emails asking me: “How can I make a similar graph?”. The answer is not easy, considering the diversity of projects featured on VC. Some projects are static pieces, such as graphs, diagrams, conceptual maps and network visualizations portrayed in posters, printouts and computer-generated images. Others are highly interactive and customizable. Some require hours of rendering and complex algorithms to produce, others are simply drawn by hand or using a drawing software such as Adobe Illustrator or Freehand. The multitude of tools used to create these projects is as vast as the portrayed subjects. Nonetheless, some guidance is still possible.
To provide an accurate answer to VC users that wish to venture themselves in this area I created a list of tools that might help them achieve their goal. The people who ask me this question are usually interested in a fairly straightforward task, such as mapping their social network of friends/contacts, their company ties or hierarchy, their family tree, or a similar web of relationships. For most cases, they have no programming skills whatsoever, and are only interested in an easy-to-use free tool that allows them a quick execution of their personal map. The following list of tools is for them, not for expert users. This is also why the classification below, from Easy to Advanced, might seem rather foreign to a considerable percentage of VC users who are familiar with many of the “advanced” tools.
On a last note, it is important to say that when it comes to computer-generated visualizations, there’s a strong correlation between innovation and the use of “advanced” tools such as Flash and Processing, which are also the most common in the entire VC database. The most original and inventive projects are the ones that are not limited by the software capability, but only by a creator’s imagination. However, to reach that level of freedom, one must require a significant proficiency in at least one programming language, and in many cases you see a combination of several skills (e.g. using Graphviz and Python). Advanced tools tend to be more flexible, allowing out-of-the-box thinking and innovative methods of representation.
Feel free to use the comments area to suggest other graphing applications.
General Information Visualization Tools: