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Best data visualization tools of 2020: charts and presentations for insights

Best data visualization tools
(Image credit: Pixabay)

Data visualization can make IT operations and tasks so much easier to understand. Rather than being faced with walls of data, simple charts can provide key information quickly.

This is especially the case during real-time processes for monitoring purposes, where information needs to be provided in a quick and easy to understand manner. 

However, data visualization has also become the norm for a whole range of other processes, from presentations to workflows, to project management and business intelligence. 

Ultimately visualization will provide clear indicators of trends from large sets of data, or present otherwise important information such as core tasks or assignments in management processes.

The key to visualization is simplicity in the presentation, no matter how it is applied, and while there are industry specific applications of visualization, we'll present the best in general software platforms that can work in the widest range of situations.

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Best data visualization tools - at a glance

  1. Quire
  2. Casual
  3. Asana
  4. Wrike
  5. Targetprocess
  6. Tableau

(Image credit: Quire)

1. Quire

All you need and nothing more

Simple and familiar user interface
Kanban or list format
Quick visual progress representations
No Gantt charts

If you need to manage and visualize projects but don’t require advanced functionality that is unnecessary and clutters your project management, Quire might be your tool of choice.

Quire works by letting you map out tasks and thoughts in a simple to-do list format that can easily be rearranged and assigned to team members. Once tasks have been defined in the app, you can visually organize and assign these tasks using a Kanban board built into the system. The software makes it easy to flip between task lists and the Kanban board as needed.

The beauty of Quire is that it also offers a number of visual representations of your task list that you can choose from, including pie charts, project summaries and graphs. All the basic visual representations are there except for Gantt charts, the one strike against this platform. Overall, though, Quire delivers a streamlined project management interface that nicely strikes a balance between simplicity and power.

(Image credit: Casual)

2. Casual

Best for flowchart wizards

Flowchart-based project management
Visually simple task flow
Doesn’t handle large teams
Limited visual representations

There are many ways in which you can visually organize your project. If your preferred style is flowchart-based organization, you’re going to love Casual.

Instead of Kanban boards or Gantt charts, Casual is built exclusively around a single flowchart interface where you organize projects by drawing lines between tasks, and assign team members to each step in the flowchart. Each team member gets a task list based on the flowchart, but essentially project managers that use Casual track progress through the single-pane flowchart.

Casual is easily the best solution if you prefer the flowchart format and have a project that can be represented in that format. If you want a range of charts and other ways to organize or manage a large team, however, Casual is not for you.

(Image credit: Asana)

3. Asana

Traditional and solid

All common management features
Easy visual project management
Weak data visualization

Asana is one of the web-based project management leaders, and with good reason. You get most of the project management tools you expect with the platform, including task lists, Kanban boards, calendar format, conversations and Gantt charts.

You manage projects by entering tasks on a task list, with manual or auto assignment to team members. A Kanban board makes organization of these tasks easy, and a timeline (read: Gantt chart) visually shows the progress of the project.

While task management is quite visual, and most project managers will feel at home on the platform, Asana lacks a chart dashboard for tracking progress metrics in other visual representations. So this is visual management, but it isn’t strong on visual data representation.

(Image credit: Wrike)

4. Wrike

Dashboard project management

Dashboard format
Gantt charts
Visual workflow creation
No Kanban boards

If Gantt charts and dashboards are your thing, Wrike should be on your project management shortlist.

Wrike makes it easy to create tasks and workflows, and then manage these tasks visually in a Gantt chart or calendar format. One feature that’s great about Wrike is that you can visually create custom workflows for your project.

Data visualization is also a strong point for Wrike, which lets you set up custom dashboard items that visually show the progress of key project metrics. In one quick view, you can see the status of each area of the project.

Furthermore, Wrike is highly scalable, with many integrations to other platforms and support for large teams.

(Image credit: Targetprocess)

5. Targetprocess

Clunky but full-featured

Comprehensive feature set
Lots of data visualization tools
Clunky interface
Too many options

If you want everything in your project management software, including a host of data representation options, Targetprocess is for you.

Taking a dashboard approach but also working in Kanban and Gantt chart formats, Targetprocess basically gives your project the full suite of features. Complex task lists can be configured and rearranged, and it comes with a multitude of data representation views that can be added to the dashboard for quick progress assessment.

Targetprocess is geared towards agile software development projects, and it can be overwhelming in its feature set and clunky in its interface, but this solution visually represents data in more ways than rivals, and does everything a software project manager could want.

(Image credit: Tableau Desktop)

6. Tableau

For business intelligence visualization

Powerful range of tools
Comprehensive visualization
On-premises and cloud
More expensive

We've covered how visualization can help with general productivity and management apps, but it's with business intelligence and big data where data visualization really comes into its own, and this is where Tableau comes in strong.

Tableau offers a range of different software tools for data visualization, starting with Tableau Creator which allows for both a desktop and online version for individuals, to allow for the processing of data to output visualized analytics.

There are also versions for teams and organizations, either as a standalone to provide data mining with visualization and interactive dashboards, while there's also a version for live analytics processing with existing software apps.

Altogether, Tableau is a powerful analytics tool for producing all manner of useful charts and graphs, all of which makes it easier to communicate insights and answers to questions with different levels of stakeholders.