Other than Excel, Freehand, and Illustrator, are there any really snazzy looking, easy to use charting apps for XP?
March 24, 2004 2:54 PM   Subscribe

I need to create some charts (as in bar-, pie-, etc.) for a presentation. I have used Excel (easy but boring), Illustrator and Freehand (slightly more complicated and exciting) for this in the past, but want to expand my repertoire. Are there any really snazzy looking, easy to use charting apps for XP?

Oh, free would be a definite plus.
posted by signal to Computers & Internet (11 answers total)
Swiff Chart is snazzy and easy, though not free I'm afraid. Worth a look.
posted by Zootoon at 3:38 PM on March 24, 2004

maybe some inspiration could help, too? (I find that it's usually not the software, but me)
posted by amberglow at 5:01 PM on March 24, 2004

Response by poster: Zooton, swiff chart looks quite good, and the ability to export .swf might save me a lot of work in the future.
amber, Tufte is, of course, an obligatory reference. Thanks for the link!
posted by signal at 5:36 PM on March 24, 2004

As one who has made and sat through countless multi-chart presentations, please allow me to offer the unsolicited advice simpler is often better in chart making. My rule of thumb is always that if a piece of ink doesn't directly tell you something then you're probably better off without it. Also, pie charts are the work of Satan (cumulative/stacking bar is almost always better).

That said, most sciencey types use SigmaPlot, or Origin. Real do-it-yourselfers use graph libraries like the NCAR ones (outputting to Tex or PostScript). Excel can make tolerable simple graphs with care (and heavy use of the delete key).
posted by bonehead at 7:28 PM on March 24, 2004

If programming is your bag, then you might enjoy ChartDirector. I've used it with Python to produce some nice looking graphs with minimal fuss. Its got tremendous documentation with lots of example code.
posted by mmascolino at 8:22 PM on March 24, 2004

Is PowerPoint an option? You can make bar, pie, etc charts in PP.
posted by davidmsc at 9:13 PM on March 24, 2004

Response by poster: bonehead, I concur, but feel that programs (like Excel) which give you less control over your final presentation tend to add more noise to the final output.
What I want is something which will allow me to easily tweak the settings for 10 or so different kinds of charts at the same time, with absolute control over lineweights, fonts and colors.
Everybody, thanks for all your suggestions!
posted by signal at 9:47 PM on March 24, 2004

if that's what you want, you might also try gnuplot and the plotting/graphing functions of R. Both are freeware open-source. They tend towards the plainish to-be-printed-in-a-journal kind of graphs, not to the funky-colors-and-gradient-backgrounds-to-keep-PHB's-watching kind.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:04 PM on March 24, 2004

Tufte recommends Illustrator. I assume because it does the essentials without too much hassle, but the point of the whole program is to let you fine tune.
posted by raaka at 11:40 PM on March 24, 2004

posted by raaka at 12:07 AM on March 25, 2004

I mentioned Excel only because of the Have-it-so-it's-free factor. It generally takes real contortions to get decent looking output from, even for the simplest graphs. As Tufte puts it, it creates enormous amount of chartjunk. Also keep in mind that Excel cannot do stats properly, so if accuracy is important to you, you want to look elsewhere (any of the below are fine).

SigmaPlot, my choice, does come with some Tufte-designed templates, but I've never found them much use. We've evaluated S-Plus and Origin also. They're all about equivalent and run in up to the kilobuck range. I've been poking at R (and S), but don't know enough about either to give an informed opinion---they look neat in a do-it-yourself kind of way. Some people swear by GNUPlot, I just swear at it. Graphing is ok, but I've never been able to get fonts to work properly with it, especially going into LaTeX documents.
posted by bonehead at 11:15 AM on March 25, 2004

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