How to Learn Data Visualization for Free (Tools + Resources)
Updated: Feb 1
Don't let money become the barrier that stops you from learning whatever you are passionate about. This article introduces some free visualization tools online to create dashboards, e.g. Tableau, PowerBI, Google Data Studio etc. Additionally, there are many free resources and tutorials that help you to master visual art.
Free Visualization Tools to Use
In case you don't know, Tableau is free to use for one year as long as you have the access to the school email. Simply register using your school email. This article "How to Download and Learn Tableau for Free" provides a more comprehensive guide to unlock a $70+ /month software for free. Addition to Tableau Desktop you are able to use Tableau Data Prep software for free.
2. Power BI
For Windows users out there, Power BI desktop tool is definitely a very good choice to start your data visualization journey. Its user interface layout pretty much follows the conventions of other Microsoft softwares, which makes it easy to use.
However, for Mac users it will be a struggle. Currently, Microsoft doesn't provide Power BI native apps on macOS. One of the solutions is to run Power BI on a virtual machine which simulates Windows operating system on your Apple devices. Here are some tutorials that may help:
3. Google Data Studio
Obviously, Google Data Studio is a product of Google, which means that it is a great tool to keep all of your Google-related data in one place. For example, if you have a website and use Google Analytics to track its performance, Google Data Studio is a perfect complementary tool for your analytical data. It also supports smooth data source connection to all google products, e.g. Google Sheet, Google Ads, BigQuery etc. Additionally, it is designed for optimizing the real-time collaboration experience, just like Google Doc or Google Sheets. Most softwares including PowerBI and Tableau don't provide this team collaboration feature for free. However, the downside is that it has very limited functionalities. And this is not the best choice if you want to create any advanced calculations.
Just like Tableau, "real" SAS can be really expensive. But the good news is that it also provides a free version which is called “SAS University Edition”. Although it has limited functionalities, it is enough for beginners to have a grasp of some basic functions, e.g. data visualization. Download and set up the SAS University Edition according to the instructions on their website.
5. Python, R ...
Needless to say, many programming languages give you the capability to create flexible graphs for free. Pythons and R are the most popular languages that have exclusive libraries built for data visualization, e.g. Seaborn and Matplotlib in Python and ggplot2 in R.