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How to Learn Data Visualization for Free (Tools + Resources)

Updated: Dec 19, 2020

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

1. Tableau

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:

Run PowerBI On A Mac Like A Dev


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.



4. SAS

create bar-line chart in SAS

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 ...

data visualization in ggplot2
data visualization in seaborn

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.



6. Excel

Almost forgot to mention "Excel"! Excel is definitely a popular tool used for data visualization. Although it is not the main purpose of Excel, it does support basic charts creation and allows data analysis happening in one place.


Free Learning Resources

1. Tableau E-learning

e-learning pathway

If you successfully register a Tableau account using your school email. You will also unlock the Tableau e-learning tutorials for free. These tutorials give a comprehensive guide that allows you to transform from a Tableau beginner to a master. Read this article for more detailed information to set up Tableau and e-learning: How to Download and Learn Tableau for Free.



2. "Storytelling with Data"

"Storytelling with Data" is the data visualization book that I couldn't recommend more. It provides very easy to understand illustrations. It is suitable for people from various disciplines including data scientists, business professionals and designers.

Download the free pdf of this whole book using this link. Additionally, their website provides more interactive resources.

But if you would like a physical copy of this book, feel free to use this affiliate link below to make your purchase.











3. Kaggle

If you want to learn how to use Python seaborn to create data visualizations, Kaggle is a greater place to get started. The tutorial "Data Visualization" gives an entry-level guide to build various charts using seaborn library. Besides, Kaggle is an amazing community to explore many datasets and visualization projects created by other data lovers.


4. Udemy

Tableau Tutorial for Beginners Course Overview

As you may have known, Udemy is an online learning platform that has tons of free courses. The course "Tableau Tutorial for Beginners" gives you an introduction of Tableau and it is a great starting point if you are totally fresh to Tableau. Beyond that, Udemy is an amazing place to find lots of free tutorials of PowerBI, Excel, Python, R etc.



5. YouTube

YouTube has a large number of tutorials that not only teach you how to use the tools, but also talk about design principles of data visualization. Therefore, if you are interested in how to make your dashboards and more aesthetics and leaning towards creating visual art, YouTube may be the best resources compared to others. Here are some of the inspirational videos I found:


Take-Home Message

  • free tools to use: Tableau, Power BI, Google Data Studio, SAS, Python, R and Excel

  • free learning resources: Tableau e-learning, Storytelling with Data, Kaggle, Udemy, YouTube

There are more articles that may help you to create your own visual art:

Design Principles for Better Data Visualization

How to Download and Learn Tableau for Free

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