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  • Writer's pictureHa Hoang

What Are The Best Free Data Visualization Tools?

Updated: Nov 25, 2022

Today, data analysis and visualisation are increasingly important. Charts & Reporting builders help visualise a dataset, make it easy to find its trends, patterns, and critical insights, to make predictions and evaluations easy.

There are many options to choose from, so to help you narrow it down, we’ve compiled a list that we think is the top 4 tools in this section. They have free options: Google Looker Studio, Salesforce Tableau, Microsoft Power BI, and Datainsider Rocket.BI.


1. Looker Studio is a cloud-based solution from Google. It is a free data visualisation tool that allows users to transform data into configurable informative reports and dashboards with real-time data.

2. Tableau is a visual analytics tool that transforms how users utilise data to address issues and allows individuals and organisations to maximise their data and develop interactive dashboards. It had a free version with limited functionality.

3. Power BI is an interactive business intelligence tool developed by Microsoft. It combines business analytics and data visualisation and supports an organisation in decision-making. The free PowerBI app has full features but lacks the volume of data it can process.


4. Rocket.BI is an entire suite analytics platform that provides seamless processing power. It integrates data from different sources and visualises your data to create interactive dashboards & Business Intelligence reports. Rocket.BI's open-source version is free to deploy on a Clickhouse server, and the commercial platforms offer a free trial at: https://www.datainsider.co/register.



To make a fair comparison, we will focus only on the visualisation capability of the free option around these aspects: accessibility, data input sources, charting capacity, deep-dive features, user interface, and pricing. We hope this blog helps you evaluate which one will fit your taste.


Accessibility


Looker Studio is a "playground" of Google. We have to agree to the terms set by Google, and all we need is a Google account connected to the tools that require analysis and progress.


Tableau has high compatibility among multiple devices like tablets, mobiles, and laptops. It has the option of creating customised mobile layouts for your dashboard specific to your mobile device.


Power BI supports deployment on desktops, mobile devices, and servers. With this variety, PowerBI allows users to build reports from a computer, upload reports to a server, and view reports from a phone.


Rocket.BI allows users to create an account to log in to the server. Data Insider also supports organisations in deploying an on-premise server.


Conclusion:

Although Power BI and Tableau have desktop versions, they are only helpful for visualising data from a small dataset. Moreover, they require hardware equipment, and Power BI is unavailable on macOS; meanwhile, Tableau's macOS app works less effectively. Power BI can't do anything on the web but view the exported report, and Tableau can only do basic data processing on the web. Therefore, Looker Studio and Rocket.BI is the ideal choice with its complete solution on web-based.


Data input sources


When you create a new report in any data visualisation tool, you either add an existing data source or create and add a new one. You can add more data to the report at any time. Each tool supports connectivity with diverse data sources with different capabilities.


Looker Studio’s connections are free of charge because it’s a growth level traction and adoption for Big Query, one of the leading products of Google Cloud Platform. However, if your data source is not one of the Google services, Looker Studio requires additional ETL effort. Users might purchase third-party connectors to access data from other sources, which means additional costs and maintenance.


Tableau can connect to various data sources, servers, and web connectors. It can link to text files, excel files, CSV files, and multiple databases. However, Tableau is not meant for native connections to large datasets, limiting the data that can be explored. You must have SQL knowledge to create complicated datasets from multiple data sources.


Power BI allows users to connect to numerous data sources and retrieves information in various formats. You can also create custom data connectors by building an API integration. But when dealing with large datasets, especially integrated from external sources, users may experience connection issues, slow performance, or time-outs.


Rocket.BI’s integration capabilities are highly diverse and valuable for those doing analytical work. It allows integration to multiple data sources, both SQL and non-SQL based. One of the most significant advantages of Datainsider Rocket.BI is that it will enable users to automatically collect and update data in its storage without writing a single-line-of code.


Conclusion:

Looker Studio lacks native connector support for some of the most frequently used data sources. Even though there are partner and community-based connectors to cover some of them, these are paid offerings. On the other hand, Power BI, Tableau, and Rocket.BI invest heavily in data integration and connectivity to combine the processing of different data formats.


Charting capacity


Looker Studio supports around 20 types of inbuilt visuals; you can also import more interesting visuals from Looker Studio partners. Even though it is easy to set up basic visualisations in Looker Studio, it does not support the flexibility and customizability offered by other tools such as Metric Funnel, Radar, or Sankey Chart. Many organisations with analytical needs and expert analysts may find Looker Studio lacking in visualisations.


There are 24 different types of charts available in Tableau. In addition to the standard basic charts, Tableau provides many other advanced charts to meet users' needs. But this number is still relatively small for a powerful tool compared to the tools on the market.


Power BI allows users to create interactive visuals from 30 different chart types ranging from basic to advanced. You can also import other charts from the marketplace. However, while other tools offer drag-and-drop options, creating a chart in Power BI requires a lot of mouse-clicking when users edit and config charts through icons and drop-down menus.


Rocket.BI from Data Insider provides 36 charts to meet all user needs in data visualisation. Users can efficiently perform drag-and-drop actions to create charts and fully customisable informative reports. Data Insider also offers a wide range of settings options with ease of use and flexibility, easy to change.


Conclusion:

Looker Studio is the right tool for essential use and is not too complicated. Tableau has a very interactive interface but doesn't support as many charts as other tools. Power BI and Rocket.BI provide more choices to suit many users' purposes.


Deep-dive features


Looker Studio helps enhance work performance within the organization with real-time collaboration and scheduling reports. Users can edit the information in real-time and have all changes automatically saved. You can create a dashboard for your team and schedule the delivery. Looker will automatically notify your client when the report is due. However, Looker Studio lacks analytical features such as drill down, drill through or boost data performance.


Tableau has a helpful feature, predictive analysis and forecast, using time series and forecasting. Creating trend lines and forecasts is straightforward with Tableau’s powerful backend and dynamic front end. To acquire data predictions such as a forecast or a trend line, pick particular parameters and drag-and-drop operations employing your concerned fields.


Power BI provides a Natural Language Q & A feature. This is a question-and-answer box that users can use to ask questions in natural language, and answers get data and information in the Power BI system. Cognitive technology plays a significant role in this Q & A feature and uses rephrasing, autofill, suggestions, and other techniques to meet users' queries.


Rocket.BI allows users to update key metrics in real-time or at chosen intervals. With right-click settings, users can zoom into a specific date range, work with filters, drill down, and drill through the data. Another highlight of the Rocket.BI feature is the dashboard metrics control, allowing viewers to change the data presented dynamically.


Conclusion:

Looker Studio has limited features; it didn't build for schema & data table reviewing. Tableau and PowerBI will require more operations, but you can explore the dataset flexibly. If you are a newbie and need to check the schema here & there to build your dashboard, Rocket.BI will be a perfect choice with built-in capability,


User Interface


Looker Studio is designed to be intuitive and easy to use. The report editor features simple drag-and-drop objects with custom property panels and a snap-to-grid canvas.


Like Looker, Power BI is highly appreciated for data processing and visualisation tools with a lot of convenient and fast drag-and-drop functionality, with features that allow you to copy all formatting across similar visualisations. Power BI has aimed to change the interface uniformly with Microsoft Office, which is familiar to users using Office tools like Excel.


Tableau is one of the favourite tools in the BI industry, with its appealing visualisation capabilities. However, if you're new to data science, you must fully comprehend Tableau's mechanics. The numerous panes and icons could appear very confusing to a beginner.


Rocket.BI interface is intuitive and user-friendly to create and customise the dashboards according to your requirements. It creates a welcoming workspace that encourages you to explore data, create attractive visualisations, and get insightful results. However, some hidden functions cause difficulties for newcomers.


Conclusion:

If you’re looking for uncomplicated, basic data charts, you should use Google Looker Studio. But if you want a plethora of complex, detailed representations, Tableau, Power BI, and Rocket.BI are better options, but their functionality comes at a price. Power BI and Rocket.BI come up with intuitive features, making learning easy. But for Tableau, the interface is not very intuitive; therefore, quite challenging to learn. So, it can be used by experienced data scientists and casual business users.


Advanced Pricing

Looker Studio is free to use for creating and viewing reports, but a paid version called Looker Studio Pro will be available with teamwork and business management solutions and also offering free trials. However, if you need to use more advanced data, you can pay extra fees not through Google but to a third party like coders or install browser extensions.


Tableau is currently divided into plans with prices categorised between connections to files versus third-party applications starting from $12.


Power BI costs less than Tableau, with free version support and monthly subscription plans. In addition, as shared, Power BI is a Microsoft product, so businesses investing in products here can consider using this tool.


Rocket.BI offers plans with competitive rates to help you find one that fits the needs and budget of your business. Moreover, Data Insider Rocket.BI provides free trials with unlimited features, integrations, and visualisation capabilities. Visit https://www.datainsider.co/register to sign up for a free trial and experience full accessibility.


Conclusion:

In terms of free options, Google Looker Studio and Rocket.BI open source will have an advantage over Tableau and Power BI. However, with more complex needs, Rocket.BI commercial Analytics-as-a-Service platform is the clear winner.


Final Conclusion:


Choosing an effective data visualisation tool will depend on the organisation's size, data maturity, budget, and use cases you want to address.


If you mainly use Google-based data sources, such as Google Analytics & Google Ads, you should use Google Looker Studio. It helps generate reports quickly if you are not a data expert. See our article about An Overview of Google Looker Studio


Tableau supports on-premise and cloud-based installation but cannot work with uncleaned data. It's also not user-friendly, and your spending would skyrocket when you opt-in further. Discover more about Tableau here


PowerBI has customisable and interactive dashboards. Power BI also has an active community of power users and employees willing to dive deep into your use case to help you. You can see our article about An Introduction to Microsoft Power BI


Last but not least, if you have more data sources, and require a complicated data workflow with unlimited volume, then Rocket.BI open source is your best choice. See us Introducing Rocket.BI


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