Cross Validated is a question and answer site for people interested in statistics, machine learning, data analysis, data mining, and data visualization. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

What is the best open source data visualization software? I require the following:

  1. Can import data from Microsoft Excel (importing data from Oracle databases would be good too, but this is not mandatory).

  2. Charts generated by the software can be exported to Microsoft PowerPoint (copy and paste is fine with me).

  3. Open source & easy to use.

share|improve this question
Is there a requirement that it run locally on a system? Is there a platform restriction (Win/Mac)? – hrbrmstr Mar 25 '14 at 15:39
matplotlib in Python, ggplot2 in R. Both can export to various formats -- both raster and vector -- but you will need to learn to work with their respective languages. – Marc Claesen Mar 25 '14 at 16:51
What kind of charts are you making? If you are using Excel and powerpoint, why not just use native charts? This way if the data changes, the slides can change relatively easily. Using a third-party solution will mean having to resave data, export, graph, and copy back into a powerpoint. – Lego Stormtroopr Mar 26 '14 at 1:31
I would recommend switching from powerpoint to use auto generated presentations using Rmd and pandoc. Also selecting your data automatically from a database (as you suggest you already do) would greatly streamline your process. Once the data change or if you would like to followup a few weeks after all you have to do it rerun the script. – while Mar 26 '14 at 13:00
up vote 12 down vote accepted

I don't know about "best", but the software environment you're named after fits all your requirements:

share|improve this answer
A non-original quip: The learning curve is steep. If you put in a little effort, you learn a lot. (Otherwise put, it's vital to know which variable is on which axis.) – Nick Cox Mar 25 '14 at 11:57

I think that the best solutions is to use R in combination with R Studio. ( Python with the iPython notebook is another alternative, but not quite as easy or functional as R. )

What works well for me is to use RStudio's.

There are numerous ways to import excel (tabular) data @Nick Stauner provides perhaps the easiest solution using read.csv; the limitation is that this requires the additional step of saving a worksheet as a CSV file. This is not great if your data is spread across multiple sheets. It can get tedious though there are VBA programs for saving all sheets as CSV files. Google for them. Another limitation is getting the types of the variables correct. If you use read.csv, you often have to fix your types after importing in R.

There are a few packages that avoid these problems by allowing you to connect read/write from the spreadsheet directly or by using ODBC. Search on CRAN for excel or odbc to find the relevant one for your situation.

Interms of getting plots into powerpoint, use Rstudio's export plot functions.

export plot > copy plot to clipboard > copy as: metafile captures the plot to the the paste buffer allowing you to paste directly into Power Point.

As far as plotting options, R has numerous. The aforementioned ggplot2 package provides a very powerful interface for creating all sorts of plots. There are additional packages for doing hundreds or thousands of other types of plots/animations/etc. One limitation is that these are often buried in CRAN packages

share|improve this answer

I agree with Nick Stauner on R. And, with a username like "R Learner" I was tempted to not suggest other tools, but there are many. I'll wait to see what the answer to my questions are for more platform-specific ones, but Mondrian is a Java desktop program (so cross-platform) and supports many visualization types that you can easily get into PowerPoint.

share|improve this answer
Thanks all for your suggestion. Definitely I will try those packages in R.@hrbrmstr,yes I want to run it locally in my windows system – R Learner Mar 27 '14 at 6:28

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.