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Guest blog post by Dante Munnis

Digging through messy data and doing numerous calculations just so you can submit a report or arrive at the result of your quarterly business development can sometimes be nigh impossible. After all, we are only human, and by the time we get to the other side of our spreadsheet equation, we have lost all sense of what we were trying to accomplish.

Luckily, there are data visualization and analysis tools out there that can do most of the heavy lifting for us. Remember, you will still need to do some of the work yourself, but putting it all together will become that much simpler. Let’s take a look at some of the best data analysis tools at our disposal.

1. Open Refine

At first, you might be surprised as to how much Open Refine resembles Google’s own Spread Sheets. This is because it started as a Google project but quickly became crowd sourced and independent. In practice, this means that Open Refine has all the built-in algorithms and formulas that you might need for your business data analysis.

Keep in mind that while it does resemble Spread Sheets, it doesn’t have the regular features you would expect, such as manual cell manipulation and custom algorithms. You would need to export your data and bring it back in. If that doesn’t cause too much headache, you might want to give Open Refine a shot.

2. Data Wrangler

Stanford University’s own data analysis tool is open to public use. While text manipulation and web-based interface is certainly a plus, you might consider the other factors as well. Some of the formulas provided as default don’t work really well with large amounts of data, often giving off false results or downright crashing the tool. While easy and accessible to use, Data Wrangler might not be a good tool for internal and sensitive data, since all of the data is stored at Stanford for research purposes.

3. Rapid Miner

As one of the best data visualization tools out there, Rapid Miner had to find its way to our list. It can not only manipulate and calculate custom data, analyze the required results but also model and visualize the results. This award-winning tool is known to provide great results no matter the data you are trying to analyze.

The near-perfect visualization system is just an added bonus considering everything that you are getting. If you need a tool that can help you lead and develop projects with coworkers that are less than adept at analysis, Rapid Miner is the perfect tool for the job.

4. Wolfram Alpha

Ever wonder how it would feel like if you had a personal computing assistant? Wolfram Alpha is exactly one such platform. Think of Google Search but for business analytics and data research. Whatever your field of work and specifics needs, you can be sure that Wolfram will make sense of it and help you decode any problems that you might be experiencing.

5. Solver

Sometimes you don’t need external apps or web services for your data analysis. Solver is one such addition to your Excel spread sheets. Offering a vast variety of optimization and programming algorithms, Solver will help you make sense of your data at a much faster rate than you otherwise would. It’s light, fast and easy to use, so there’s no reason not to give it a shot. Keep in mind that Solver won’t be able to make sense of more complex and demanding analysis tasks, so make sure that you use it in a smart way.

6. Google Fusion Tables

While it may not be the most versatile or complex tool on the web, Fusion Tables is one of the most accessible data visualization services out there. The best thing about it is that it is free to use and very approachable, so there’s no need for spending hours on end learning about what’s what. You can visualize your data in any shape or form you desire. Just keep in mind that you can use this tool of simple calculations and not vast sprawling data analysis tasks.

7. Zoho Reports

You might have heard about Zoho, since it’s one of the most popular business data analysis tools on the web. It’s fairly easy to get into and use, requiring only a simple log-in and data input. Use Zoho to quickly and professionally turn your data into charts, tables and pivots in order to use them for further research.

8. NodeXL

Taking the best from both worlds, Node XL is simple to use and fairly advanced in it’s algorithm possibilities. You can not only analyze and visualize raw data, but use it to develop and visualize networks and relations between different results. While some of the features might be too advanced for everyday data analysis, NodeXL is the perfect tool for more complex tasks.

9. Google Chart Tools

Another Google tool on our list that provides visualization and analysis but doesn’t focus on raw data. Instead, you can point the tool at different sources on the web and make ends meet in the visualized charts, analyzing outsourced data in order to get the results that you need. While it’s very useful and provides accurate data, Google Chart Tools isn’t very user friendly, requiring a bit of programming knowledge in order to fully utilize it’s capabilities.

10. Time Flow

Data analysis sometimes requires a different kind of visualization. Time Flow is a tool that can analyze and visualize time points and create a data map that provides a clear picture of how and when your specific data developed. While it does sound complex, the tool itself is fairly easy to use and allows a plethora of customization options. Use Time Flow whenever you need to create timelines and streamline your data.

About author: Dante Munnis is a media and marketing expert currently working at Essay Republic. He shares ideas and experience on how to build your brand and attract more customers

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