I stumbled across this web site while looking for an alternative to Excel’s graphing features. While I’m not displeased with Excel, it would just be nice to have access to a graphing program that (A) doesn’t cost money, (B) can be accessed via the Internet so there’s no software to install, but still provides (C) a multitude of options for graph types and features. The National Center for Educational Statistics provides just such a tool with Create A Graph. The web site allows the creation of five different types of graphs (including “XY” coordinate graphs). For those of you that may laugh at the limited amount (compared to Excel), I’ve found that bar, pie, and line graphs are almost all I ever use in Science, so I was quite pleased with the selection.
Back to the point, the web site gives users the same options as Excel for shading, 3D effects on bars, and positioning the legend (so students are disappointed). The graphing tool also allows for multiple data sets (up to 6 in some cases) and a maximum of 50 pieces of data for each set (so teachers aren’t disappointed). A very robust and easy to use interface makes changing the maximum and minimum values of the data easy, as well as selecting colors, providing the title, and adding a source for the data. Labeling and previewing the graph is simple, with side tabs allowing you to move between both easily instead of having to open up another window or control panel as in Excel. An extra bonus of the graphing tool is that when complete not only do you have the option to print out the graph, but you can also download it (for free!) in a number of formats including PDF, JPG (for an image on a web site), or EMF for use as clip art in a Word document.
I’m excited about creating images from our graphs to place in web site projects, but more importantly this is a great tool that students, or anyone for that matter, can use at home without having yet been introduced to Excel. I’m contemplating using this tool more and moving away from Excel because it’s much easier to use, and graphs can be saved for up to 30 days online, allowing them to be saved and worked on again for week or month long projects.
P.S. I’ll put the link in the Fresh Links so it’s easier to find.