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Visualize This: The FlowingData Guide to Design, Visualization, and Statistics by Nathan Yau

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Programming

This can’t be stressed enough: Gain just a little bit of programming skills, and you can do so much more with data than if you were to stick only with out-of-the-box software. Programming skills give you the ability to be more flexible and more able to adapt to different types of data.

If you’ve ever been impressed by a data graphic that looked custom-made, most likely it was coded or designed in illustrative software. A lot of the time it’s both. The latter is covered a little later.

Code can look cryptic to beginners—I’ve been there. But think of it as a new language because that’s what it is. Each line of code tells the computer to do something. Your computer doesn’t understand the way you talk to your friends, so you have to talk to the computer in its own language or syntax.

Like any language, you can’t immediately start a conversation. Start with the basics first and then work your way up. Before you know it, you’ll be coding. The cool thing about programming is that after you learn one language, it’s much easier to learn others because the logic is similar.

Options

So you decide to get your hands dirty with code—good for you. A lot of options are freely available. Some languages are better at performing certain tasks better than others. Some solutions can handle large amounts of data, whereas others are not as robust in that department but can produce much better visuals or provide interaction. Which language you use largely depends on what your goals are for ...

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