You may remember the days when you had to draw your own graphs and charts by hand for math or science class. Chances are, your hand-drawn models were less than accurate and not that visually appealing. Nowadays, you can use one of several software programs that will take the data you enter and construct an attractive and precise graph or chart at the touch of a button.
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User-Friendly Options: Excel and Pages
Microsoft Excel and Apple Pages are two popular charting and graphing programs used by college students and teachers in universities, generally because they are user-friendly. For someone who is just starting out with charting and graphing data on the computer, either of these programs would be a smart purchase. Excel and Pages do not produce visually striking or professional-looking graphs, but they are certainly accurate, easy to use and suitable for most college-level projects. In Excel and Pages, you can turn the data you enter into bar graphs, line graphs or pie charts. You can also position these charts or graphs next to a table of information, reinforcing the data through multiple media. Microsoft and Apple provide free tutorials for their respective software packages online, or with purchase.
When graduating to more professional data analysis, consider purchasing software offered by Origin Lab. Origin Lab can work side-by-side with Excel, allowing you to open and use data from your Excel notebooks in the Origin Lab program. By clicking on a single button, the data you've entered is made into a two- or three-dimensional chart or graph. Phys Link notes that Origin Lab software's "features include descriptive statistics, differentiation, integration, filtering, FFT, linear and nonlinear curve fitting, and peak finding." When printed out, the graphs and charts produced by Origin Lab are easy-to-read, professional-looking and detailed.
You may know Adobe Illustrator only as image-editing software, but this is exactly what makes it such an effective tool for creating beautiful charts and graphs. While purchasing this expensive product is not sensible if you only plan to chart and graph data with it, if you possess Adobe Illustrator for other purposes, it will also give you complete control over the appearance of your data. Once you have created a chart or graph, you can use Illustrator to manipulate line weight, grids, colour, layout, typography and more. Illustrator would be a frivolous purchase for those uninterested in graphics, however.
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