The lowdown data visualization tools

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Data takes shape

What is it? Data visualization tools can plumb the depths of databases and put hard-to-read data tables and unstructured text into graphical, easily understood form.

How do they work? Many tools are contained in business intelligence suites in the form of what are called executive dashboards; they collect and present data gleaned from multiple data sources. Others are extensions of familiar geographical information systems. And still others work as front ends with other vendors' database and business intelligence applications. A fairly new development among some vendors is using the tools to create navigable maps of large databases.

What about server and client platforms? Many of these products work with a variety of operating systems and, on the client side, with a Web browser, or ActiveX or Java plug-in.

Must-know info? Increasing use of Extensible Markup Language and Web services is creating new uses for data visualization tools, as agencies look to get more information from their databases to their Web sites.

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