Software and other tools

To install some of the software below, you will need to alter your Mac security preferences to allow apps authored by developers that are not part of Apple’s ecosystem. Open System Preferences>Security & Privacy, select the General tab and click the lock icon at bottom left to make changes, then allow apps downloaded from Anywhere:


Some of the tools we will use are Firefox add-ons. Ensure that you have the latest version of this popular web browser. Download Firefox, or if already installed, if necessary update to the latest version following these instructions.

Sublime Text or TextWrangler

For some exercises, you will need a text editor optimized for authoring web pages. These are both good options.


Your go-to resource for color schemes to encode data. Web app: no installation required.

Color Oracle

Allows you to simulate the effects of three forms of colorblindness on your screen, to check that your charts and maps do not exclude the color-impaired. Download and move to your Applications folder. When launched, program icon will appear to the right of your menu bar. You can set to start at login under Preferences.

Tableau Public

Visualization software designed for exploratory graphic analysis, which also allows you to create interactive online graphics without JavaScript coding. Download here. You will also need to sign up for a free Tableau Public account.

The Public version of the software requires you to save your visualizations to the open web. However, members of Investigative Reporters and Editors can obtain a license for the Professional version, which allows you to save workbooks on your machine. In any case, I strongly recommend that J-School students join IRE as a student member: it is a leader for training in data journalism.

GitHub Desktop

Point-and-click GUI for version control of your projects, and synching with remote hosting at GitHub. Download from here. You will also need to sign up here for a free GitHub account.


Markdown editor, which will make authoring webpages much easier. Download from here. (If you are already using Markdown, feel free to keep using the editor of your choice.)

Table2Clipboard and DownThemAll!

Two handy Firefox add-ons, which will help you extract data from the web. Install them in Firefox here and here.

Outwit Hub

A tool for scraping data from the web, without the need to write code. Download for free from here.

Open Refine

A powerful tool for data cleaning, once owned by Google, now open source. Download the latest stable version from here. When launched, Open Refine will work in your default web browser; note that your data remains on your computer, and is not uploaded to the web.

Mr. Data Converter

Allows you to convert tabular (spreadsheet/CSV) data to web-friendly formats including JSON. Web app: no installation required.

GPS Visualizer batch geocoder

Allows you to convert addresses to latitude and longitude coordinates. Web app: no installation required; however, you will need to sign up for API keys for the geocoding services it uses.


A sophisticated cloud-based mapping application that also functions as a geospatial database, allowing you to analyze and process geodata. Sign up here for a free account.


The leading open source Geographic Information System, which we will use to make maps and process geodata. Download the latest standard version of QGIS and its requirements from here. Install GDAL and the Matplotlib Python module before installing QGIS itself.

R and R Studio

R is a software environment and programming language for statistical computing and graphics. Download the for OSX from here. R Studio provides a user interface that makes it much easier to use. Download the latest free version of RStudio Desktop from here.

ImageMagick and FFmpeg

ImageMagick is a software library for creating, editing, converting and manipulating images, including animated GIFs. FFmpeg is a software library that records and converts audio and video.

We will use them in conjunction with R to make animated graphics. They take some time to install, so it is important that you do this before class.

Here are the steps for installation: