TitleBodyTechnical Expertise RequiredCostAdditional Information
Adobe Illustrator

Professional standard software for creating original vector-based graphics. Includes powerful drawing tools and brushes.

The ai file format is a common vector format for exchange and its feature set allows creation of complex vector artwork. Illustrator imports over two dozen formats (including PDF and SVG). Of particular use to data visualization is importation of SVG, or scalar vector graphics, which is an W3C recommendation, and is often exported from other programs.

No programmingCost-basis

There are many extensions and plug-ins available for customizing this software, including those at the following link: http://www.adobe.com/products/illustrator/extend.html

Adobe Photoshop

Photoshop is a comprehensive photo editing tool produced by Adobe Systems. Users can manipulate photos, graphics, and other raster images using a variety of tools and predefined filters. Photoshop also allows users to record specific photo editing steps, which allows for automated batch processing. Photoshop is available as a stand-alone product, but is also part of Adobe's "Creative Suite" family of products. Photoshop Extended is an enhancement to Photoshop, and provides for enhanced 3D creation and editing.

No programmingCost-basis

Gallery is a web-based image management system characterized as a "photo album organizer." Typical uses are to display collections of photographs on a web page. Index pages allow users to view small "thumbnail" versions of images, with the ability to zoom in to see images. Image upload capabilities and searching are also supported.

Written in the PHP programming language, there are several versions (1,2 and 3) of Gallery available and still undergoing development. They differ slightly in their capabilities and in the type of database used. Gallery 1 uses an integrated file-based database system, Gallery 2 & 3 use an external database (e.g., MySQL).

No programmingFree
GIMP (Graphical Image Manipulation Program)

GIMP is an open source and free alternative to Photoshop. It is intended for use with Raster graphics, and can be used for creating new images, retouching photographic images and converting files to different file types. Gimp supports most image file types as well as other graphical image manipulation program file types. It is also possible to create custom scripts to automate a variety of tasks.

No programmingFree
Google Earth

Google Earth is a flexible mapping and display tool that is installed on a local computer, and accesses on-line data sources provided by Google. These data sources include aerial imagery at a variety of scales and additional data hosted by Google. The user needs to have internet access to view the data provided by Google. Once Google Earth is installed it allows the user to "zoom in" and view satellite and photographic images on any place in the world. The user can also change the perspective of their view to panoramic, and they can "fly" from one area of the globe to others as if in an airplane. It includes 3-D representations of topography and, of buildings (for selected areas), and provides street view photography for some locations. It includes links to a large number of external services that provide additional information, such as photos of points of interest. Time-controls allow you to select imagery from a number of different years for analyses of landscape change.

If you download or are given a file in KML or KMZ format, you can set your local computer preferences to automatically start Google Earth when the file is "clicked".

In addition to its display capabilities, Google Earth can also be used to create data through on-screen digitizing. It produces KML/KMZ files that can then be used with other GIS products such as Google Maps, ArcGlobe and ArcMap.

A limited version of Google Earth is available for mobile devices such as cell phones.

Google Earth is free, but professional versions that include additional capabilities are available for purchase.

No programmingFree

Users can convert GIS to KML/KMZ through tools available within standard GIS software projects.


ImageJ is an open-source, Java-based image processing and display tool. It can read and write images in GIF, JPEG, BMP, PNG, PGM, FITS, ASCII and TIFF formats. Editing capabilities include image enhancement (e.g., smoothing, sharpening, edge detection, median filtering and thresholding), image manipulation (e.g., crop, scale, resize, rotate and flip) and even analyses (e.g., area measurement, mean brightness, standard deviation, min and max brightness and measurement of lengths and angles). A "macro" feature allows automation of processing tasks and a library of previously-created macros is available. Similarly, a library of "plugins" allows additional capabilities to be added.

No programmingFree

ImageMagick is a collection of command-line tools for manipulating image data. It is capable of working with over 100 different image formats and has interfaces that allow it to be used from within programs as well. Capabilities include the ability to resize, flip, mirror, rotate, distort, shear and transform images. You can also adjust image colors, apply various special effects, or draw text, lines, polygons, ellipses and B├ęzier curves. It also can be used to mosaic or stack images. It has minimal image-display capabilities, but is a powerful tool for automating image processing tasks.

No programmingFree

MetaMorph is an industry standard image analysis suite and capture platform.

The MetaMorph software suite supports a wide array of microscopes, cameras, and precision stages used in bioresearch. The software provides acquisition, processing, and analysis features that allow researchers to build custom imaging systems for solving experimental problems in cellular imaging.

No programmingCost-basis
Microsoft PowerPoint

PowerPoint is commercial presentation software that is part of the Microsoft Office suite. PowerPoint presentations consist of a number of individual pages or "slides". Slides may contain text, graphics, sound, animation, movies, and other objects. The presentation can be printed (with or without speaker notes), displayed or projected live by computer, or exported as an animated movie. Slides can also form the basis of webcasts.
In order to view PowerPoint files, the user either must have PowerPoint installed or have the free PowerPoint Viewer installed.

No programmingCost-basis

Photofiltre is a simple, free image editing application that offers the standard adjustment functions (Brightness, contrast, dyed, saturation, gamma correction), layers, and also artistic filters (watercolor, pastels, Indian ink, pointillism, puzzle effect). Photofiltre can also use Photoshop plug-ins.

No programmingFree