TitleBodyTechnical Expertise RequiredCostAdditional Information
3D World Studio

3D World Studio is a modeling program useful for visualizing real world data utilizing tools developed within computer gaming environments. The program allows you to create buildings and terrain and export your visualization into a variety of formats.


Standard license is $49.95
Requirement: OpenGL capable graphics card, 500 mb RAM, 20 mb free hard drive space

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

"Amber" refers to two things: a set of molecular mechanical force fields for the simulation of biomolecules (Amber) and a package of molecular simulation programs which includes source code and demos (AmberTools).

Basic programming skillsCost-basis
ArcGIS Desktop

ArcGIS Desktop is a collection of software products for building complete geographic information systems (GIS). produced by Esri. ArcGIS Desktop 9 provides an integrated GIS, combining object-oriented and traditional file-based data models with a set of tools to create and work with geographic data. The following three applications comprise the ArcGIS Desktop software suite:

  • ArcMap (mapping and data manipulation): ArcMap is a map-authoring application
  • ArcCatalog (data management): shared ArcGIS application that allows you to organize and access all GIS information (e.g., maps, globes, datasets, models, metadata, and services). Includes tools for browsing and finding geographic information; recording, viewing, and managing metadata; viewing datasets; and defining the schema structure of the object-based geographic datasets.
  • ArcToolbox (data conversion, modeling, and spatial analysis): includes tools to do geographic feature overlay, feature selection and analysis, topology processing, and data conversion resulting in an output dataset. The geoprocessing framework allows you to use each geoprocessing function in a variety of ways. The tools can be used directly from a dialog, executed via command line, combined with other processes in visual models using Model Builder, or used in advanced scripts.
Basic programming skillsCost-basis
  • http://www.esri.com/software/arcgis/index.html
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ArcGIS

Asymptote is a vector graphics language that can be used for technical drawing.

Being a language, it gives ultimate control to the user. Typesetting of labels and equations is done by LaTeX, which produces high-quality PostScript output. It provides a portable standard for typesetting mathematical figures and generates output in PostScript, PDF, SVG, or 3D PRC vector graphics.

Basic programming skillsFree

Wikipedia entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asymptote_%28vector_graphics_language%29

DBDesigner 4

DBDesigner 4 is an open source visual data design application that includes functionality for database design and data modeling. It is primarily designed for use with the Open Source database platform MySQL. It includes specific functionality for database and data design including documentation, Structured Query Language (SQL), and reverse database engineering for any ODBC-compatible database. For the MySQL database platform DBDesigner has largely been succeeded by MySQL Workbench which is an integrated development environment (IDE) .

No programmingFree
ESRI ArcGIS Explorer

ArcGIS Explorer is a geographical information system (GIS) viewer to explore, visualize, and share GIS information. It provides a freely-distributable way to share products produced by ESRI's commercial products.

There are two versions: one for the desktop, the other on-line. The on-line version includes support for time-enabled maps.

No programmingFree

There is a free SDK available for download.

ESRI ArcGIS Server

ArcGIS Server is a component of the ESRI suite of commercial software focused on the ability to create, manage, and distribute GIS services over the Web to support desktop, mobile and Web mapping applications.

The user can choose from Basic, Standard, or Advanced editions of ArcGIS Server. Costs vary depending on the level of service required.


Available in the cloud computing environment: http://www.esri.com/software/arcgis/arcgisserver/cloud.html.
This software is included on many university ESRI site licenses
Esri and the Esri Logo are licensed trademarks of Environmental Systems Research Institute, Inc.


ESRI provides three application program interfaces (API) for embedding Internet mapping capabilities into websites. The JavaScript API requires only a text editor, while the Silverlight/WPF and Flex versions may require additional licensing/software (see additional information below). These applications can be used with many online GIS web services, including several offered free of charge at ArcGIS.com.

Basic programming skillsFree