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Visualizing Data

Ben Fry
Published by O'Reilly Media
ISBN: 978-0-596-51455-6
382 pages
£ 24.99
Published: 4th January 2008
reviewed by Lindsay Marshall
   in the March 2008 issue (pdf), (html)
bookcover  

There are many books on visualising data that show wonderful examples of great visualisations, but none of them provide any useful help for people who have a lump of data that they need to display effectively. Creating great visualisations is a hard job that needs a lot of design skill and a huge chunk of luck to help you find the right way to go. I had hopes that this book would be more helpful but sadly it was not to be. It turns out that this is a manual for a programming environment for creating visualisations called Processing. Now, I have to confess to having never heard of Processing so I searched and found the web page and that

Sounds great and it produces great output, but this book isn't really about creating great output (though it claims to be). It's about the nitty gritty, details of the programming language used to generate the output. It's about the brushstrokes and paints you need to paint the picture not about deciding what to paint or the composition. And the language itself? C. The book says that it is based on Java, but anyone who knows code will look at it and see C. Indeed they will see a sea of C. Page after page of raw code examples.

I'm pretty sure that if you have a need to use Processing then this will be a useful book (though I think it is a little too code heavy for my taste), but it's not what I was looking for, nor will be what many people guessed it to be from the title which really ought to be a bit more up front about the actual content.

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