Tools For Creating Visualizations

This page provides information on a number of tools used to create visualizations. We are developing this resource to help you if you are trying to decide what tool to use to build a visualization, or if you just want to know more about the wide array of tools available and how they differ.
If you are willing to detail one of the undescribed tools listed here or one that we don't have listed, please send an email to

Jump down to Tools that Everybody Can Use * Tools for the Middle-Ground User * Tools for the High-End User

Tools that Everybody Can Use

  • ArcGIS:
  • Grass:
  • Java:
  • MicroDEM: MicroDEM is a microcomputer GIS mapping program geared toward geoscience instructors.
  • OpenDX: OpenDX allows users to freely create, distribute, and develop visualization solutions.
  • Powerpoint: Powerpoint is a standard program for putting together slideshows of images, animations, and text.
  • QuickTime: QuickTime movies can display, edit, and manipulate many types of multimedia formats including video, images and audio. QuickTime movies may also consist of scenes created using 3-D applications like Bryce.

Tools for the 'Middle-Ground' User

  • Bryce:
  • CrystalMaker: CrystalMaker is a commercial program for Mac or PC. It comes with a database of structures and can read structure files in several formats, including those on MSA's website (
  • Director: Director is used to create and building rich content and applications for CDs, DVDs, kiosks, and the Internet.
  • Director IDL Plugin:
  • Flash: Flash allows users to build rich, effective applications for e-commerce, corporate intranets and more.
  • Fledermaus and iView3D:This is an interactive 3D data visualization system that is used for a variety of applications including environmental impact assessment, mining, geology, oceanography, and research. iView3D is a free viewer for files in the Fledermaus file format. This program contains the basic viewing capabilities of Fledermaus but is freely downloadable.
  • Google Earth: Google Earth is a popular "naive GIS" program that is available free for download. This virtual globe allows users to mark places, view topographic overlays and conduct virtual field trips and flyovers.
  • World Builder:
  • World Construction Set:

Tools for the High-Level User

  • AVS:
  • Blender: a high-level program for 3-D modeling and animations (compiled by David Hirsch)
  • GeoFusion:
  • GOCAD:
  • IDL:
  • IDV Unidata/UCAR: The UNIDATA Integrated Data Viewer (IDV) is a discipline specific visualization package for Meteorology.
  • IESX:
  • Mathmatica:
  • Matlab:
  • TGS Amira:
  • Viz5D/VizAD Wisconsin:
  • VPython: Vpython is an extension to python and allows for the easy creation of 3-D objects that can be viewed as perspective renderings, red-cyan stereo images, or exported to a GeoWall. Binaries for all major platforms are available at
  • VoxelGEO:
  • Walkabout UIC:
  • XtalDraw (more info) : XtalDraw is a Windows-based program for drawing crystal structures. The site also describes how to obtain data files from the Mineralogical Society of America (MSA) crystal structure database, maintained by Bob Downs.