2012 IRE Conference Blog

Free tools to tackle almost any task, from data wrangling to photo editing

By Chelsea Sheasley

What’s the best thing a reporter can tell their editor about new data tools? They’re F-R-E-E.

Anthony DeBarros, senior database editor at USA Today and Matt Stiles of NPR’s news applications team shared their top picks for the latest free tools at IRE 2012’s "Free tools panel."

“Free can be very, very good,” DeBarros said. “Sometimes it can be not so good because sometimes you get what you paid for.” Both speakers said the programs can be buggy, but many are also extremely powerful and offer essential data analysis tools.

DeBarros and Stiles’ broke out their top picks by category:

Text editing:

Microsoft Office-like productivity:

Data wrangling (altering formats):

Audio editing

Photo editing

Video editing

Database managers

Data visualization


For a full list of DeBarros & Stiles’ recommendations, see the slides from their presentation

Chelsea Sheasley is a graduate student at Boston University College of Communication.


  • Sharon Machlis: June 15, 2012 at 7:37 a.m.

    Useful list, thanks. If it's helpful, I've posted a chart of free tools specifically for data analysis, visualization and presentation from NICAR 2011 and 2012 at http://cwrld.us/GZfTJP

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