2016 Tool Reviews

Find three digital tools that you might use in your project. Provide a link, a summary, and both positives and negatives.  Include whether it has platform restrictions or limitations. Order the tools from most useful (the one you will demo for the class) to least useful for your project. If that distinction is difficult to make, note why.

Caroline Nawrocki


The first tool, and most useful tool in my opinion that I plan to use in my project is a software called Cytoscape. It is an open-source, Java based software for data visualization. It does not require me to learn additional languages; however, I do think it can help. However, there is plenty I can do without languages. The tool interacts with Excel or csv files–basically spreadsheets. It then takes the info I put in the spreadsheet and I choose how these columns are connected to create a network visualization. It is highly customizable in terms of how you make your design look, but this leads me to the level of challenge Cytoscape will bring me. There is a lot I want to do in terms of topic modeling and I can probably do most of it with Cytoscape. However, it is not a very intuitive software, at least not for me, so I’m definitely going to need to spend a lot of time getting used to it and learning how to make it do what I want. It does visualize the answers to my essential research questions.

Heurist Data Manager

Heurist Data Manager is an open-source online database builder. It does not require outside programming, and makes that a main point of what this is trying to do. It take metadata in spreadsheet form and puts it into a database where you can then create networks, maps, and show relationships between your data. It is customizable in the sense you can do a lot with the visualization of the data and the database adapts easily. It also works well with multiple kinds of web publishing. Like Cytoscape, since it deals with a lot of data it will take some time to get used to manipulating all of my data and messing around with the program so it will be a challenge at first. However, unlike Cytoscape, this program is less geared toward science researchers and also has a lot more helpful tutorials. It also is geared toward non-programmers. This would help visualize my essential research questions. The reason I have this listed second to Cytoscape is because I am more familiar with Cytoscape, but I am curious if Heurist is more fit for me because it is designed for humanists who cannot program.


Neatline is an “exhibit-builder” for humanities work. It does not look like extra languages is necessary to work with the software. In the situation I would want to do, my “data” would be documents that I’d upload. Then, the software would allow me to use those documents as exhibits that would have interactive annotations. It is also customizable and is meant to work as a plug in with Omeka–so I would have to use Omeka as my platform if  I chose to use Neatline. This software does not seem too difficult to use, especially since my ultimate goal with using this software is pretty straightforward. I would only need to upload the various newspaper pages I want to use as exhibits. I will also probably use this only if I have extra time to add things to my digital project. It would not be used to answer my essential research questions, but in fact just enhance my overall visual depiction of my project.

Jillian Fahy



For my website platform I am using Wix, which is an online website creator program that has many tools to generate a webpage. What I am most excited about is the blog page feature that I have been working on. I created three categories using wix for a blog to go along with my map. I have a “project blog”, “importance of species” section and “extinction spotlight”. This blog feature is a really great way to get out information and make the webpage more interactive. For creating the blog section there is a tool that allows you to generate different categories. After you have made categories you can begin building the blog by selecting a category and creating a post. As you created the posts the tool allows you to insert pictures and videos that you can embed right into the text. I really like the way the videos show up as you can play them without even fully opening up the whole post on that topic. I also used the tool to select “Featured Posts” that will show up on the side of my webpage on any page that the user clicks on. I then am able to select which specific posts will show up in this featured section. I have not previously used wix but have found it moderately easy to figure out by simply experimenting and playing around with different buttons on the webpage.

Google Maps


After meeting with John Clark I have gained a bit more knowledge on how to use google maps. This will be very helpful to my project because it will allow me to add layers to a map in order to show change in endangered species over time, as well as add a layer to show urbanization/land clearing data. Although I have not totally mastered Google Maps to date I have future meetings with Mr. Clark to continue learning it further. Using google maps I will be importing geospatial data from the IUCN redlist and converting it to KML files so that google can process it. The maps are very versatile and I will be able to hopefully build several different maps with all of the data I am looking to convey. The con of using google maps is that I will have to generate several different maps and they are not “interactive” in the way that I want them to be. I have found google maps to be very challenging so far and not very versatile in terms of formatting.




I really like the interactive maps and graphs that are generated through Tableau. They change based on where you hover your mouse and what filters you apply. Therefore they can incorporate many different features into one single map. As you change things within either the graph or the map the other visual will change along with it. I really like this feature and think that it is super cool to be able to change what you are seeing through interaction with both the map and the graph. I plan to do something with a chart or graph through tableau however that will depend on my map. I really like the interplay between the graph and table so if I do not make a map with Tableau then I may not end up generating a chart with it. I have never worked with this tool previously and have found it to be rather difficult however I have found the online tutorials to be helpful.

Mila Temnyalova

Google – My Maps

I met with John Clark, who gave me useful insight as to how I should present my map. I am able to create a .cvs dataset of my monuments and import it into a custom-created map. I will not be able to create a historic map, however, there is a variety of different styles in which the map can be presented. Regardless of similar limitations, I have the opportunity to color-code the map points. For instance, if I have a dataset of 300 monuments, the 100 demolished ones will be the ”red” points, the 10 that I will use as case studies to prove my thesis statement will be ”blue” points, and the rest will be ”white” points. This all comes with a legend, which will make navigating the map quite useful. Furthermore, I am able to give the readers more information, as clicking on one of the points will generate a photograph (if available), as well as information about when the monument was built, and the history behind it. Because the pop-up information allows the inclusion of link, for my case studies, I can include a link to a blog post, which will involve more detailed information. Overall, there are some limitations, but it is a pretty neat tool!

Harvard – World Map

Harvard’s World Map tool is one I found during my project review task. It creates beautiful, layered maps, but the tool is still in beta testing, so the developers are cautious of glitches that may occur. The fact that WorldMap is still under constructions means that I will most likely not use this tool, but I believe that when it is finished and officially ready to use, it will be like an upgraded version of Google’s My Maps. What I particularly like is the options for viewers to choose which layers are displayed: that being said, while in My Maps you cannot choose only one of the color-codes to appear (for better localization if it’s a large dataset), in World Map that is completely possible – if my viewers wanted to see the 10 blue-coded case studies that I will be examining on the map, without having to zoom in because the other white and red dots will be clouding the blue ones, this is the perfect tool.


This is an online data visualization and exhibition platform. At this point I am not sure if I will use Silk or WordPress: I feel like Silk is very convenient in terms of creating collections, maps and graphs, but I don’t find myself enjoying the design of the site itself. Although the creation of maps and graphs would be very  convenient for me, as I wouldn’t even have to embed them into my site since they would be automatically included… from demo sites I have viewed, it lacks the blog-type feel that I also want my platform to have. This seems like endless scrolling! I am currently trying to see if I will be able to create a graph or map on Silk and then embed it on another platform – but so far, that seems impossible.

Johnny Gossick

Timeline JS – https://timeline.knightlab.com

Timeline JS is a free and easy to use tool for making embedded timelines.  Users create their own timeline by filling in one of Timeline JS’s templates on a google sheet.  The data from this sheet is taken by Timeline JS and fashioned into an embeddable I-frame link.  Users can add text and embed a link to a picture, soundcloud file, tweet, youtube video and more in each major  timeline date.   Timeline JS is minimally adjustable; users can adjust height, width, set language, fonts, starting slide and more on the homepage.  Timeline JS is visually refined and very beautiful.  It presents information in a simple intuitive manner, allowing the user to add eras as well as important dates. It does not work with WordPress without a plugin and can awkwardly format text if there is a lot of text and a small media file.  This tool is easily learnable, but I still have to figure out how to customize its themes to make my project more aesthetically pleasing.  It helps answer my research question by presenting an easily accessible narrative of synthesizer technology development.

Scalar-  http://scalar.usc.edu

Scalar is a free and easy to use open source authoring and publishing platform.  It uses metadata and lets the user link any form of media or text to anywhere else in the scalar “book.” For this reason, it is ideal for creating a semi-linear narrative in which one main path is suggested but the user is easily able to navigate elsewhere.  The tool does not require me to learn any other languages, however, it can be customized using CSS and Javascript knowledge.  This option will challenge me when trying to customize my project’s theme.  In the meantime, adding text, data, and paths have been a relatively simple process.  I have embedded a timeline JS prototype into my scalar book using an I-frame with no trouble.  Scalar is great at creating a semi-linear narrative, which I have decided is the best format for my research question.  The only real drawback is the url name hosted by USC.

Souncloud- https://soundcloud.com

Soundcloud is an online platform for hosting audio files online.  It is free with a certain number of minutes online and can be easily embedded using its attractive web player formant.  It is minimally customizable, with the option of adding thumbnail images or descriptions.  There is no learning curve to this tool for me, but it will be valuable in hosting the sound files for my compositions and audio examples.

William Gordon


GitHub is a website for people to write and share code. It can also be used to host websites. The great thing about GitHub is that it’s totally open-sourced and based on the idea of collaboration with other coders—making it fit perfectly with one of the major tenets of the digital humanities. Coders make “repositories” for their projects—which are essentially folders, like the kind you might find a computer. Then, they can create branches to these repositories to work on edits for their project before they implement them into their final project. If another coder wants to improve your work, he or she can pull your code and work on it, and then send it back to you with a message on what changes they made. After that, you can choose whether or not you want to accept these changes.

The amount of freedom one can have with GitHub will also make things more difficult for me. I will have to relearn a lot of HTML/CSS in order to produce a website. I plan on making the site fairly simplistic, but it will still look nice. I’m excited to develop my skills working with HTML/CSS further, even though I recognize that it will be a challenge.


MALLET is a way to perform topic modeling. It’s the same program Cameron Belvins used when he topic modeled Martha Ballard’s diary. After getting a corpus of text, I can input it into the program and it will produce a list of words that come up for each “theme” or “topic” and the frequency for which they appear in each document. Since each document in my project will be written by a certain justice, I will be able to use this tool to see which documents resemble what theme.

One problem with MALLET is that it is absolutely not intuitive. The user must run it from the control panel on Windows (or Mac), and make all the commands from there. For someone not used to this—like me—it can take some getting used to. After running through a tutorial online from The Programming Historian, I was able to do topic modeling for the sample texts the program came with. Still, it took a bit of time to get the hang of it—and it will still take some more getting used to.


This allows the user to create interactive graphs, charts, maps, timetables and more for his or her website. I want to make interactive graphs that show word frequency in my project, so I will use it for that. To do this, I can put the data I want to use in a Google spreadsheet, put the link to the spreadsheet in the template for the graph, create the graph and embed it on my website. This site is really intuitive and, by the looks of it, easy to use. It seems like the only challenge I may face is actually embedding the chart into my site—which will be more of a challenge of my HTML/CSS skills rather than the website itself.

Tawfiq Alhamedi

Omeka is the platform I will be using for my project. With Omeka I was able to create a decent looking homepage and set up different tabs for the array of information I intend to provide. While the themes Omeka provide look a little dated, once the exhibits are created they are pretty easy to navigate for viewers which is a benefit. For my project, the first couple of tabs are to be introductory and provide background information and pictures relating to the Hadrami diaspora, Hadrami social systems, and Indian Ocean trade routes in order for users to better understand the interactive map which will be the highlight of my site. The interactive map will be made using Neatline, which is a plug-in for Omeka. Making a tab on my site where an interactive map and corresponding timeline is shown was fairly easy. However, I ran into trouble in terms of actually inputting data points on the timeline or map, but that was more due to my lack of knowledge rather than the functions of Neatline itself. Nonetheless, from the project I reviewed that used Neatline, the potential of this tool is obvious and definitely worthwhile. As I want my interactive map to be oriented in a way that places Hadramawt in the focal point, I will be creating my own map using ArcGIS and then I will import the image of the map into Neatline where it can be georeferenced. Given that Neatline offers this option, it will be extremely useful for me to convey broader points about presenting an alternate worldview. Ultimately, I think there is potential for Omeka in creating an easy to use, minimalistic website; Neatline as well has much to offer in terms of making an attractive interactive map and timeline.

Myhistro is a free site that allows you to make an interactive map, using GoogleMaps, and a timeline that is connected to the different markers you add on the map. Having both tools in one is definitely a huge benefit, especially for a free site. Entering data points is fairly easy and doesn’t require the knowledge of any coding languages. It is very easy to use and does the job that Neatline can except for being able to import your own map. You are able make markers, draw lines, and make polygons that can all be linked to a date or time span on the timeline. Pictures can be attached to these different points of data to add more visual context to the map, which is helpful. The map can easily be embedded onto a platform that the creator would like to use. While the functionality of the interactive map and timeline is useful, there isn’t much room for customization of the fonts or color way for the timeline and header, which looks fairly bland. Overall, this tool is useful for its purposes but the lack of customization is definitely a drawback.

Timeglider is another free tool that allows a person to make a timeline fairly simply with little to no knowledge of coding languages, which is a benefit. The timeline looks really nice when data points are added in, especially with pictures. All the pictures are displayed at the top of the timeline and under it are the data markers than can be single dates or a range of years. When you click on a data point, a description and picture pops up which has a nice display. While the visuals are certainly better than that of Myhistro, unfortunately the timeline is too precise and needs specific dates and hours, which for my project is unrealistic given the time period. Myhistro, on the other hand, lets you put in a specific date and time if you prefer but it also allows you to only type in a year or a time span of years if the data point isn’t as precise. Another cool feature of Timeglider is that you can alter the size of the font of an event based on how important you feel it is. So key events can be made a much larger font than other events that aren’t as important. This is all presented in a way that doesn’t get too messy. You can also alter the zoom on the timeline, which is helpful because initially the timeline was separated by days. For my project I would change the scale to decades which is most appropriate for the time period I’m covering, which I was able to do. While the display is really appealing and it serves its purpose as a timeline, getting the timeline to sync with regions and cities on a separate map tool would take advanced coding knowledge which I do not have.

Abdul Manan



A helpful, interactive timeline oriented application, Neatline offers an impressive repertoire of timeline features. The application allows one to put scanned copies or digital pictures of actual documents that are accompanied with a timeline. I deem it appropriate for my project primarily due to its uncomplicated timeline structure and the space for the visual representation of documents. Considering the translation segment of my project, the space to put up a scanned copy of original documents written in Persian is very enticing. Also, Neatline offers space to write a small write up explaining the document, which in my case would prove crucial.



Using scalar one can create a book like project which can prove quite academic friendly. Given the complexities of my project and the various layers of analyses, the separate ‘chapters’ that scalar lets one create provide a useful template to build a project on. Each of the chapters also provide space for multimedia (pictures or links or videos) with additional space for a write up, all of it in a rather attractive theme. This suites my project well in two ways – helps allocate  each political institution as its own chapter and allows space for a brief translation. Another immensely useful feature of scalar is the “path” option that allows for an interactive flowchart like presentation, I could use that to mark the political structure. The space also imbibes the feature of embedding pictures and text within the various ‘points’ on the path.



I initially spotted it while reviewing a project almost exactly like mine, a flowchart that explained the political structure of the Kurdish Government. The application helps one create, on a template, an interactive chart that is quite convenient for technologically illiterate users like myself. The classification and presentation of the chart is clear and concise. One can hover the cursor over a particular segment on the chart and a small write up appears, which I could use to explain the working of the institutions. A heavy drawback of the tool is that its free version is extremely basic with little levy to tailor it to my project. The version that could satisfy the specifications of my project requires a hefty amount for subscription.

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