The idea of Figular came from frustration in trying to produce attractive, data-heavy reports that can evolve through collaboration. In my experience good-looking reports are hard to change and usually the work of a small number of people, due to the skills involved.
This problem seems to fall into a gap between software that produces good-looking documents and software that produces good-looking data visualisations. Document markup and programming libraries such as Mermaid, LaTeX and D3 can help bridge this divide. However they trade power and flexibility against ease-of-use. This means a choice between learning a tool that’s powerful but complicated or one that’s simple but limited.
I want Figular to allow:
The focus on wide reuse is what makes Figular different. Many visualisations that are simple in concept are time-consuming to produce:
Some of these visualisations are well served by niche applications but they often necessarily have too narrow a focus. I want a system that can produce visualisation generators for any kind of diagram that anyone can use.
The final ingredient is complete control over the style and composition of the generated visualisations. If every part of a visual can be tweaked then reuse increases. If different visualisations can be combined in grids and custom layouts then we don’t need to jump between tools to finish a job.
Ultimately I hope that Figular will allow people to focus on their ideas rather than overcoming the mechanics of their expression.
I am inspired by the universe of open source projects that scratch an itch and bring useful tools to a wide audience. For Figular to be a success it needs a healthy community that is sharing visualisations and improving the tool for the long-term. This means focussing not just on technical matters but giving equal weight to the practices that foster a sustainable effort.