I'm looking for a tool that will allow me to make what I would call a 'social network diagram', but which likely has some proper name that I don't know of. The 'social' part may not be relevant as some generic network diagram may be just fine, as long as the below requirements are met. I want to make a diagram of nodes connected with lines, representing people connected by their acquantancies. It's for quickly getting an overview of a network, who's connected to certain individuals, and what data is available on a specific person. Network analysis is not a goal, quick referencing is.

It's for private hobby use, and the data set is limited (a couple of hundred persons at the most, with relatively few connections, mostly 1-3 per person). As a result, I'm not keen on spending much, so free, open source apps are preferred.

At the least, I need to be able to:

  • Automatically populate the diagram with data directly from a spreadsheet or database (I currently have data in excel, but it can be converted)
  • Set thumbnail images (of the person) on each node, and add a label to each (name and title)
  • Manipulate the position of nodes on the diagram.
  • Link from the nodes (with mouse click) to a separate page with information on the person of each node.

The last requirement leads me to the thought that the diagram should be browser based, but there may be other options i'm not aware of.

I'm out of my normal turf here, so a not too steep learning curve would be nice, but not a must.

I've looked around for the options, and I can supply what I've considered, but would prefer not to bias you guys' answers with my own inexperienced ideas, as I may have started off in the wrong direction.

I hope the above makes sense and I remembered everything, but please ask if I need to clarify any of the above, and thanks in advance for any advice or suggestions!

Kind regards, John

1 Answer 1


I think the biggest question here is: do you want a tool to code or not?

From your description I assume you don't, but it's best to be clear since the beginning.

In case you don't want to code, and use a Free and Open Source tool I may recommend these two:

  • Gephi -> https://gephi.org/
    • It imports your excel document and let you customize the network visualization. Not social media specific, it's rather generic to networks.
  • NodeXL -> http://nodexl.codeplex.com/
    • It is mostly dedicated to Social Networks, and it can be integrated into Excel.

If you want to perform something more advanced, such writing queries to your dataset, I may recommend having a look to a graph database. In this case you may have to follow an import process (more/less complex depending on some design choices of your document) before visualize the data. On the other hand once imported you can perform advanced queries to your data.

Relevant graph DBs are:

  • Neo4J -> https://neo4j.com/
    • Easy to setup and good documentation for data import. Free for personal use.
    • It has a powerful data visualization interface.
    • It has a specific and elegant query language
  • OrientDB -> http://orientdb.com/orientdb/
    • Like the one above, but always free.
    • It has a SQL-like query language

For more graph db options have a look to the Wikipedia page. I just proposed the two mainstreams.

  • yes, you're right, I would basically avoid coding, not that it would deter me, but that would likely add another layer to the learning curve. I will look into your suggestions soon, but seeing that no other answers have come up in half a year, I'll mark yours as the answer! Thanks for taking the effort of answering an old (but not forgotten or obsolete) question!
    – JoeyLom
    Jun 11, 2017 at 19:08

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