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Christina's LIS Rant
Friday, December 19, 2008
  Initial thoughts on NodeXL
NodeXL is a project from Microsoft and collaborators to bring some decent social network analysis tools to the masses - that is, the masses who have access to Microsoft Office. It's not supposed to be the most powerful thing on the planet, but functional for people who are comfortable in Excel and aren't comfortable either programming or using one of the other SNA tools (primarily UCInet and Pajek).

My very quick take
1) still a PITA to install and run (go ahead and get .net 3.5 sp1 first, reboot, then install it)
2) good idea - a lot of potential
3) easy to make attractive pictures - a lot more difficult to actually get the picture to show the information I want -- specifically, I can't seem to label the nodes (I can't get it to put the info that is in column a in the secondary label column for love nor money and I am Excel functional), nor size them by centrality measure (this is a very standard thing to do)
4) very nice that it sucks Pajek .net files in without issues (this was an old network I had sitting around)
5) it's nice you can click on a vertex in the spreadsheet and it will be highlighted on the graph
6) it's not good that changing the colors of the nodes actually triggers it to rearrange them (grrr)
7) apparently you can use equations to change colors and stuff - I haven't tried that yet.

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Comments:
Hello!

Thank you for the interest in NodeXL!

I'd like to respond to your comments:

[1] Installation does depend on .Net 3.5 AND the VSTO package. Systems with these features already installed (many do) will not need a reboot to install NodeXL. All subsequent updates should install without installing other components first.

[2] Thanks! We are delighted to see NodeXL be useful for people interested in directed graph analysis.

[3] Labels can be applied by copying vertex names (or other text) to any of the label columns: Primary Label, Secondary Label and Tooltip. The "Auto-fill columns" feature will allow you to populate labels and map other data to display attributes easily. Node size and edge width can be set by any value you have in the spreadsheet. An easy way to do this is to use the "Auto-fill columns" feature and set Vertex Size to one of the variables in your network.

[4] Our Pajek support remains minimal (some network attributes are ignored, FYI). We are interested in hearing how important full support for Pajek files and other network file formats is to the community. Feel free to post comments or feature requests to http://www.codeplex.com/nodexl

[5] The graph canvass and spreadsheet are linked in both directions: click a node and its row is selected in the spreadsheet.

[6] Colors can be changed without layout changes using the "Locked" feature: just get your nodes in the locations you want them and then either set the "Locked" column to "1" or right click the graph and select "Edit selected vertex attributes" and set "Locked" to "Yes". Those nodes will no longer move (unless you move them). You can also set the "X" and "Y" columns manually or by formula.

[7] The integration of Excel formulas is a key feature of NodeXL. Consider a formula to populate the visibility column that looks at another value, say income. An example might look like this:
=IF(Income>Threshold,1,0)
which will make the node disappear if its "Income" value is less than the "Threshold" value.

You may also replace node shapes with images (if they are stored locally on the machine running NodeXL) using the "Images" worksheet and the "Image ID" column in the Vertex worksheet.

Thanks again for your interest in NodeXL, we hope to improve the tool with the feedback from our users!

Regards,

Marc
 
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This is my blog on library and information science. I'm into Sci/Tech libraries, special libraries, personal information management, sci/tech scholarly comms.... My name is Christina Pikas and I'm a librarian in a physics, astronomy, math, computer science, and engineering library. I'm also a doctoral student at Maryland. Any opinions expressed here are strictly my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer or CLIS. You may reach me via e-mail at cpikas {at} gmail {dot} com.

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