May 30, 2017 Last Updated 11:06 am

Google News Labs unveils new visualization tool for journalists: Data Gif Maker

The tool is designed to help journalists with adding animated graphics to their stories, but the solution is currently a bit slow, and has very limited customization options

The Google News Lab has launched a tool, that if it improves, could prove helpful to small publishers with limited graphics capabilities.

The Data Gif Maker is a painfully slow way to make animated GIFs from data you input into their system. Several attempts to use the service results in very mixed results. In Safari it simply stalled, while in Chrome it was painfully slow to produce a GIF (though, to be fair, making a GIF with a lot of animation is a slow process using Photoshop, as well).

“Data visualizations are an essential storytelling tool in journalism, and though they are often intricate, they don’t have to be complex,” wrote Simon Rogers, data editor at the Google News Lab. “In fact, with the growth of mobile devices as a primary method of consuming news, data visualizations can be simple images formatted for the device they appear on.”

The GIF maker allows you to make either a low resolution GIF or high resolution GIF, but even the most skill challenged editor will probably want to open the resulting file in Photoshop in order to resize the image, add time to either the first or last frame of the animation, etc.

The results are kind of nice, but since they produce the same kind of image each time one will quickly recognize that the user has used this solution.

Two things need to happen to make this a more useable tool: it needs to be faster in producing a file, and it needs many more customization options so that every GIF doesn’t end up looking the same as everyone else’s GIF who has used the same tool.

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