The former leaders of IBM's Visual Communications Lab have been hard at work on a "summer project" -- desktop software that will display large amounts of information in a number of visual formats.
Fernanda Viégas and Martin Wattenberg touted version "0.5" of their Time Flow tool as a way to create visual timelines from textual data. And indeed the software can import a table of data -- presidential appointments, political contributions -- and show it as a timeline or a calendar, with color- and size-coded entries that make it easier to spot patterns. But the software also displays as sortable/filterable lists, tables and graphs -- allowing it to serve as much as a visual database as timeline -- and offers statistical summaries of the data.
Viégas and Wattenberg created the visualization site Many Eyes which was designed to "democratize data analysis," adding a social component to graphic data (well before the explosive popularity of social media).
They said they expect to release this new software as open source within a week or so on the Web site of their current company, Flowing Media. If you're interested in data visualization tools, you may want to bookmark that site.