Points of view: Heat maps

Journal name:
Nature Methods
Year published:
Published online

Heat maps are useful for visualizing multivariate data but must be applied properly.

At a glance


  1. Heat maps.
    Figure 1: Heat maps.

    (a) An example of a colored table from ref. 1. (b) Clustering brings like next to like items to reveal patterns in the data. (c) Adding gaps according to the hierarchical cluster tree helps emphasize relationships in the matrix.

  2. Parallel coordinate plots.
    Figure 2: Parallel coordinate plots.

    (a) Gene expression data shown for two groups of profiles (blue and purple). (b) The data from a with each row plotted as a profile and each column as a vertical axis.


  1. Loua, M.T. Atlas Statistique de la Population de Paris (Imprimerie et Librairie de L'Ecole Centrale. Paris, France, 1873).
  2. Wong, B. Nat. Methods 7, 3 (2010).

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Author information


  1. Nils Gehlenborg is a research associate at Harvard Medical School and the Broad Institute.

  2. Bang Wong is the creative director of the Broad Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard and an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Art as Applied to Medicine at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Competing financial interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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