The combination of a powerful well-designed user interface with detailed high-quality data sets can create new possibilities for data exploration and analysis. The Allen Brain Atlas (http://www.brain-map.org) provides a collection of tools for examining a set of images that detail gene expression in the mouse brain. Powerful web-based viewers for individual images and parallel examination of related images interact with an external application for three-dimensional views. The underlying dataset, generated via high-throughput analysis of expression patterns of more than 21,000 genes in adult mouse brains, provides three-dimensional views of gene expression patterns displayed in the context of an anatomical ontology. Facilities for filtering views, saving views of interest, annotating images and sharing views via email support the ongoing process of analysis and provide a model for the future of integrated tools for analysing large image data sets.