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Whether you’re putting together a report for work, or you just want to represent information on your blog in a graphical way, Google Fusion Tables can help. Google Fusion is actually a feature embedded into Google Docs, that lets you transform raw information that’s stored in a tabular or spreadsheet format into a more visually appealing way – whether that’s a pie chart, a bar chart or a map with an informational layer.
We’ve covered lots of chart generators here at MUO, including online apps like Pie Color and Chart Tool. We even once covered Google’s Image Chart Creator, which I’m pretty sure was a predecessor to Google Fusion Tables. The beauty of Google Fusion Tables is that it takes chart creation to a more automated level, by letting you import spreadsheets from right inside of Google Docs. You can also import data from a file stored on your computer, or create it on-the-fly.
Access Google Fusion Tables From Inside Google Docs
The first step is to log into your Google Docs account, and then click on the “Create” button on the left side of the main screen. You’ll see a dropdown list of all of the typical things you can create in Google Docs, like documents and spreadsheets. If you look a little further down that list, you’ll see a selection for “Table“. Currently this is a beta feature.
The first option you’ll have is to import your table of data. As you can see, you can simply use a spreadsheet that you already have in your Google Docs account (Google Spreadsheets), or you can upload a spreadsheet data file from your computer.
For the purposes of this article, I want to show you how you can use Google Fusion Tables to display real data onto a map. In this case, I’m going to create a list of the trips our family has taken through the years, and I’m going to rate each trip with a “like” value – from 0 percent to 100 percent.
When you create a new empty table, you can enter in the data one row at a time. It isn’t quite like a regular spreadsheet where there are a bunch of empty rows. You have to click on the “Create New Row” button to enter in new data.
Text and Number can be anything at all. Location is optional, unless you want to represent the data in a map format, in which case you’ll want to connect that data to a specific location that will show up on a Google Map. You can also add a date, which can come in handy as well depending on what you are trying to represent, but that too is optional.
Here is my completed table, with five places we’ve visited and a number representing how much we liked the trip.
When you’re ready to convert your data sheet into a graphical format, just click on the “Visualize” menu item and select one of the options from the list. You can represent the data as a line chart, bar chart, pie chart, scatter plot or a timeline.
Of course, my favorite feature of Google Fusion Tables is the ability to overlay data on top of a Google Map. When you select the Map option, there are a few additional steps you can go through to customize your data visualization.
Right now, there really isn’t anything special about the data points, except that they are plotted on the map based on the locations that I provided for those data points. Instead of this, I want to make the map more useful by changing the actual marker itself based on the “like” percentage that I gave that trip. Just click on “configure styles” at the top of the map. Click on “Buckets” and then divide the data points into ranges of values. In this case I want 5 different icons that represent ranges of rating points.
Don’t forget to select what data you are representing by identifying the data column in the dropdown list. In this case I chose the “Number” column of my table. Now, you can see that the icons display in the size and color relating to the “weight” that I gave that trip.
Obviously, this can become far more useful when you have hundreds or thousands of data points, and you divide the icons into very fine-tuned buckets. Doing this, you can represent information such as illnesses, accidents, natural disasters and other data in a way that could reveal information that’s otherwise hard to visualize in just a table format.
Of course, you can also use Google Fusion charts to represent data in your standard pie, line or bar chart formats – the sort of everyday charting that you may do at work or school.
The best part of Google Fusion Tables is that the visualizations you create can be embedded anywhere on the web. All you have to do is make your original table “public”, and then in the map display, click on the “Get embeddable link“. This will provide code you can highlight and then paste on your own blog or website.
The other charts are also embeddable in the same way.
Google Fusion Tables makes it ridiculously fast and easy to import huge volumes of data and then represent that information in a graphical format that might otherwise have taken you much longer to accomplish using an application like Microsoft Excel. Google Fusion Tables lets you quickly identify the exact data you want to represent, how you want to display it, and then takes care of the rest – and lets you share your visualizations quickly on the web.
So go ahead, log into your Google Docs account and give Google Fusion Tables a try. Let us know if it helped you analyze your data in a new way. Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section below!
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