Google Fusion Tables (now incorporated into Google Docs as “tables”) is a tool that allows quick previews and publishing of interactive data-driven visualizations, including maps, charts, and graphs. Once you have your data set selected, you simply need to edit it in your favorite spreadsheet program, upload it to Google Docs as a new “Table”, and then choose the visualization you want to preview from a dropdown menu. You can even refine and manipulate exactly what data given visualization displays, and, to limited extent, customize its look and feel. If you decide you want to publish it live on the web, Fusion Tables will also generate code for you.
Step 1: Choose your data source
Step 2: Upload and edit metadata
The interface for tables is similar to that of a spreadsheet program, so your data should be in some kind of spreadsheet-compatible format, such as .xls(x)
, or tab-delimted .txt
Step 3: Editing the 'schema'
Log in to your gmail account, and go to the “Documents” tab. Select Create >> Table(beta)
. In the dialog box that appears, click Browse
, and select your data file. If your data is in a .txt file, you may need to change the “Separator character” to Tab
; otherwise click Next
The next dialog offers a preview of your data as it will appear in the table; it will assume that column titles are in the first row, though this can be changed in the dropdown. By default, all columns and rows will be imported, but columns can be removed by unchecking the box at the top. Once you’ve made your selections, click Next.
The final import screen allows you to edit the metadata for the table: name, attribution, attribution link, and description. Remember: you cannot use or publish data without a source, so fill out this section as thoroughly as possible, especially the attribution and page link. You will save yourself time down the line by recording the relevant metadata, so you don’t have to go hunting for it later.
Step 4: Editing the data
“Schema” is a database term that describes the type of information in each column of a table. In Fusion Tables, columns may contain text, numbers, locations, or date/times. In general, the program makes fairly good guesses automatically about what type of information is in each column, but you can always edit this by choosing Edit >> Modify columns.
In the dialog box, you can select each column and use the Type
dropdown to modify the data type.
Data highlighted in yellow indicates which columns the table assume to be “location” information (such as street addresses, city, state or country names, latitude and longitude information or KML). Although multiple “location” columns are allowed, it is recommended that you edit the table to have only one. If you have latitude and longitude information in two separate columns, this will be detected by the table and it will use both when mapping. For best results with street addresses, these should be in a single column.
Step 5: Visualizing the data
Although column names and data points can be edited directly in Fusion Tables, this is not generally recommended. Fusion Tables does not support many common spreadsheet functions, such as “find and replace” or mathematical formulas. In general, information should be uploaded to Fusion Tables only after it has been “cleaned up.”
If you need to make individual edits, simply click on a data cell, wait for it to change to an “input” box, and type in your changes.
One of the great strengths of Fusion Tables is the ease of visualizing data; it can quickly generate maps, line charts, bar charts and pie charts. Simply choose Visualize >>
and select the visualization you want to use.