Tutorial 0.0:

Visualizing CSV data using google spreadsheets

For this exercise you will need to use google spreadsheets to produce a visual representation of a tabular data set. For the purposes of the first assignment you are welcome to use any visualization tool, but this tutorial will focus on the use of google spreadsheets.

1) Find a data set online
You will first need to download a data set. For this exercise you should use tabular data (any format that can be viewed as a spreadsheet in Excel or google spreadsheets). File formats for tabular data include .CSV, .TAB, .XLS, .XLSX, and .TXT.

2) Upload your data in google drive
From google drive click on the upload button to upload your file. In the upload settings be sure to check the box for 'Convert documents, presentations, spreadsheets, and drawings to the corresponding Google Docs format'. Once the file upload and conversion is complete your file should appear as a new item in your drive and open as a spreadsheet when you click on its icon.

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3) Clean the data (if necessary)
The google drive converter is quite good about fixing errors in tabular data during the upload process, to add empty columns in order to create a table that has the same number of elements in each row. If the first row of your table does not contain column headers it may be useful to copy and paste such that the column headers appear in the first row.

4) Select a range of values from your table
To create a chart in google spreadsheets you simply need to define a range of values from your table and select a type of chart. To select a range of values first select 'Insert > Chart' from the menu, and then manually highlight the values you want to include using the 'select data range' icon (see image below). You can also specify a range using this syntax: 'tablename!upper-left-cell-reference:lower-right-cell-reference'. So, for example to select a range between A1 and D250 in table 'flu' you would enter 'flu!A1:D250'. This method can be easier when you're working with tables that have very large numbers of columns and/or rows. Alt text

5) Create a chart
Once you've selected the values in the table that you want to visualize, you need to choose a type of chart. Google drive offers a reasonably wide range of chart types, each of which can be modified using the options listed in the 'Customize' tab. Different charts require different types of input, and depending on which rows you select some chart types may not be available. To see the requirement for each type of chart click on its icon. A list of suggested chart types based on the values you've selected will be provided under the input box for data range. Some chart types require a very specific the format, such as the map which needs to have a list of place names in the first column and a list of values in the second column. For these types you may need to edit your table accordingly, for example switching columns and rows in order to get the table into the required format.

I recommend that you try a few different types of chart to get a sense of the kind of information that can be communicated using each type.