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Data Visualizations in Google Docs

While Google is often used for internet searches and maps, it can also help with data visualizations via Google Charts. Learn how to use Google Docs to generate interactive charts in this training.

Getting started

For this exercise, we're going to use a small dataset: the 2010 FBI uniform crime statistics for violent and property crimes by state.

With that data, we're going to make several different Google Chart Tools, which can be saved as images or embedded as interactive graphics.

For the purposes of this lesson, we're assuming you're comfortable enough with spreadsheets to bring the data into Google Docs.

Once you have your data in Google Docs, you're ready to get started.

Charting made easy

Youtube Video

With Google's Chart editor on the screen, you must select the appropriate chart for your dataset. Think carefully about what chart best explains the data you have.

For example, you might be tempted to use a pie chart to compare the number of crimes in each state. However, a pie chart with 50 slices would be difficult to read. And a pie chart with a subset of states would give distorted information.

In our example, we look at the total number of property and violent crimes in each state. We can use a stepped-area chart to show that breakdown on a state-by-state basis, and then customize it.

Youtube Video

Having a chart in your Google Doc is nice, but it's not especially helpful for publishing the chart with your story or blog post. That's where embedding comes in.

Youtube Video

Non-adjacent columns

The example above uses data that are in adjacent columns, but sometimes we want to chart data in columns that are not adjacent.

For example, what if we want to look at crime rates on a state-by-state basis, rather than overall crime numbers? After all, you would expect more populous states to have more crime.

Here's how we'd do that:

Youtube Video

For more information

Google can create a wide variety of charts, from tree maps to bar graphs, from columns to candlesticks. You can learn more about them and see what works best for you at Google's chart playground.