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Charting and Exploring Your Data

June 27, 2016

This is part 4 in our series on spreadsheets and data visualization. In this part we’ll cover charting and exploring your data with Google Sheets. Be sure to also check out part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 5 of the series.

In part 3 of our series, we talked about sharing and publishing data. This part will focus on the charting functionality and the Explore feature in Google Sheets, which allows you to quickly gain insights from your data. No more going through a “chart wizard” or guessing the best method — let Google Sheets inspect your data and provide a good starting point for you.

Google Sheets Charts

Last year Google Sheets introduced the Explore feature. It is a subtle yet useful button which allows you to automatically generate charts and analysis with a single click. In the following example, we’ve taken Food & Beverage Locations in Times Square from NYC OpenData to show just how easy it is to use.

The Explore feature in Google Sheets

Explore is convenient and performs great with small to moderate sized datasets. When you click the Explore button, various charts are created for you and presented. In some cases, a short sentence describing an insight is also returned, like in this case above where “Full Serve has the highest value for Subindustry” was determined. Sometimes this may be obvious or not particularly useful, other times it’s on-point and a time saver. Note that if you select a subset of your data before clicking Explore, it will only run on your selection.

Using Explore is a great place to start but if you don’t like what is automatically generated, you can use the standard Insert > Chart approach. You can start with all columns in the spreadsheet or by selecting ahead of time the ones you want to be in the chart. The Customization tab will give you specific control over chart elements such as: title, legend, font size, gridlines, scale and more.

Inserting charts in Google Sheets

With over a dozen styles of chart types, it’s likely that Google Sheets will have the right kind of method for you to display your data. In part 1, we talked about making visuals of data and how important it is to choose an effective approach to communicating the right message. Be sure to research how to choose the right chart type for your data and review Chart Chooser before settling on a choice.

Throughout our series, we have covered how Google Sheets has grown into a robust spreadsheet platform that allows collaboration, publishing, and (now with this post) generating charts from your data. Using the Explore button can quickly deliver the visuals that you need to get the message your data conveys. And if more detailed control is needed over the chart parameters and layout, Sheets gives you this too, possibly with more great features and functionality to come in the future.