Google maps tutorial (part 1/5): What Fusion Tables is and does

Google Fusion Tables (or simply Fusion Tables) is a free Web service provided by Google for data management. Data is stored in the form of tables that web users can view and download. Fusion Tables is a popular tool to store, visualize and share larger data tables.

(This post is part one of a 5-part tutorial on creating Fusion Tables intensity map; the other parts are listed as related posts at end of this post)

Fusion Tables stores your tabular data

You have seen many tabular data sets: they are the tables with rows of data in an Excel spreadsheet you created on your computer, or ones you run across on the web that try to convey a message. See the screen shot below for how they typically look like.


Such data tables are usually created on a computer and they sit on the computer. What if you want to do something else to the table, like, to say the least, sharing it with someone else? You normally would need to email the table as an attachment to the other person and that person needs to download it onto his or her computer, edit it, then email it back to you. So it may go back and forth like that if you are collaborating on a large project.

Google provides a free solution: upload your table to Google Drive, and, since the table now sits on Google server, you can send a link to your collaborator and he/she can directly make changes without going through the hassles of download/emailing.

And with Fusion Tables, you can do much more than storing and sharing a data table.

Fusion Tables visualizes your tabular data

Numbers and statistics are boring if not difficult to read and comprehend. Fusion Tables allows you to present your data in a visual, interactive way. As an example, say I put together a simple chart showing budget allocation for three divisions in my company in the past four years; I uploaded the table to my Google Drive account and the screen shot below shows how the table looks like:


When I click the red button on the menu bar and choose “add chart,” I have four visualization options: line, bar, pie and scatter. After playing with them for a while, I decided a bar chart is what I need. Fusion Tables can generate the chart for you and provide codes for you to embed the chart on any web page. Below is the bar chart I generated and am embedding here:

Fusion Tables maps your geographic data

If your data table has geographic information, then Fusion Tables can plot the locations and associated data into an interactive map. For instance, I have a table showing state-by-state U.S. population. Instead of posting the 50-row table, I plotted the numbers onto an interactive map:

Want to learn more about Google mapping? Here’s some popular books on Amazon that you can check out:

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About Mu Lin

Dr. Mu Lin is a digital journalism professional and educator in New Jersey, United States. Dr. Lin manages an online marketing company. He also manages MulinBlog Online J-School (, a free online journalism training program, which offers courses such as Audio Slideshow Storytelling; Introduction to Social Media Marketing; Writing for the Web; Google Mapping for Communicators; Introduction to Data Visualization; Introduction to Web Metrics and Google Analytics.
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