Google maps tutorial (part 2/5): How to work with Fusion Tables

This tutorial introduces you to three aspects of using Fusion Tables: How to start a new table, how to navigate the table interface and how to use filter.

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

Prepare data for Fusion Tables

Your raw data need to conform to a specific format for use with Fusion Tables; as a result, before you can import data to Fusion Tables, you either create from scratch a standard table or “clean” an existing one. Read a tutorial on how to clean tabular data for use by Tableau Public (a popular data visualization tool) – the concepts are the same for Fusion Tables data.

Start a new table

When you hit “Create” on the start page of Google Fusion Tables, you will see three options in the popup window asking how you want to import a new table:

Google maps tutorial

From this computer: If you have a spreadsheet on your computer, then click Browse to locate the file then click “Next” at botton of that window.

Google Spreadsheets: If you previously uploaded a spreadsheet to your Google Drive account, you can choose this option and select the desired file in the popup window.

Create empty table: If you want to start from scratch, choose this option and a new, blank table will be created where you can add to the table do all the typical editings with a spreadsheet table. Note that in this case, a “New Table” will be created and automatically saved to your Google Drive; in other words, you won’t see or need to use a separate Save button to save the table.

Notice that for all three options, you will see a search box for public data tables – this is where you can search for all the publicly shared data tables using keywords related to your own subject or topic.

How to navigate the table interface

It is essential that you know how a Fusion Tables table looks and is structured – you must structure your raw data accordingly. Let’s first look at a New Table:

Google maps tutorial

The new table comes with default columns such as Text, Number, Location, Data; you can always change the column name by clicking the column name and, in the dropdown menu, selecting “Change” to change the column name. To add new rows and columns, click Edit on the menu bar and select appropriate commands in the dropdown menu. To rename the table, click File on the menu bar and select “rename” command, or you can directly click on the default New Table and type it over with a new name.

By default, a new table comes with three tabs: Rows, Cards and Map of Location; these three tabs provide different views of the data set: Rows shows data in a table format, Cards shows each record in a card, and Map of Location shows individual record on a map (if the Location column has valid geometry data).

How to use filter

When working with a large data set, you may have the need to isolate and work with a subset of the data, you then need to use the built-in filter function to get what you need. As a demonstration, check out a public data table, Rich People and Their “Green” Investments, which lists 100 rich people in the world who have investments in green energy projects.

Let’s say, among the 100 rich people, I only want to examine data about rich people in the U.S. To do that, I need to apply a filter to the Country column and filter out all the USA entries. Here’s a 3-step guide on how to filter out U.S. rich people and then download the data as a new table.

Step 1: click the blue filter tab; you will see a list of column names in this table, then click Country.

Google maps tutorial

Step 2: Type USA in the search box; when you type letter U, you will see automatic matches that begin with U, i.e., UK and USA, choose USA and hit Find. You will see 34 results being filtered out.

Google maps tutorial

Step 3: You can start working with the filtered set of data, or you may want to download them as a new table and later upload it to Fusion Tables for a new project. To do that, click File on the menu bar and click Download in the dropdown menu; in the popup window, make sure you select “Filtered rows” for Content and CSV for Format, as shown below:

Google maps tutorial

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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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