Last week, Google announced some terrific new visualizations for the spreadsheet application within Google Docs. While I use Google spreadsheets a ton, I find I more often use the application as a database rather than as a spreadsheet. While the application is great for storing or sharing data, the calculation and graphing options were really limited. You could create a pie chart or a bar graph, but you couldn’t do too much else. The recently added visualization features, however, are really impressive. Want to show data that changes with time? Rather than create a static chart or table, Google Docs now lets you create dynamic “motion charts” that show how the data fluctuates with time. The motion charts would be great for helping students visualize population changes or for assisting teachers with tracking assessment data over a period of time. Rather than looking at isolated numbers on a screen or page, the motion charts bring the data to life.
In addition to the motion charts, Google has also added timelines and organizational charts. Like all of the applications within the Google Docs suite, files created in Google spreadsheets can be shared with anyone. By coupling the collaborative features with the new visualization options, teams of students or researchers can work together to collect and analyze data in real time. They can also use the new visualization features to help make sense of complicated trends.