Skip to Main Content

Mapping tools: Google Fusion Tables

With Kylen

About Fusion Tables

Google Fusion Tables is a cloud-based application that can be used to create a variety of visualizations. It is a free and only requires a Google Account to use. It is still in experimental stage, but is relatively bug-free.

  Pros: Easy to use, powerful geocoding engine, mixes well with other google spreadsheets, includes lots of other visualizations       beyond mapping

  Cons: Limited to Google basemap, more difficult to make beautiful maps. Does not work with Haverapps. You will need to use a       different Google account.

Getting Started

Accessing Fusion Tables

To use Google Fusion Tables, you'll need a non-HaverApps Google Account. If you don't already have one, you can create an account here.

Fusion Tables is accessed through Google Drive. There's a link to Drive on most Google pages, including your Gmail inbox and Google Search, or you can just click here.

Before using Fusion Tables, you may need to connect to the app. From Google Drive, click the CREATE button on the left side of the page and select Connect more apps. In the pop-up window, search "Fusion Tables" and click Connect. Now, if you go back to the Create menu, you should see Fusion Tables as an option. Click on it. You are now ready to begin the tutorials below, or you can spend some time familiarizing yourself with the interface. 




To start, it may be best to follow this tutorial provided by Google Fusion Tables to make a map of their insect data. (You can choose to skip the Info window part for now, if you like)

Now that you've familiarized yourself with Fusion Tables, we're going to try making a more advanced map.

1. Download the spreadsheet of Cope Evans letters here. You will need to dowload it to your computer (the desktop is fine).

2. Go to Google Fusion tables and create a new fusion table and import this data. (This table was exported from Triptych, and describes a collection of digitized letters held by the Cope and Evans families over many decades mostly during the 19th century. They were catalogued to describe their origin, destination, and any places described, as well as when they were sent, from whom, and to whom.)

3. Unlike Google's data, this data needs to be fixed a bit. Change the column headings.  By holding your cursor over the column name for "Topical Subjects," you can see a dropdown appear. Change the column type to Text instead of Location.


4. There is a column called "Thumbnail URL" which points to the images associated with each letter. Change the column type by selecting "single line image" from the format column as shown here:


5. To create a map, click on the plus sign next to the Cards tab, and select map. 

Now, click on the map tab, and wait for Google to Geocode the locations. There were three location columns in the data, so make sure Google is mapping to Geographic Subjects (ie, places described in the letters). Depending on the internet connection, it might take a long time to geocode, so if you get tired of waiting, and it's geocoded a bunch of them, you can stop it and close the geocoding window. You'll only be working with the ones it geocoded, but it will still work.

6. Change the map style using the dropdown that will appear in the name of the map tab if you scroll over it to Change the map style. Since this is a points file, your only choice is to change the markers. Divide into buckets based on the decades column.


Your map should look something like this:

Feel free to play around with some more of the options to adapt the map to your liking. 

Moving Forward

Now that you've got a grasp on how to import data and create maps in Fusion Tables, here are some more resources for making more advanced maps and charts: 

  • Here is a great tutorial by Jack Dougherty of Trinity college on how to make thematic maps.
  • Google Tables is a great way to find interesting data. Just type a topic into the search box (i.e. "GDP by country") and you should be able to find lots of options. Be warned, most of the data obtained this way will need to be cleaned up before visualization. Think about the visualization you want to create and then exactly what types of data you need to make it. 
  • Here you can find tutorials and documentation on Fusion Tables from Google.
  • This is a very helpful tutorial that covers mergin data, changing the styling of your map, and embedding a Fusion Tables map.


What is .csv?

.csv is a file type, standing for Comma Separated Values. It is an easy way of a saving a table or spreadsheet. Each value is separated by a symbol, most often a comma or semi-colon. Here is an example of a few lines of csv data:

State, Year, Number

WA, 1999, 50

PA, 1999, 73

NY, 2000, 96

Map Types

There are many different types of maps that can be used to visualize data. Here are a few of the more common varities.