Converter Makes JSON as Understandable as a Spreadsheet

Janet Wagner, Data Journalist / Full Stack Developer
Mar. 31 2014, 08:00AM EDT

Eric Mill, a developer at the Sunlight Foundation, has created a JSON-to-CSV converter where users can simply paste JSON code into a box and have the code automatically reformatted and re-colored, then converted into an easily readable table of data. A complete CSV of the table data can also be downloaded. The converter uses JavaScript so it runs without a server and the JSON conversions happen inside the browser. JSON to CSV

Ohio Legislators information from Open States API. JSON data converted into table format.

JSON has become the primary response format; most modern APIs, including those provided by the Sunlight Foundation—Capitol Words, Congress v3 and Open States—respond with JSON. However, many people are not familiar with JSON format and for some, JSON is more difficult to understand than a spreadsheet format like CSV/Excel. Mill originally created the JSON-to-CSV converter for his D.C. Open Data Day workshop, with the goal of making JSON "as approachable as a spreadsheet" to workshop participants. D.C. Open Data Day was aimed at people who had no familiarity with JSON, so they may not have been able to evaluate how useful the converter is. Nevertheless, Mill says people at the workshop "seemed very impressed" with the converter. He also told ProgrammableWeb:

I created this JSON to CSV converter as a teaching tool, to demonstrate to people of any background that they can understand and use real open data, as it's practiced on the web today. JSON became the modern web's most prolific data format in large part because of its simplicity, and it's worth understanding—when you know how the web's basic building blocks work, it becomes much easier to take the web's power for your own.

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The JSON-to-CSV converter is free, open source and hosted on GitHub. The converter code can be copied, reused and forked on GitHub as well. Mill says he plans to handle bugs if they are reported on GitHub. When it comes to developing the converter long term, he says "that will really depend on whether it's used." More information about the JSON-to-CSV converter can be found in Eric Mill's blog post on the Sunlight Foundation website. For those interested in converting Excel/CSV data into JSON, HTML, XML and other web formats, check out Mr. Data Converter.

By Janet Wagner. Janet is a data journalist and full stack developer based in Toledo, Ohio. Her focus revolves around APIs, open data, data visualization and data-driven journalism. Follow her on Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.

Janet Wagner is a data journalist and full stack developer based in Toledo, Ohio. Her focus revolves around APIs, data visualization, machine learning, and data-driven journalism. Follow her on Twitter: @webcodepro, Google+, or send her an email.

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