Google's New Visualization API

Raymond Yee
Apr. 01 2008, 12:37AM EDT

It has been a busy stretch for Google APIs: besides the recently released new AJAX Translation API this month, Google also launched the Google Visualization API, a JavaScript API which lets you access multiple sources of structured data that you can display using a large selection of visualizations. The Google Visualization API also provides a platform that can be used to create, share and reuse visualizations written by the developer community at large. For more technical details there's a new Visualization API profile here and a new mashup listing for Motion Chart, a dynamic Flash based chart to explore several indicators over time.

Digging into the documentation you'll find a more detailed description of the API:

Google Visualization API is a JavaScript API for web developers and gadget developers to access and display tabular data from many sources, for example Google spreadsheets....The Visualization API addresses two common problems in data visualization: 1. How to read data from multiple data sources using a single API. 2. How to process the data without knowing about the data source implementation.

It's important to realize that the only data source that can currently be read using the Visualization API (a "compliant data source") is a Google Spreadsheet and the API doesn't yet define how to implement a compliant data source. Since Google Spreadsheets already has a RESTful GData-based API (Google Spreadsheets API Profile), you might wonder what's the point about having yet another API to access Google Spreadsheet. The point is: the Visualization API is meant for tabular data from any source, not just from Google Spreadsheets. In the specific case of visualizing data, you won't need to know the details of the Google Spreadsheets API to get at data from a Google Spreadsheet.

The Visualization API can be used to display data from data sources in a variety of contexts, most prominently in Google Visualization Gadgets that can be displayed in iGoogle or a Google Spreadsheet (akin to embedding a chart inside an Excel spreadsheet). A quick way to see the Visualization API in action is Google Visualization API Gadget Gallery, a showcase for what people have done with these gadgets so far. Follow the instructions instructions on using Visualization Gadgets to apply these gadgets to your own Google Spreadsheet. To learn how to program with the Visualization API, start by working through "Hello World" example of the API and the tutorial on Gadget Extensions - Google Visualization API - Google Code.

Raymond Yee

Comments

Comments(2)

Google visualization API supports also data source URL’s that are not spreadsheets.

You can create your own Google visualization compliant data source feed that can be read by Google visualizations, similar to the way you would create a RSS feed that can be read by RSS readers. This is great way to publish your data in a visual way.

One API that can help you with this task is GVStreamer by http://www.gvstreamer.com/

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