How to use Google Tables to visualize and manage data


Google Tables is a new data management and visualization tool. Jack Wallen helps you get up to speed so you can make this task even easier.

Cloud.

Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Have you found tracking projects and collecting or visualizing data for various aspects of your business to be a chore? Not only do you have to keep that data from multiple users up to date, you have to have the means to easily represent it in ways people can readily consume it.

If that sounds like something you’ve experienced, then you might be interested in Google Tables. This new cloud-based offering from Google was created as a user-friendly, intuitive tool to help you track work, automate tasks, and save time with your various collaborations.

Tables makes it easy for you to create brand new workspaces from templates or import data from Google Sheets. Once you’ve either entered or imported your data, you can then easily categorize, assign, or link columns, switch layouts, group/filter/sort your data, save view configurations for different tasks, share individual tables, and create forms for easy data entry.

SEE: Hybrid cloud: A guide for IT pros (TechRepublic download)

What are the basic elements of Google Tables?

There are four fundamental elements you need to know, in order to grasp Tables. These items are:

  • Tables: Containers that hold structured data

  • Workspaces: Collections of grouped Tables

  • Columns: Predefined data types in each Table

  • Views: Saved versions of a Table that represents the data in a specific way

Although you can create a new workspace from a Google Sheets spreadsheet, it can get really confusing at first–especially when you’re new to the tool. To that end, your best bet is to start with one of the templates offered in Tables. Fortunately, there are a number of templates to choose from and each template offers a handy instructional tab to help you get started with how to make the template work.

Let’s walk through the process of working with one of those templates, so you can start making Google Tables work for you.

Note: Google Tables is in beta, so keep that in mind going forward.

How to log in and find a template in Google Tables

The first thing you must do is log in to your Google account–you can use Tables either from a free account or from Google Workspace. So log in to your Google account from your web browser and then head over https://tables.area120.google.com/

Once there, click See More Templates (Figure A).

Figure A

tablesa.jpg

The Google Tables welcome page.

From the Templates page, locate a template that you can use. For example, let’s work with the Simple Task Tracker template. Once you’ve opened that template, click the Instructions tab. In this tab you’ll find simple instructions on how to use this template (Figure B).

Figure B

tablesb.jpg

The Task Tracker Template instructions are clear enough for anyone to use.

The instructions do a good job of instructing you on what elements are used in the template and how to manipulate them. There are five steps:

  1. Click the TODO List tab to see how you can organize your tasks.
  2. Change the Grouping setting in the toolbar.
  3. Switch to other saved, pre-created views.
  4. Change column options for the data you can enter in the cells.
  5. Check out the pre-configured bots and turn one on.

After carefully reading the instructions, click on the TODO List tab and start working through the table (Figure C). Here you can edit any data in the table to better fit your needs.

Figure C

tablesc.jpg

The TODO List template in all its glory.

To edit any data entry, simply double-click on its cell and make any change you want. You can also add new rows by clicking the + button associated with a category (in this case Home, Work, Errands, Fam/Friends). 

After editing/adding data, you can then change the view layout between:

When you select a different view, you are allowed to choose what columns are displayed (Figure D).

Figure D

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Changing to views for a table allows you to configure what columns are displayed.

Once you’ve selected your columns, click OK and the view will change (Figure E).

Figure E

tablesc.jpg

We’ve successfully changed to a Kanban Board view.

How to create a form for easier data entry in Google Tables

Now that you have your table exactly how you want it, let’s make it easier for you to add data. For this, you’ll create a form. In the upper-right corner of the Table window, click Forms and then, when prompted, click New Form. 

In the resulting popup, fill out the form to include all of the elements you want from the table, as well as giving the form a name (Figure F).

Figure F

tablese.jpg

Creating a form for entering data to your table.

Once you have the form complete, click Save. Back at the Table window, you’ll see your form listed. To the right of the form name, you’ll see a three-dot menu button. Click that button and then, from the drop-down, click Copy URL. Paste the URL in the browser address bar to see and use the form (Figure G).

Figure G

tablesf.jpg

Using the newly-created form to enter data into your table.

And that’s all there is to it. You’ve edited a Google Table template, changed the view, created a form for data entry, and can now use that table for daily management of your tasks. Once you get even more familiar with how Google Tables works, you can then try creating one from your own Google Sheets spreadsheet.

Enjoy this powerful data management and visualization tool.

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