Creating and publishing a spreadsheet online

For some investigations it will be useful to create a public spreadsheet of information. There are 3 main reasons why:

  • It’s a better way of displaying data than using a sentence of text
  • It means people can easily see where the gaps are – and fill them in
  • It also allows people to do interesting things with the data, like visualise it, or mix it up (‘mashup’) with information from elsewhere, e.g. maps

One of the most popular tools for creating public spreadsheets of data is Google Spreadsheets, part of Google Docs.

Creating or uploading a spreadsheet

Creating a spreadsheet in Google Docs is pretty much the same as in any other spreadsheet software. Click on New > Spreadsheet to start creating one. Name it by clicking where it says ‘Unsaved spreadsheet‘ and add your data.

You can also upload a spreadsheet from your computer into Google Docs by going to File > Import.

Publishing your spreadsheet online

To publish the spreadsheet click on ‘Share‘ (in the top right area) and select Publish as a web page.

A new window will appear where you can select whether to publish an individual sheet or the whole spreadsheet (if it has more than one). Change this if you want to, then click Start publishing.

Publishing a Google Docs spreadsheet

Publishing a Google Docs spreadsheet

The bottom half of that window will now become active and you should now have a web address (URL) where the spreadsheet is published. Copy that web address and paste it into a new window to see how the spreadsheet looks in its published form.

You can also paste that address anywhere you want to show people the spreadsheet – including in investigation updates.

Allowing others to edit your spreadsheet – and tracking what is changed

There’s a lot more you can do with a Google Docs spreadsheet when you allow others to collaborate on it. To find out more read: how to allow others to edit your spreadsheet – and how to track the changes they make.

If you have any questions or comments please post them and I’ll try to answer.