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How to keep your presentation data up-to-date with Google Sheets in Slides, Docs, or Silk.co

Insert a chart from a Google Sheet in Google Slides and Google Docs, or create an interactive data story with Silk.co, to make sure your presentation always stays current.

Image: Andy Wolber/TechRepublic

Good news for people who use Google Sheets: Now when you change your spreadsheet data, your charts in Google Slides or Docs can update, too.

A connected chart eliminates the need to update manually. For example, I refer to mobile market share—Android vs. iOS vs. other systems—in several of my presentations and documents. I can create one spreadsheet with current market share data, then insert the chart that shows mobile market share in several different presentations or documents. A single tap of an "update" button on my slide ensures that viewers see up-to-date data. I update the spreadsheet data once, and the chart changes everywhere.

Insert a chart into Slides and Docs

To make this work, I keep my spreadsheet setup simple: I use a header row with data below. Typically, data headers in columns start with cell A2, while set members start in cell B1. I select my data, then choose "Insert > Chart." I prefer to put each chart on a separate sheet.

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Keep things simple: create a Google Sheet for data and basic charts.

In Slides or a Doc, I then choose "Insert > Chart > From Sheets...," select the chart I created, then import my chart. The "Link to Spreadsheet" checkbox ensures that when I change data in the Sheet, I'll see an "Update" button appear in the upper right corner of the chart in my document or presentation. I click on "Update" to display current data.

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Edit your chart in Google Sheets, then Insert > Chart > From Sheets... to Google Docs or Slides.

Create interactive charts with Silk.co

Silk.co lets you share info visually, similar to the data-driven stories you may have seen from FiveThirtyEight.com (e.g., "What Went Wrong In Flint") or Pew Research Center (e.g., "Shared, Collaborative, and On Demand: The New Digital Economy").

But, unlike sites with static charts, Silk.co also gives the viewer control over charts, as you can press the explore button to look at a chart another way. Think of each row in your spreadsheet as a datacard, an item with several pieces of data connected to it. And think of your chart as a filtered collection of datacards on display. You no longer just look at the chart; you can change it, too.

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Connect and sync a Google Sheet to Silk.co to tell data-driven stories.

A Silk.co story connects to a dataset you choose—in my case, synced from a Google Sheet, although you can import data from many sources. You then create all sorts of charts to display your data on an easy-to-edit page. To enhance your story, surround your data visualizations with text, images, audio, video, or uploaded files—even a specific user's Twitter stream.

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Add content around your charts to convey meaning.

You can share every chart you create with Silk. Choose the "Share & Embed" link in the upper right corner of a chart, copy the code, and paste it elsewhere on the web. (See the sample Silk site I created with American League baseball stats as of mid-June 2016.) Or, choose "Explore" to change chart types and view the data set differently.

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Any viewer can choose 'Explore' to view your chart data differently.

You can use Silk.co for free, as long as you don't mind making your pages public, and keep the number of datacards below 1,000. The premium version offers private pages and more datacards (up to 5,000) for a fee of $500 per month.

Connected charts work best when...

Connected charts work well when the members of a set stay the same. A chart that shows product sales, sports team win/loss records, or customer satisfaction displays data that changes over time for a consistent set of items. You update the data, but don't have to change the members of the categories that often.

SEE: Quick glossary: Statistics (Tech Pro Research)

These sorts of displays won't work as well for sets that change often. For example, the "set" of popular music changes frequently, as songs move up and down the charts. If the set changes, a connected chart won't necessarily save you time.

Whenever you want to share a key chart of current data, start with a Google Sheet. Draw from the data in your Sheet to update charts in Google Slides, a Google Doc, or in an interactive data set at Silk.co. You'll never have to apologize for an out-of-date slide again.

What do you think?

Has the ability to sync a chart saved you time? Have you created a public Silk.co story from your Sheet data? Let us know in the comments, or on Twitter.

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About Andy Wolber

Andy Wolber helps people understand and leverage technology for social impact. He resides in Ann Arbor, MI with his wife, Liz, and daughter, Katie.

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