Vida.io creates Google Charts in the cloud

Seattle-based startup Vida.io has created a data visualization service offering a front end for both Google's Charts visualization API and the JavaScript library D3.js, along with free public hosting for the graphics you create.

The Google Charts portion of the service currently has nine visualization types including line charts, bar charts, scatter plots and maps. The interface is reasonably intuitive, allowing for simple customizing of title, axes and colors. And by "simple" I mean "obvious without documentation" -- which turns out to be important, because the site has very little written documentation so far.

Vidaio creation interface

The Vida.io interface for Google Chart creation

You can drag and drop the chart edges to select a specific size, allowing you to see in real time what the chart looks like as you make it larger and smaller. If you've got precise size requirements, though, note that the drag-and-drop resizing seems only to move in 10-pixel increments. That's useful so you don't have to move in ever-so-tiny increments to get a width of 640 pixels; but it also means creating, say, a 525-pixel-wide chart probably isn't going to happen.

You can see a sample of a final embedded chart below.

For those who know their way around the Google Charts API or would be comfortable editing JavaScript and JSON code after looking at API documentation, there's a button to view and edit a chart's underlying JSON code, along with a link to Google API documentation for more info on Google Charts code structure. This makes Vida.io a pretty easy-to-use tool for creating not only basic Google charts, but visualizations that you can then customize further based on the dozens of options available in the raw API. That's somewhat unusual for services like this, and is probably Vida.io's most compelling features at first look, since many other Web-based dataviz services lock you in to using just the suite of customization options that they offer.

Resulting Vida.io graphics can be shared via URL or embedded into a Web site. Private visualizations are also available with paid accounts. Users get up to 10 private files for a standard account at $10/month and more with the $50/month Pro. To remove the "Powered by Vida.io" link, you need a Pro account.

Vida.io visualizations are hosted on Amazon Web Services. The tool was built using Meteor, co-founder Phuoc Do told me via e-mail, an open-source JavaScript framework.

You input your own data via typical cut-and-paste or upload-a-file options. So far the only data format supported for Google Charts is CSV; D3 charts will accept data formatted as CSV, TSV or JSON.

Vida.io's D3.js option is meant for developers who already know how to use D3, although the company has also created several D3 templates customers could use as is or change as needed. The user environment is more robust for D3 than for Google Charts. It includes a JavaScript editor, stylesheet editor,and separate editing tab for data. While I don't code using the D3 library, I could see how this site might be useful for someone looking for a basic D3.js development environment in the cloud.

Vida.io D3 interface

Vida.io inteface for creating D3 visualizations

Vida.io enters an already crowded field of Web-based data visualization tools, sites and services. What Do hopes will set it apart from competitors like Plot.ly is its focus on simplicity specifically for the well-documented Google Charts API.So, if you want to create visualizations with Google Charts and would like a Web-based option, Vida.io may be worth a look. However, if you're working on a long-term project -- something you hope will live on the Web for years, that is -- keep in mind that depending on the Google Charts API also means assuming Google won't decide to either change its Charts API or phase it out as it did with its static Chart Tools. (With D3.js, that caution doesn't apply.)

Want more free data tools? See my chart of 30+ free tools for data visualization and analysis.

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