You can now point to an online CSV file instead of manually uploading your data to Flourish. This might be a regularly updated file on a company server, or a statistical bulletin on a government site, or a CSV generated automatically by an API or a third-party tool such as Google Sheets.
Linking to remote data sources makes it possible to create charts, maps and other graphics that automatically update and republish if the data changes. This can be invaluable when creating visuals that need to be updated regularly as new data comes in – for example charts about the coronavirus crisis or maps and tables showing election results.
The new feature also opens up the possibility of using a single data table across several Flourish visualizations. And, thanks to Google Sheets, it is now possible to drive a Flourish project with data sources that require Excel-style formulas, live collaborative editing or detailed version history.
Users with access to the new feature can find it in the dropdown next to the “Upload data file” button in the visualization editor’s data area. Choose “Import from URL”, click the button, and then enter the URL of a publicly accessible CSV file.
If you are looking to connect to a Google Sheet, head over to our help doc to find out how to grab a CSV URL. Note that after editing a Google Sheet there can be a delay of a few minutes before the changes are propagated across to the Google-generated CSV.
Once imported, your data sheet will display greyed out to reflect that it is linked to a remote source so can’t be edited. However, you can still scroll the sheet to browse its contents and select the right columns. You can also “unlink” the data at any time to convert it to a normal editable Flourish data sheet.
When you publish a visualization or story based on a live data source, you can optionally set Flourish to check the data regularly and republish the graphic automatically if there has been a change. The maximum republishing frequency depends on your account tier.
One nice thing about this design is that your underlying data source only gets “hit” each time Flourish checks for changes, not each time a viewer looks at the chart. That means you can publish live graphics for large audiences without worrying that the underlying data source might not be able to cope with lots of traffic. And if the data source ever goes offline, so Flourish can’t access it, the published graphic won’t break.
(Note that automatic republishing is not currently supported for password-protected publishing. This is because for security reasons we don’t store the plain-text versions of project passwords.)
If you prefer to check over any changes before they go public, don’t enable auto republishing. Instead, each time you want to check for updates, open the project, hit “Update now” and finally “Republish” once you’re happy.