Web Scraping With Google Docs

This past February, at the NICAR Conference in St. Louis, I presented a session on web scraping using Google Docs with my most excellent friend (Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure Reference!), Acton Gorton.

Since then, he’s put up a tip sheet and wrote a blog post on the topic:

Here is Acton’s much more articulate explanation of the demonstration:

Overview

Google Docs is a suite of easy and powerful applications for the office, and this tip sheet will explain how to import data from sources on the Internet into a spreadsheet.

While Google Docs cannot currently compete with more powerful scripting languages such as Python or Rails, users of all skill levels are attracted to the service for its ease with creating and launching full featured applications.

  • Beginning data workers will find plenty of tutorials within the documentation for adding basic functionality to their spreadsheets and mashing data up in new ways.
  • Experienced users of spreadsheet software such as Microsoft Excel will appreciate the fluid crossover of services and the familiar workings of various spreadsheet functions.
  • Advanced users versed in programming or scripting languages can harness the most powerful features of Google Docs and Apps Scripts for RESTful interaction with websites and creating rapid prototypes of software applications.
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