All About CSV Fingerprint
Victor Powell talks about the tool’s inception, inner workings, and potential
Last week, a new tool called CSV Fingerprint dropped and got some very positive early attention. We chatted with Victor Powell, CSV Fingerprint’s creator, about how he made it, how to use it, and how it can help you get eliminate Excel from your workflow at last.
Q. What sparked the creation of CSV Fingerprint?
It evolved out of a series of conversations with my friends Ian Johnson and Kai Chang focused around ways we could “kill Excel.” Excel can be a huge pain to work with, especially when dealing with data formatting. CSV files, on the other hand, are an oddly simple and convenient file format. Almost every program can read or write a CSV file. With that said, errors seem to pop up unexpectedly often in tabular data and there’s no simple check you can run to know if your data is how it should be. Every use case is different. For example, depending on your data, occasional empty values might be expected but other times empty values might indicate an error in the way the data was formatted.
Q. How did you build it? (And did you run into any particularly weird or interesting tech or design challenges along the way?)
Q. How easy is it to get started using CSV Fingerprint?
You can go to http://setosa.io/csv-fingerprint/ and paste a CSV file into the input field. Then click “generate.” You’ll then be taken to a fullscreen CSV fingerprint of your CSV file. Each rectangle represents a cell in your data file and the color of that cell represents the type of data found within it. So for example, a cell that contains the value “Colorado River” will show up yellow and a cell with the value “37.165” will show up purple. Other types are integers which show up light blue and empty values which show up dark gray. You can then click and drag around the visualization to inspect the individual values of each cell. If you don’t feel comfortable posting your data to the site, you can also run the visualization on your own computer by downloading the code from GitHub.