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Using Gapminder in Presentations


Gapminder is a wonderful tool to animate statistical data. Recently, I have used a Gapminder graph for the first time in a presentation and here’s an explanation on how to do it.

Should you not know about Gapminder, I would suggest to first take a look at one of the wonderful videos commented by inventor Hans Rosling.

The Gapminder World tool comes with a huge amount of development data in order to show country comparisons over time. There is a downloadable version of Gapminder (Gapminder Desktop), but as of now it is not possible to create graphs with your own data. If you want to use your own data for a graph in your presentation you can do the workaround that is described in the following.

How to implement a Gapminder graph with your own data in your presentation

You can also use Gapminder for your own (time series) data that don’t necessarily have to be development data for country comparisons. This can be done with Google Documents:
Google docs => Spreadsheet =>Insert => Gadget => Motion Chart
(A quick guide to the Google Motion Chart gadget can be found here)

The data in Google docs have to be in a specific format that is shown in this Excel spreadsheet. I used data from World Bank’s World Development Indicators.

Once you have inserted the Motion Chart and adjusted it to your needs, I would make it as big as possible so that you can capture it in best quality. I used the compact view in Google docs (Ctrl+Shift+F) and hid the controls (View => Hide controls). Then I also maximized the browser window (F11 in Mozilla).

As a capturing tool I used the 30 day free (and fully functional) trial of Camtasia Studio. Once Camtasia is started you can choose to capture your screen and a window opens that lets you specify the exact screen area you want to capture, which you obviously adjust to the Motion Chart in Google docs (or alternatively, to the Gapminder World tool. Then you press the red "rec" button, wait until the countdown is at zero and start your Motion Chart animation. Once it is finished you press stop rec or F10, and save the video as .avi in the next window. You can find the video I used here.

I didn’t insert the .avi in my PowerPoint presentation because there was somehow a remarkable loss of quality. Instead, I switched to the movie player (I use VLC player) during the presentation.

Before starting the avi-animation, I thoroughly explained the axes in the graph, what the colors meant, and the starting position of the three countries. I asked somebody in the audience to help me and stop the video after 10 years (the graph showed the development from 1980-2008). Then I tried a bit to imitate the style of Hans Rosling and explain to people what happened to the three countries with respect to the three development indicators that I had in my graph (life expectancy, GNI per capita, forest cover). My assistant was so concentrated on the animation that she forgot to press the pause button after 10 years, and the audience laughed. Then we stopped every ten years, the audience could take a breath and I could explain what has happened in the meantime. All in all, I had fun using it and my first experience was very good.


Please send any comments or suggestions to tobias.pfaff@uni-muenster.de.
Last update: June 16, 2010.

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