Excel on Steroids: Google Docs and App Script

A post today by my friend Thomas about normalising the county portion of Irish address prompted me to write a little bit about a recent geo-coding problem I had. I was working on archiving the data from Edinburgh is Everywhere and wanted to get the city and country of the lat-long coordinates that the user pin-dropped.

I evaluated a few different options, Python being my first choice, but some off-hand comment on a blog lead me to investigate Google Docs instead.  I had used Google Sheets, their Excel equivalent, but it was so long ago that there wasn’t much to it back then. Sometime between now and then Google released App Script, a cloud-based Javascript environment for automating Google Docs and other Google products such as Gmail and Google Drive. The magic is that you can use JavaScript to create functions that you can then use in formulas in Sheets. I’m really impressed with the level of integration and customisation that App Script allows for these products, it beats Visual Basic or Applications any day of the week.

I had rolled up my sleeves and started to inspect Google’s reverse geocoding example when I found this excellent post on converting coordinates to addresses with the Google Maps API, and within a few minutes I was sorted.