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Introducing Guides

By Saul Pwanson and Anja Kefala

VisiData is an incredibly powerful tool, often hailed as "world-class" and "the gold standard" for data exploration.

However, these accolades usually come with a caveat: it has "a steep learning curve".

Over the years, as we've invested in ease of use, we've amassed a wide range of documentation sources [1]:

We also have some non-documentation sources, like:

  • Mastodon for bonus tips and trivia and related projects.
  • Patreon for updates and data games and text art, with various support tiers.
  • Saulville (Discord server) and occasional office hours, for community interaction.

Whew, that's a lot!

And we know that quantity sometimes makes it harder to know where to find what's relevant to you. So we've been steadily shifting our approach to usability, to make it easier to find what you need within VisiData itself. For example:

  • (added in 2.6) a menu system so you can browse for commands.
  • (added in 3.0) a command palette so you can fuzzy search for commands.
  • (added in 3.0) sidebar help so you can get more context-aware information.

Finally, building on the sidebar context-sensitive help that's been added in 3.0, we're starting to add Guides.

Guides are Organized Explanations of Features

Each guide is a highlight of a particular feature, giving a basic synoposis and including 5-15 related commands and options. Like the manpage, they are viewable from within VisiData itself. You should not have to leave the terminal to learn how to use VisiData.

A few of these guides have already been written! To explore the existing guides, open the Guide Index with Space open-guide-index (within VisiData) or vd -P open-guide-index (from the CLI).


White text indicates a written guide; gray guides haven't been written, yet. Press Enter on a written guide to take a look!


Particularly exciting is the support for basic markdown VisiData's own display attribute syntax. This is how the colors in the guides were added.


We can even add links!


We think that most of VisiData's 300+ commands and 150 options can be represented in ~30 guides. So not only will the guides cover a breadth of features in more depth, they will also act as a structured command reference. These guides will eventually supplant the existing web content and existing manpage--both should be composable from the guides.

This is where you can come in! For v3.1, we are hosting a documentation drive, encouraging contributions from the community. If you are interested in helping out, check out the Guide Index and consider which topics you would like to write guides for. We have a tutorial up on adding a guide and are welcoming PRs.

  1. There are also several 'nonsources', including the GitHub wiki, Twitter @VisiData, r/visidata subreddit, StackOverflow, and an ancient fork on readthedocs.
    These are deprecated, neither maintained nor monitored, and will be removed if possible once any content has been preserved in a more active documentation form. ↩︎

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