Including a map in our technical writing and presentations is an easy way to make geographic information more engaging for our audience. With the advanced data visualisation these days it can seem a little intimidating. However generating simple maps is actually really easy and automated with Excel. It includes Power Map a quick and easy way to produce a map to sit alongside your text.
Here’s how to do it (read the below in conjunction with Microsoft’s instructions here which has screenshots):
- Check your version of Office does this – Open Excel and type ‘3D Map’ in the Search field. (The Search field is in the top right of the ribbon, with the little search magnifying glass icon.) If the 3D Map button comes up, you can do this!
- Data – you need some data which includes at least one column of geographic information such as country names, city names, addresses, postcodes, longitudes/latitudes or x/y coordinates. If you don’t have an existing data file, and just need a quick ‘pins on a map’ image, then you can just type the names of the locations (e.g. cities) into an Excel worksheet. Remember to have a header/title for each column of data (‘location’ in the first row will do).
- Open Power Map – select your data and click that 3D Map button (via the Search field). A new Excel window will open with the 3D map.
- Identify what data you need on the map – There should be a pop up over the map which has the headers of all your Excel data columns. Drag the column header for your geographic information to the right sidebar into the Location field. If you have other data, such as population numbers for your cities, drag these to Height. This step sounds complex, but once you know where to drag the info, this step becomes a couple of simple drag and drops.
- Map’s done! As you get familiar with it you can edit colours used on the map, use different charts (bars, circles) and add more data sets.
Now you have a map you can add to your work. You can take a screenshot within Excel however I use the Snipping Tool to take the image I need instead. Then you can paste it into Word.
Importantly, this is only a fraction of what Power Map can do. There are all sorts of options once you add more data to your spreadsheet and you can display it in a range of the normal charts you find in Excel but with the added benefit of a mapped backdrop. Plus because it is set up to be video based you can use it to visualise change over time. By plotting both geographic and temporal information you get a powerful tool. You can also navigate around different map layers to show different data on the map. And if you record as you do this you can take your audience on a guided tour of the data.
Next time you are writing about a group of places, give Power Map a go. Or better still try it out today. The Microsoft link above has sample data sets you can use to give it a try.
It’s good to be back blogging in WordPress, as I have had a wee break. I will be sharing a bunch of ‘What’s New (and new-ish)’ in Microsoft Office over the coming month. So stay tuned and subscribe if you haven’t already (see right hand sidebar to subscribe via email) or follow me on LinkedIn.