4 Easy Ways to Visualize Excel Data on Bing Maps

I have been helping developers visualize their data on Bing Maps for many years. One of the most requests I’ve had in the past is, “I have this data, but can you show it on a map?” More often than not this data would be sitting in an Excel file, usually with some address data, but rarely contained any coordinate information. To get this data into Bing Maps I would geocode the address information and then convert the data into a format that could be easily imported into Bing Maps. This usually required a few hours of work on my part and usually led to a discussion on how this could be turned into a reusable business intelligence app.

The solution at the time was to create a custom add-in for Excel or export the data to a database and create a web app. In either case there was significant development work required. In the last few years a lot of great tools have been made available that solve this very problem. In this blog post I’m going to provide an overview of some of these tools along with details on how you can create your own tools as well.

Power Maps

Supported Platform: Excel 2013 (desktop only)

In November 2012, Microsoft announced a new Excel add-in called GeoFlow. GeoFlow was later renamed Power Maps and became part of the Power BI stack in Office. Power Maps is a three-dimensional (3D) data visualization tool that lets you view your data in a number of different ways on a map, such as 3D charts, heat maps, and timelines. Currently Power Maps is only available in the desktop version of Excel 2013. Documentation on how to get started with Power Maps can be found here.

This video provides a good overview of what you can do with maps in Power BI.

One really cool feature of Power Maps is that you can create videos out of your maps. If you are a fan of the FIFA World Cup, then take a look at this blog post on MSDN. The post describes the making of a cool video tour around the countries that have competed in the past World Cups using Power Maps.

Power View

Supported Platform: Excel 2013, SharePoint 2013

Power View is similar to a Pivot Chart in Excel, but with a lot more power. One of the key features is the ability to visualize spatial data on a map within Power View. This makes it easy for you to create interactive business intelligence dashboards that can be easily filtered and updated without the need to write any code. Power View is part of the Power BI stack. and is also available in SharePoint 2013. You can find information on how to get started with Power View here.

It’s worth pointing out that Bing Maps is also built into SharePoint 2013 for viewing list data on a map. You can find more information on this here.

Apps for Office

Supported Platforms: Excel 2013, Access 2013, Outlook 2013

In the past you could create add-ins for the desktop version of Excel. With many of Microsoft’s products moving to the cloud, a new way to add additional functionality to Office was created called “Apps for Office”. Apps for Office not only work in the desktop version of Excel, but can also be used with the web versions of Office 365, OneDrive and SharePoint. There are several map related apps already available through the Apps for Office store. Many of them are free as well. One such app is the Bing Maps app for Excel, which allows you to easily select data and view it on a map as pushpins or pie charts.

There are other apps for Office that use Bing Maps that work in other Office products, for example the Bing Maps for Access app. Some apps are built into Office, such as the Bing Maps app for Outlook, which provides you with the option to view addresses that are within an email on a map (requires Exchange 2013 as well).

Anyone can create an app for Office. Documentation can be found here. As a bonus, this code sample shows how to build an app for Office that uses Bing Maps.

MapCite Excel Add-In

Supported Platform: Excel 2007, 2010, 2013

All of the solutions that I have covered so far require Office 2013. If you are using an older versions of Office, all is not lost. A few years ago a Microsoft partner called MapCite created an Excel add-in that greatly simplifies the process of viewing data in Excel on a map. They, like myself, found that taking data from Excel and viewing it on a map took a lot of work. As a result, they set out to come up with a solution. What they did was create an Excel desktop add-in and embedded the JavaScript version of Bing Maps into a WebBrowser control. From there they added the ability to geocode all the data in the Excel file, display it on the map using custom pushpins, cluster overlapping pushpins, and then view data as a heat map. To get everything working you simply need to enter a Bing Maps key when installing the add-in. They have since included a number of other features to this add-in. One of the biggest benefits of this add-in is that it is supported in Excel 2007, 2010 and 2013. MapCite does sell this add-in; however they also have a free version available, which is a great place to start. You can find more information on this add-in on the MapCite website.


Conclusion

In this blog post we have seen a several different ways to visualize data that’s in Excel on Bing Maps without the need to do any coding. Even better is that most of these solutions have free versions that you can try out. So don’t worry about coding and get mapping!

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