Digging into New Custom Maps for Excel Power Map

In the latest round of monthly Power BI updates, a really cool addition for Power Map was released called Custom Maps. Custom Maps empower you to get incredibly creative with location analytics.

Jen Underwood

September 23, 2014

3 Min Read
Digging into New Custom Maps for Excel Power Map
Source: Microsoft

In the latest September round of monthly Power BI updates, a really cool addition for Power Map was released called Custom Maps. Custom Maps empower you to get incredibly creative with regards to your position related visualizations in retail stores, sporting venues, medical facilities, highways, and many other location analytics applications. Custom maps are simply an extension of current Power Map capabilities. This newly released functionality allows for data visualization layering and also animated 3D visualization tours on top of a customized image just as you can with default geospatial maps today.

How it Works

If you'd like to see an example of Custom Maps in action and a step-by-step walkthrough, take a peek at the Microsoft Power Map team's latest video. Basically, data values get associated to specific sections of an image. Similar to standard geospatial mapping tools that use standard latitude and longitude location coordinates, Power Map Custom Maps use a coordinate system approach to plotting data on the screen.

For example, if you were trying to visualize workplace injury locations on a human body outline, you would add estimated X and Y coordinates to each record in your data set for common back, leg, ankle, wrist, and head injuries. To assign X and Y coordinates, you'll need to do a little image location mapping prep (aka experimentation) work to cross-reference X and Y coordinates with your custom image for fairly accurate data visualization overlays. Don't stress if you don't guess X and Y placement perfectly. The easy, new Power Map Custom Map wizard includes enhancements to scale, adjust, and offset loaded X and Y data points to better fit and align to areas in the inserted custom image. Realistically, you will most likely iterate through the simple Custom Map wizard and tweak your coordinates in Excel a few times to perfect data value to image location placement.

All the other goodies in Power Map can be used with the new Custom Map features. You can create and save scenes, tour different 3D perspectives in your data, or/and produce fully interactive data movies with Custom Map imagery. Sounds fun, right? I've already thought of many appealing and powerful use cases for this slick new feature. I'm also expecting a plethora of entertaining visualizations and stories from our wide and deep world of resourceful data humorists.

Seeing data visualized on an image is truly powerful. There's no doubt in my mind that Custom Maps will be a valuable tool for many different audiences. What's that old saying again? A picture is worth a thousand words. What about a lot of picture played over time in a Power Map video with data overlays? Hmm, is that worth a million words? Give Custom Maps in Power Map a whirl and let me know what you think.

How to Get Started

To get started building your own Custom Maps, download and update Excel 2013 Professional Plus with the latest Power BI updates and also the Power Map Preview (Microsoft Power Map Preview for Excel.exe) bits. Note that Power Map updates are NOT automatically installed by the automated Power BI update process.

Brand new Custom Maps in Power Map take data storytelling to a whole new paradigm. This is one area where Microsoft BI is not lagging but, rather, happens to be on the leading edge of visual analytics! For more Power Map information, tutorials and guidance, please review Microsoft's official online Power BI documentation.

Related: Hybrid Business Intelligence with Power BI

About the Author(s)

Jen Underwood


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