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Today’s post was written by James Marshall, a developer on the Excel Power Map team.

If you haven’t noticed, Excel Power Map got a whole lot richer in September with the introduction of a new feature called Custom Maps. This feature allows you to create amazing 3-D visualizations that showcase your data on top of any map image … literally. To prove this point, we’d like to show you six different ways that you can use Custom Maps to visualize your data in new and creative ways. Check out the video to see these suggestions in action.

Hiking map

hiking_mapThe first example in the video shows how you can plot geographical data on a USGS Historical Topographic Map. The map shows the GPS coordinates from a hiking trip up Mount Pilchuck in Washington.  Further analysis could be done on the data, such as filtering by hiking speed or elevation gain. From here, it is easy to transition from a Custom Map scene back to a globe scene to gain a bigger picture of your surroundings.

Train routes

island_trafficThis is a made-up island with made-up data.  But, it’s clear how insights with this kind of visualization could be identified and really driven home.  For example, one train stop may clearly be over or under-serviced during a particular time of day, depicting how resources might be better distributed.

Coffee shop

coffee_shopIf you’re a store owner, you may be interested in knowing where customers are spending time so you can maximize your selling opportunities.  You could use any blueprint as the background image and there are a variety of solutions that exist for tracking indoor positions using Wi-Fi, which you can find by searching the web.

Basketball court

basketball_courtA coach could use Power Map to review a playback of an entire game, seeing where players are striving and where they need a little more coaching.  This example of course does not only apply to basketball, many sports could benefit from this analysis.

Cursor tracking

cursor_trackingIt’s not too difficult to capture the coordinates of mouse movements on a computer screen, and it’s even easier to plot those results in Custom Maps.  This kind of analysis is useful during user studies, to see where users are looking (and not looking) in a software application.

3-D formula

3D_graphFinally, Custom Maps makes it easy to create stellar visualizations for mathematical or scientific analysis, like graphing a 3-D formula. Maybe you have a data-set which has x, y and z parameters and you simply want to visualize it. Just use a blank image of a chart axis for the background and Power Map will display your data on top.

Custom Maps is a new feature in Power Map for Excel that was made available during the September update for customers with an Office 365 subscription including Office 365 ProPlus. With an Office 365 subscription, you can download and install Office 365 ProPlus desktop apps on five computers and get the latest innovations for Office, like this feature update, as soon as they are released.  If you have automatic updates enabled, you should have received this update. If you don’t have automatic updates enabled then in Excel go to File > Account > Update Options > Update Now.

Power Map is part of the powerful and interactive data visualization features within Excel, which are enhanced with Power BI for Office 365, our cloud-based solution for analyzing, visualizing and sharing data insights.

To learn more about using Custom Maps please see these articles:

—James Marshall