Microsoft Excel Power Map Gains Custom Regions
Sometimes zip codes aren't enough. Users can now map data to custom areas, opening up new ways of visualizing geospatial information with Excel.Microsoft has added bring-your-own-region support to Power Map for Excel as part of the May 2015 update for Office 365. Power Map, formerly GeoFlow, enables users of the popular spreadsheet application to visually overlay data over 2D and 3D maps provided by Bing Maps. Custom Regions "allows data to be mapped to the regions that matter most to you, even if they are not the traditional zip code, county, state or country regions," Igor Peev and Daniel Witriol, Microsoft Power Map program managers, wrote in a company blog posting. Effectively, the feature allows users to translate their data into map-based visualizations that may not fit into the borders of predefined areas. "Custom regions are useful for scenarios involving sales districts, school districts, congressional districts, land lot development, crop rotation, geological analysis, and anything else using custom-defined polygons," Peev and Witriol wrote. The feature relies on custom polygons from imported Keyhole Markup Language (KML) or Shapefile (SHP) files, both of which can be used to define geographical areas. The latter must adhere to the WGS 84 standard coordinate system projection for Custom Regions to work, they wrote. "Once imported, you can use custom regions in the same manner as you would use standard regions such as zip codes."
After importing the data, Power Map allows users to apply a friendly name to custom regions. "This is helpful when working with more than one set of custom regions. In the case of SHP files, there is also a drop-down allowing you to specify which field in the SHP file contains the names of your region," they noted.