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Making a Map with Google Fusion Tables

Fusion Tables, in Google, is one such option.  It is an application offered within Google Drive (formerly Google Docs).  As such, it is accessible from any computer with web capability. It does not require the user to download any software or applications and as of this time, it has no cost.  It can host and share data as well.

Fusion Tables offers the following features and functionality:

  • Charts and Graphs
  • Mapping
  • Intensity and Heat Maps
  • Longitudinal display (change in data over time)
Mark Thomas at Duke University has developed a superlative guide on using Fusion tables to map data: http://guides.library.duke.edu/fusion_tables

Step-by-Step for Fusion Tables

You may use a dataset that you have compiled or created, provided that it has some recognized geographic reference. However, it will also require an additional dataset with that same geographical reference and the spatial data (think of them as coordinates) to map it.

Once you have these and you have a Google Drive account:

  1. Login to Google
  2. Find your data (with a geographic variable - city, state, school district, or other) and download as a spreadsheet to your desktop
  3. Upload your .csv or .xls file as a Fusion Table (got to New > More > Connect More Apps then search on Fusion Table)
  4. Find your geographic boundary file (Census has many for the US) and save to your desktop.  It will probably be a .zip file (with a bunch of shapefiles) or a KML file (Fusion tables and Google use this format)
  5. Upload the geospatial dataset - if it is not a KML file, go to ShpEscape to convert and upload.
  6. Once both files are in your Google drive, verify that the names in the geographic field of each file are the same.  If not, the data will not map completely.
  7. Open your data file in Google Drive.
  8. Go to File>Merge.
  9. Choose your geospatial boundary file from list and click Next.
  10. From the next menu, choose the geographic field from the data file.  Also, choose the corresponding field from the geospatial file - again, the data in these fields should match up between the 2 files.  Click Next.
  11. Verify that the data match and click Merge.

Databases with mapping functionality

Advanced Mapping and Geospatial Analysis - ArcGIS

For more information on advanced GIS, please refer to the Map & GIS Services at Evans Library  The gold standard for mapping data – Geographic Information Systems or GIS – is ArcMap from ESRI.  The Map & GIS Services offer a number of resources and services in support of GIS research.

It can manage large datasets and has many features that allow analysis and representation of the data in a geospatial context.  However, it does require an investment to develop the familiarity with the system to use it - At a minimum, 25 hours to become capable in the basics.  Generally, it would be a solution for a long-term project or an individual who wanted to acquire and use this skill regularly.

Videos on Fusion Tables