Monday, August 17, 2015

Making Maps with 'Google My Maps', Part I

Google may be moving away from making software, like Google Earth desktop--the Pro version was made free--but they still have a few tricks up their sleeve.  Recently, Google made a solid entry into the web publishing domain by giving users the tools to create more sophisticated online maps.  Gone are the days of just adding placemarkers, and now users can add spreadsheets (automatically geocoded) and *.kml files.

As of mid-summer, users can now create and manage their own maps via Google Drive, called "Google My Maps" or simply "My Maps."  All you need to do is setup a free Google Drive account, click on "My Drive" at the top, then "New File", and "Google My Maps"

Google created a very user friendly way for users to make online maps from Google Drive.
There are nine different basemaps to choose from.  Adding layers is easy.  Simply, click the link "Import" to add data or "Add Layer" to add additional layers on top or below.  You can add *.csv, *.xlsx, or *.kml files.  You can directly import files by searching your Drive or import them from your desktop.  If you use a spreadsheet, Google will prompt you to identify the location field or field(s) whether an address or placename as well as how to identify/name your features.


In this example, we will look at a spreadsheet of Substance Abuse Clinics (2011) from the City of Chicago of Data Portal.  After clicking "Import, we are asked to select the location field(s). It can handle addresses in a single or multiple fields.  Next, you will be asked what name/title for your places should be.

If Google has problems geocoding a spreadsheet, you will receive a warning.

Next, we will symbolize the markers by "Population Served" or age groups that each clinic serves. You can also change the symbols for each class.

Google allows map creators to make changes to symbology.
At this point, you will probably start to think about saving your project...But, Google has you covered as changes are saved as you go along.  Be sure to give your map a good name, so it does not get lost among your other files.

You can even add a widget for people to get directions.
 Maps can be shared and permissions set with a few clicks after pressing the share button.
What the map looks like so far.  Clicking on markers brings up attribute data.

You can check out the interactive version at: https://goo.gl/39D8lG using your desktop computer or mobile device. Next post, we will look at more features, performance, and wrap up with some strengths and limitations of My Maps. 

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