Using a map visualization

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1. Overview

Maps display geographic information in the form of shape, path, and symbol elements. Then you connect these elements to data so that their appearance will change based on data values.

  • Shapes – Areas defined by boundaries on all sides, such as continents, countries, states/provinces, or lakes.
  • Paths – Linear features such as roads or rivers, or straight lines drawn by the map to connect pairs of symbols. These can come from a map resource, or from a data source referring to pairs of symbols.
  • Symbols – Location points on a map such as a city, office, or vehicle. These can either come from a map resource or from coordinates in your data source.

Elements of a map
Elements of a map

2. Map resources

Map elements (shapes, paths and symbols) are saved as map resources, which are one of the file types you can find in the Explore window in Dundas BI. Map visualizations can automatically find and load a map resource that matches your data, or you can choose one yourself.

When symbols are displayed at coordinates that come directly from your data source, map resources are still displayed in the background as context, by default.

2.1. Built-in maps

The Global project in Dundas BI includes a set of built-in map resources that you can browse or search for in the Explore window. You can find these in the Shared sub-folder under the Maps folder.

The built-in maps are categorized into different folders such as Cities, Continents, Countries, and States and Provinces. If your data matches map elements within this set of maps, then you do not need to go searching for additional map resources.

Maps included with Dundas BI
Maps included with Dundas BI

In addition to loading individual map resources, map visualizations have built-in layers displayed in the background as context, which change automatically as you zoom in. Other map resources are displayed on top. You can view a dashboard containing a blank map visualization with no data to see these layers: you are initially presented with the Continents layer, which changes to the Countries layer as you zoom in, and then to States/Provinces.

A map's built-in countries layer
A map's built-in countries layer

Your data might match directly with these layers, for example if your data contains country names. You can use the zooming behavior described above with your data if it contains a multi-level hierarchy that matches two or more of these layers, and the Top Level is set to select multiple levels at once: for example, you can zoom in when viewing to drill down from continent data to country data, then to states & provinces. (See Metric set analysis tools for more information about selecting multiple levels.)

2.2. ESRI shapefiles

You can also import shapefiles containing map elements besides the ones included in Dundas BI.

The ESRI (Environmental Systems Research Institute) shapefile format is a popular file format for storing map data and is used by many of the public domain map resources that you can acquire through the internet.

A single ESRI shapefile is actually composed of three or four separate files: a main (.SHP) file containing geographic data, an index (.SHX) file containing record information, and a database file containing data associated with the geometry elements stored within the SHP file. A fourth file (.PRJ) may be included with a description of the projection being used, to allow Dundas BI to successfully convert a shapefile into standard WGS-84 coordinates.

For example, a map of the United States might be represented by the following files:

  • usa.shp – Main shapefile which contains definitions for one layer of geometry elements (either polygons, polylines, or points).
  • usa.shx – Index file containing information about how to read the shape data from the SHP file.
  • usa.dbf – DBF (dBASE) file which defines a database table of attribute values. Contains one record (or row) per geometry element.
  • usa.prj – (Optional) A Well-known Text (WKT) description of the projection being used.

If you downloaded shapefile data in the form of a ZIP file, you'll need to extract the contents to an actual folder first.

Drag the set of three or four files from Windows Explorer or Finder and drop it over the Explore window in Dundas BI.

Drag shapefile (three files) into Dundas BI
Drag shapefile (three files) into Dundas BI

To start using it in a map right away, drop it onto your dashboard while editing it instead of onto the Explore window.

Either way, the shapefile is imported into Dundas BI. You can find it under the Maps folder in the Explore window.

The shapefile is added to the Maps folder
The shapefile is added to the Maps folder

You can also right-click or long-tap the Maps folder, choose Upload File, then select the files to upload rather than dragging them.

3. Connecting a map to data

As a simple example, consider an Excel file that contains two columns of data:

  • A column of text values that match the names of some known map features (for example, country names).
  • A column of numeric values that can be used as a measure (for example, sales figures for each country).

Excel data for connecting to a map
Excel data for connecting to a map

To import this Excel file into Dundas BI, drag it from your desktop onto the Explore window, or onto the canvas of a metric set or dashboard.

3.1. Add data to the map

After selecting your data, you can re-visualize it to a map from the toolbar. If Dundas BI found map resources that match your data, it will be located under Recommended.

Re-visualizing a metric set to a map
Re-visualizing a metric set to a map

Or add a new map to a dashboard or other view, then drag your data (e.g., Sheet1 from the example Excel data connector) and and drop it onto the map.

Drag Sheet1 to the map
Drag Sheet1 to the map

Dundas BI will automatically connect the available data to the most fitting elements in the map. You can then modify the automatically-assigned connections in the Visualization tab of the Data Analysis Panel

3.2. Matching with map elements

To determine how your data is matched with map elements, go to the Data Analysis Panel for the map, and click Visualization. (Expand Paths or Symbols as needed depending on what type of element corresponds to your data.)

Data visualization settings
Data visualization settings

The Name data specifies how the matching is done between map elements and the data from the metric set. In the example above, the Country hierarchy from the Excel data contains names that match the shape names.

To see the map resources that were loaded automatically, go to the Properties window and find the Matched Maps section. This section will also indicate if there are any Missing Names that were present in your data without a matching map element.

Matched Maps
Matched Maps

In case there is more than one potential match for any names in your data, assign another column or hierarchy as Context. For example, the data for Montana in the map below matches both with a US state and with a province in Bulgaria.

Montana (dark blue) matches with two shapes
Montana (dark blue) matches with two shapes

In this example, a Country column is needed as context in addition to the State/Province names.

Add country as context
Add country as context

When using a multi-level hierarchy with a lower level currently selected, the upper level can act as context instead, without assigning data separately as context. In this case, set the Top Level of the hierarchy to include the upper level, or drag the upper level from the Explore window onto the map.

An upper hierarchy level in the Explore window
An upper hierarchy level in the Explore window

3.2.1. Compatible names

Dundas BI will attempt to use both the names and alternate names included with the map resource that uniquely identify the elements.

Instead of changing your data or modifying the shapefile, you can set the Compatible Name property for an element that you know matches a particular name value in your data.

Find the shape, path, or symbol from the Main tab of the Properties window, or click or right-click the element directly on the map to select it and open its properties.

Edit properties for a shape and use the Shape Compatible Name property to give it a name for connecting to data
Edit properties for a shape and use the Shape Compatible Name property to give it a name for connecting to data

Note
In the case of multiple rows matching a shape because of alternate names, you can use the Shape Compatible Name property to indicate which name to use. This property takes precedence over the other names.

3.3. Populating symbols or path connections from data

Rather than matching with map resources, you can also populate symbols and/or paths connecting symbols directly from your data source by assigning the coordinates and/or names in the Data Analysis Panel's Visualization tab.

For details, see the article Displaying symbols on a map.

3.4. Colors and sizes

For the optional visualization choices, click the More button (if not clicked already) in the Data Analysis Panel's Visualization tab.

Map visualization options
Map visualization options

The data added under Shape Color in the image below means the shape colors change according to their Sales measure values. You can customize the actual colors and how they are assigned using the color rules in the Properties window.

Map visualization options
Map visualization options

In the Properties window's Look tab, find the color rules for each type of map element. You can modify the default Auto Color Rule, or add your own custom color ranges.

Auto color rule for shapes
Auto color rule for shapes

For example, change the auto color rule's From Color and To Color properties, or change the Distribution to determine how values are assigned a color.

Changing the From and To colors
Changing the From and To colors

When data is used to change map element sizes, such as when a measure is assigned to the shape Symbol Size, or the path or symbol Size, the size rules in the Properties window work the same way as color rules to determine the map element sizes. See Displaying symbols on a map for more details.

3.5. Labels

The Visualization tab in the Data Analysis Panel allows you to assign data you want displayed as a label for each map element.

To make labels visible on the map or to further customize them, go to Properties, click Text, and then Shape Label Settings (or choose path or symbol label settings).

The Shape Label Settings property
The Shape Label Settings property

Click the plus under Visible to set the property and show the labels of all the shapes in the map.

To hide labels not connected to data, do the same for Show Label Only On Elements With Data.

Hide shape labels not connected to data
Hide shape labels not connected to data

Tip
You can apply the above two settings to the properties of an individual shape or other map element, by setting its Label property.

4. Using a map

Once your design is complete, go to the toolbar and click View.

In View mode, you can:

  • Zoom in or zoom out on the map by using the mouse wheel, or a gesture on a trackpad or touch screen.
  • Pan the map by dragging it in any direction.
  • Hover over a shape on the map (long-press on a touch device) to view its corresponding tooltip popup with connected data values.

Note that the zooming and panning you do in View mode will be saved if you switch back to Edit mode, unless you first check in your file.

Using a map in View mode
Using a map in View mode

By default, Automatic Zooming is enabled, which means the viewport will automatically zoom and center over map resources displaying data whenever data loads. You can disable this behavior by using the Disable Automatic Zooming option in the Properties window.

The Default Viewport Center property enables you to indicate the initial position and zoom level of the viewport when Automatic Zooming is disabled from the Properties window rather than interactively. To activate this option click the plus under this property in the Properties window.

Default Viewport Center property
Default Viewport Center property

5. Choosing map resources

You can also choose map resources yourself to display, rather than allowing Dundas BI to load them automatically based on your data.

In the Explore window, you can find or search for a map in the Maps folder.

Drag the map to the canvas
Drag the map to the canvas

Go to the Properties window with the map selected. Each requested map will be listed (including its project name and folder location).

Requested maps
Requested maps

Selecting the Show Only Requested Maps property displays only the map resources that you selected this way. The built-in world map and its various layers will no longer be displayed and Dundas BI won't search for or load map resources automatically based on your data.

Show Only Requested Maps property
Show Only Requested Maps property

6. Show street level maps

You can connect to a third-party map provider to display as context for your map content. This is often useful when zooming more closely into maps displaying symbols, where street or city details are needed to understand the symbol locations. Map providers may also display other types of geographic information not easily displayed using shapefiles/map resources.

To start, enable the Show Street Level Maps property.

You can then choose from several pre-defined options using Map Provider Presets.

Select a map provider preset
Select a map provider preset

Important
Map providers are often not free to use even if you didn't specify a key, and may require a license or subscription. Click the hyperlink that appears in the Properties window to check with the provider.

Some map providers require authentication. If required, set the key or access token provider options to the values given to you by the provider.

Symbols plotted over a Carto (Light) basemap
Symbols plotted over a Carto (Light) basemap

The geographical data from the map provider is displayed. In case you also have shapes from map resources displayed, the Shape Opacity is set to a default level of 25%, which means you will be able to see the relevant geographical data underneath.

You are not limited to the predefined options listed: connect to any map provider supporting the 'XYZ' tile server standard, and any of their basemap styles, by setting the Map Provider URL property. Ensure the placeholders {x}, {y}, and {z} are included, and if available, also include the optional {s} placeholder to take advantage of subdomains for performance.

7. Map projection

The map visualization in Dundas BI supports two main map projections, which determine how locations and shapes that actually exist on a spherical globe are represented on your screen:

  • Equirectangular (default) – Common for map visualizations and GIS. Areas near the poles are distorted as shorter.
  • Mercator – Most common for web mapping and navigation. Areas near the poles are easier to see, but the areas nearest to the poles are more distorted than with equirectangular and distorted as larger.

Another version of Mercator called Web Mercator is available and used with street-level maps.

You can change the projection in the Layout tab of the map's properties.

Change to the Mercator map projection
Change to the Mercator map projection

8. Notes

  • If you have a shapefile that does not import correctly into Dundas BI, even when including its PRJ File, check the coordinate reference system (CRS) of the shapefile using a third-party application such as QGIS. This tool lets you check the CRS of a shapefile and also save/export it as a new shapefile with a different CRS (for example, WGS-84). You can use QGIS to prepare a shapefile with the appropriate CRS before adding it to Dundas BI.
  • Dundas BI applies simplification automatically when displaying maps, but extremely large and detailed shapefiles can still take longer to upload, process and display. You can simplify a shapefile before uploading it using a tool such as mapshaper to remove unnecessary details.

9. See also

Dundas Data Visualization, Inc.
500-250 Ferrand Drive
Toronto, ON, Canada
M3C 3G8

North America: 1.800.463.1492
International: 1.416.467.5100

Dundas Support Hours: 7am-6pm, ET, Mon-Fri