Saturday, April 13, 2013

Using GeoFlow to create SQL Saturday Emergence Video

On Thursday evening, I downloaded the Community Preview of GeoFlow. I just had to try out GeoFlow the first day it was available. That resulted in me creating a map of the past 1.5 years of U.S. based SQL Saturdays and tweeting a picture of that map here.

This afternoon my goal was to make a video showing the emergence of all U.S. based SQL Saturdays which may be seen here.

GeoFlow is a free add-on to Excel 2013. You'll need Office Professional Plus 2013, Office 365 ProPlus, or the Midsize, E3, or E4 versions of Office 365.

I liked how easy GeoFlow was to start using once I had installed both Excel 2013 and GeoFlow. I did, however, have an initial issue of the GeoFlow button being greyed out. This appears to have been an issue for some others, as well. I've heard at least one person say that disabling and re-enabling the add-on worked for them. In my case I un-installed my no longer needed Office 2007, and that fixed the issue for me.

In order to use GeoFlow you'll need to put data into an Excel table and then select Insert--> Map-->Launch GeoFlow-->New Tour

Much of what you need to know to get started may be found by downloading the sample Excel data sets available on the site containing the Community Preview. The sample data set I downloaded included instructions on how to build an initial tour.

Having worked with the tool beyond those tutorials, though, I have found GeoFlow powerful but sometimes hard to navigate. For example, the below option to set the time length I found by clicking Play Tour and then exiting the tour. There's probably an easier way to find the setting, but I wasn't able to quickly find it. (Update: To get to the below setting, with Tour Editor on, click on the Scene and then click on the cog/wheel icon on the scene.)

The following items are things I would like to see in a future version, assuming they are not hidden somewhere in the CP. (Update: Added a few items and clarified a few others.)

  • Capability to align the Title text in a textbox.
  • Capability to change the colors being used for items in a legend, minus changing Themes. For example, if I have two event types like SQL Saturday and SQL Rally, I would like to be able to pick the color attached to each item. Update: This feature became available in the September preview release.
  • Provide an optional window for a second portion of the map, like for Hawaii and Alaska which do not show up in a zoomed in map of the U.S. (In my video I scrolled the map over to Hawaii at the end)
  • Capability to save the animation of a tour to video file format. I used Camtasia to screen grab my tour's video. Update: This feature became available in the September preview release.
  • Capability to embed an actual interactive GeoFlow tour into a PowerPoint presentation. Even if the machine had to have Excel 2013, this would be nice.
  • An option for the values in the optional 2D chart to grow as time passes in the animation. Currently, the values appear static in the 2D chart.
  • An optional 2D rolling total for the measurement regardless of geo-spatial location. For example, if 67 SQL Saturdays have appeared by date X, then 67 would show as the total.
Below are a few of the things I really like.

Once I went through one of the tutorials, it was very easy to get my first map screenshot ready. I had one tweeted on day 1.

When playing a tour, you can stop it at any time and hover over an item in the map to see the data as of the point in time when the video was stopped.  This screenshot was from me stopping at the 10/27/2008 point in time. Orlando has had several more SQL Saturdays since October 2008.

Overall I've enjoyed trying out GeoFlow and look forward to seeing more of GeoFlow's potential.

No comments: