Telling Even Better Stories with Microsoft BI and GeoFlow
April 11, 2013 2 Comments
Last December I wrote about Microsoft’s add-in to Excel called GeoFlow, an application that allows users to analyze geographic and temporal data on a globe. Using 3-D data visualizations, GeoFlow enables data discovery that may not be possible in standard 2-D charts and tables. The first post I wrote about GeoFlow covered a pre-released version, which had some basic features and functionality. Now Microsoft is proud to introduce a public preview of GeoFlow, which comes with a host of improved features and functionality. In my first post, I used GeoFlow to build a narrative around ticket sales’ data at the Seattle Center. We’ll continue with that same data set here.
Various points of data on a map can create quite a clutter. With the addition of 2-D charts, users will be able to explore data more effectively. In this example, you can see the top 100 locations that have sold the most tickets. Clicking a chart item highlights the location so that you can easily select which one you want.
If the geo-spatial data you’re dealing with has the possibility of not being geocoded properly, you can now inspect the data once the engine has taken one pass at it. Below, you can see the zip codes that were used to geocode the ticket sales. GeoFlow was able to plot 99% of the locations with high confidence.
Previously, the entire visualization needed to be recreated if the data in your Excel workbook changed. This can be especially frustrating when you’re using a data source that is refreshed frequently. Now, with a click of a button, you can refresh your visualization to reflect the changes in the data.
Touch navigation and gestures
GeoFlow now fully supports touch navigation and gestures for zooming, panning, and rotating. For those who prefer buttons to navigate the globe more precisely, buttons have been added.
Improvements to timeline
The timeline has been tweaked to provide you with more details and extra options. By default, you will now have a text box showing the current snapshot in time that your data is displaying. You can, of course, move it or disable it. However, it appears that you can’t change the formatting of the display, so you’re stuck with one style.
Another change to the timeline gives you the ability to set a starting and ending point of your playback; this feature is quite useful when your data set is lengthy. The speed of the playback can be toggled with a slider, letting you fine-tune the correct speed.
The most significant change to the timeline is how data shows up through playback. Previously, only “time accumulation” was available, which aggregated the data throughout the duration. Now, “instant” and “persist the last” are added as options. “Instant” is one of the more fun display mechanisms, as the values pop up and down like a music equalizer. “Persist the last” is pretty self-explanatory; it leaves the last value for each unique location. The accumulation works very well to show how total tickets sales grow over time, while the instant method does a good job of showing sales at each individual moment in time.
The new tour model allows you to work without having to save or refresh your scene—a great time saver. Transitions finally have more options; you now have a handful of different transitions to build your story. You still have the option to control the duration of each scene and the following transition.
In summary, the new features in the GeoFlow preview for Excel significantly improve the product’s performance and stabilization. Have you tried GeoFlow yet? Download it here and let us know what you think.