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Excel Tip of the Week #430 - 3D maps

Author: David Lyford-Tilley

Published: 25 Jan 2022

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Hello all and welcome back to the Excel Tip of the Week! This week we have a General User post in which we’re going to look at the esoteric and quirky 3D maps feature.

What is 3D maps?

3D maps can be used to create an animated visualisation of data with a geographic element, and which can even show the data updating over time. Here’s a sample:

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These are relatively simple to make – requiring only minimal data and no specialist knowledge. To start, get your data into a format like this:

Excel screenshot

If your data is currently in a 2D layout (with dates across the top), then TOTW 425 on unpivoting can help you easily transform it.

From here, select your data and use Insert => 3D Map:

Excel screenshot

Note that there is also the Maps chart type, which you can use to create a static map chart.

3D Maps will open this new window:

Excel screenshot

From here you can select which fields to use for which elements of the visualisation. As you can see here, we’ve chosen the City field for the Location, Value field for the Height, and the Date field for the Time. This is all you need to create the visualisation! You can also use the on-screen buttons or a left-click and dra to adjust the camera position, angle, and zoom of the visualisation.

Going further with 3D maps

As well as the basics, you can also create several different Tours and have them play one after the other to make a more complex presentation. You can also tweak the type of map being used – from a simple cartographic map like the above example to a more realistic satellite map or other option. You can also use a custom image instead of a map.

You can also visualise the data in other ways than pillars – for example as bubbles or as heat maps:

Excel screenshot

You can also add annotations to individual points with descriptions of what’s going on there, or just with a label showing the data. Unfortunately you can’t add these wholesale, and instead need to add them to each data point in turn.

Download the accompanying file and have a play around with it yourself! This also includes a simple Power Query that transforms the tabular source data into the required 3-column format.


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