Digital/multimedia

Here’s a super easy way to create interactive maps – BatchGeo

Editors often share with me cool tools they’ve found online, usually out of necessity for a project they’re working on. Sometimes I look and am like “Oh boy, this is complicated,” and have to reach back out to the editor for help. However, the latest tool that came my way I was able to figure out for myself, which is a sure sign that you can use it, too! It’s called BatchGeo and it lets you make interactive maps, super fast.

Truth be told, a few editors have shared this with me over the years, but I was so enamored with Google Maps or Google Fusion, I dismissed it as “one more thing.” But if you’ve ever tackled creating a Google Fusion map – which merges a map with a spreadsheet of data – you know *anything* is probably easier than one of those! This tool is free and doesn’t even require an account.

Obviously, to use this kind of a map, you need to be plotting something by geography. I’ve done test maps simply by city/state. Others have done them using exact street addresses. Regardless, you plug them in to a spreadsheet, along with whatever other information you want to display with each plot point.

For instance, here’s what the spreadsheet looked like for the test map you see above. Note that it’s not real data. I listed the town/city in one column, the state postal code in another, then the information I wanted revealed with each point in the other columns.

BatchGeo spreadsheet info
Pretend data in a Google spreadsheet to use in BatchGeo.
You can create that in Excel or Google Sheets – I used Google Sheets.

Copy all of that info and then go over to BatchGeo.com. That page pretty much walks you through it – just paste or drag the spreadsheet info into that big box in the middle of the page.

BatchGeo homepage
BatchGeo’s homepage walks you through what to do.

From there, you can “validate and set options” or you can just commit to making the map. I suggest validating first. This allows you to “tell” BatchGeo which fields it should pull from to create the map, e.g. State, address, etc.

It also previews what the plot points will reveal when you click on them. That way, you know you set up your spreadsheet correctly and you’ll get what you’re intending on your map.

On my map above, I changed the “group by/thematic value” setting to focus on the Higher/Lower column on my spreadsheet. That created different colors of plot points on the map, really calling attention to that data.

Validate batchgeo
Validate and set options

You can click on “show advanced options” to change the color of the plot points and set whether the map is a satellite view, street view, etc. There are other options but they didn’t mean much to me.

Once you’ve set those things to how you want them, click on “Make Map.” That will ask you for a title, which shows up in the top left of the map, and a description, which shows up stripped across the bottom of the map. You also plug in an email address so BatchGeo can email you the link to the map where you can edit it later and retrieve an embed code.

If your spreadsheet featured more than one column of information, each item becomes a filter-able field on the map. So for my test map, I could just see the number of projects or the number of employees.

Because I chose the “higher/lower” column under the “group by/thematic value” filter earlier, on my map, there are different colored pins to represent one or the other.

If I click on the plot points, the information for each one pops up. I can also see that same information by scrolling down under the map.

Plot point data BatchGeo
Plot point data listed under the map.

Ken Johnson at the Patriot Ledger (Quincy, Mass.) used this map to show whether property tax values are higher or lower than the state average in the communities the newspaper covers.

Click here to check out that map.

This map shows where sex offenders live, in relation to schools.

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