Creating Simple Maps with Microsoft Excel


Got MS Excel? Need a simple map? A little known tool in older versions of Microsoft’s Excel is the ability to create simple maps from tabular data. You can create simple chloropeth, chart and dot density maps using data organized by country, state or region.

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The instructions below are for Microsoft Excel versions earlier than Office 2000.  For later versions of Excel, MapPoint was introduced by Microsoft to work with their Office software to create maps, see Create a Map with MapPoint and Excel for instructions.  If you don’t have MapPoint and are working with a more current version of Microsoft Excel, visit the Making Maps with Excel for information about free and demo addins that allow you to create a map within Excel from spreadsheet data.

How to Make a Map in Excel

Create or load in an MS Excel compatible file. Compatible files (i.e. files that MS Excel can load in and properly place within columns and rows) include dbase (*.dbf), comma delineated (these are text files with the column values separated by commas and the row values separated by returns), as well as importable files from other spreadsheet programs.

Tip: For a complete list of files that Excel can open check the descriptions in the “file types:” drop down in the open file GUI.


Once you have loaded in or created the data you want to map, you will need to select the columns containing the data you want to map. The easiest way is to simply select all the columns (you select the actual columns to work with later on). To select the rows click on the header cells and drag your mouse across the columns until all columns you want have been highlighted. Make sure you include the column containing the names of the countries, states or cities that you are interested in mapping.


More Making Maps in Excel

• Making Maps with Excel
Free Spreadsheet Geocoding


Creating the Map in Excel

Now you are ready to start mapping. With the data columns still selected go to Insert à Map… Your cursor will change to a crossbar. Go to the part of the worksheet where you want to display the map. With your mouse, create the mapping area by clicking the upper left-hand corner of the intended map and dragging towards the lower right-hand corner and then release the mouse. MS Excel will then try to match the boundary names with existing map templates. If it can’t match it or finds more than one match a GUI will pop-up listing choices to select from.


Once you’ve selected your map template MS Excel will then attempt to match the boundary names with the boundary names attached to the template. If it comes across an unmatched name it will prompt you with a GUI listing all the boundary names from the template that you can match the unknown name to. If the name isn’t available in the list you can choose to discard that name and its associated values.


Once all the data issues have been resolved Excel creates a map using the data name column and the next immediate column. The default map is a graduate symbol map.


More Excel Mapping Resources

For making maps in Excel with versions 2007 and later, try out MapCite’s free Excel Addin for creating maps within a spreadsheet.

The Closet Entrepreneur has step-by-step instructions for turning addresses into x,y coordinates for mapping in Google Maps and Earth.  If do-it-yourself mapping isn’t your thing, then the site recommends using or  Dabble DB to upload and map out addresses from Excel.


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