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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Excel Power Map vs. Power BI Globe Map visualization

[2016-02-02] PowerMap in Excel is a great tool with good design and comprehensive user experience. I’ve started using it about a year ago when our team participated at first Canadian Microsoft Big Data hackathon (http://blogs.technet.com/b/cansql/archive/2015/04/13/big-data-hackathon-a-story-from-a-winning-team.aspx).

So I gradually developed a taste to this Geo analytical tool that helps to map data points and describe insightful and informative stories. Later on in November of 2015, visually similar tool has been added to the Power BI (http://blogs.msdn.com/b/powerbi/archive/2015/11/24/visual-awesomeness-unlocked-the-globe-map.aspx). And this gave me an opportunity to compare and analyse both tools’ functionality.

Basically they’re not competing with each other, but rather live in two different worlds: one is a client application in Excel, the other one is a custom Power BI visualizations. They’re friends and they’re siblings :-)


Things that Excel Power Map and Power BI Globe Map have in common:
  • Mapping data points to a 3D Globe visualization using geo coordinates (Latitude/Longitude and regular address coordinates)
  • Data facts explorations being attached to associated geo coordinates.



Things that Power BI Globe Map doesn’t have compared with the Excel Power Map:

o   Ability to change globe themes
o   Ability to create visual tours and save them as video files
o   Change the chart shapes
o   Change the height and thickness scale of visuals
o   Change color for a series
o   Find location feature
o   Add an annotation with image
o   Legends
o   Bubble charts, pie charts and region charts
o   Power Map graphics options

Things that Excel Power Map doesn’t have compared with Power BI Globe Map:
  • Geo filtering based on additional visualizations that are sourced from the same data model (this is one of my favorites).
  • Power Map has an option to add a 2D chart to a globe visualization too, but Power BI integration of multiple visualizations is on a different level (great way for a real data exploration!).
  • Power BI Globe visualization is free compared with a slightly cumbersome licensing aspect to enable a Power Map option in Excel. 

Few suggestions if you want to build a data visualization in Excel Power Map:
  • Power Map requires really powerful machine to process and create video (go with 64 bit Office; more memory, especially if you try to work with very complicated shape data files and attempting to add images as annotations).
  • When you add a new layer to existent scene, make it invisible first (do all the adjustments) and then make it visible, otherwise as soon you place a field name to Location then your scene will be turned.
  • No Save button and Undo/Redo buttons' behavior are difficult to understand.
  • A few times I've had a glitch with a text box when later you try to change its text or background color (no changes after pressing OK  button); only by recreating this text box all necessary adjustments were possible.
  • Scene effect (difficult to predict, without actually trying them), but when you master your skills changing different effects between different scenes, then you get all the enjoyment of creating nice Map visualizations :-)




[2016-02-06] Update:
Three days ago Microsoft announced Power BI "publish to web" functionality (https://powerbi.microsoft.com/en-us/blog/announcing-power-bi-publish-to-web/) and I've just tried to publish my latest Power BI report of with public Berkeley Earth data of over land temperatures (http://berkeleyearth.org/).

And now I can really rotate a Power BI Globe inside my blogger post, and you can do this as well; plus, you can interact with all other controls of the reports and check how the Globe rotate itself based on your data criteria selections (Country or Temperature range).

It works! Great feeling!

Happy data adventures!