Excel Mapping with ArcGIS Online

Caitlin Dempsey


Esri recently debuted the availability of Esri Maps for Office, a new component of its ArcGIS Online service that allows for the mapping of geographic data directly  within Excel.  Esri Maps for Office is part of Esri’s subscription based whole platform approach to mapping, meaning maps are available via the web (allowing interactive maps to be embedded on web sites), mobile apps, and Office products.

What is ArcGIS Online?

ArcGIS Online is what James Killick, who I spoke to about Esri Maps for Office, refers to as the “YouTube of Mapping”.  Killick, who heads up Esri’s location analytic product group, explained that users upload data and create web maps via the service.  ArcGIS Online is enterprise focused and web maps created via the service can then also be shared on mobile apps.  The subscription service allows for role based sharing and security which means that users can regulate who can share or view maps via their ArcGIS Online account.

Esri Maps for Office

Making Maps in Excel
• Making Maps with Excel
Creating Simple Maps with Microsoft Excel
• Making Maps with Excel Using MapCite
Free Spreadsheet Geocoding

Esri Maps for Office extends the ArcGIS map sharing capability into Microsoft Office products. Maps published via ArcGIS Online can be brought into Microsoft Excel and data mapping within Excel can be ported to ArcGIS Online.  Both point (including geocoding locations) and areas can be mapped and visualized within Excel.  Point data can be clustered for readability and heat maps generated to show areas of higher concentration.  Videos showing the various features of Esri Maps for Office can be viewed online.

Heat Map in Excel using Esri's Maps for Office.
Heat Map in Excel using Esri’s Maps for Office.

Both static maps (captured images of the mapped data) and interactive maps can be viewed not only in Excel but other Office products such as PowerPoint.  Killick points out that adding interactive maps (meaning zoom, pan, and information pop-ups for features) creates a “more impactful presentation in PowerPoint“.

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Esri’s Excel mapping program differentiates itself from many of the current Excel mapping plugins out there in that it is one of the only ones that allows for the mapping of custom regions.  Rather than being restricted to the standard boundaries of countries, and individual states, custom regions can be linked to corresponding spreadsheet data through GIS data uploaded via ArcGIS Online.

Data from multiple spreadsheets within the same Excel workbook can be mapped together.  Any data that is linked within Excel from an external database can also be mapped.  Mapping can be filtered to a subset of a spreadsheet.

Maps created in Excel can then be shared via ArcGIS Online, which in turn, allows users to distribute those maps by embedding them into other web sites or via mobile apps.

Esri has a free online seminar for learning how to use Esri Maps for Office (a Esri Global Account is required, sign up is free).  The sixty minute seminar includes a session about Esri Maps for Office along with two other Location Analytics products: Esri Maps for Microsoft SharePoint and IBM Cognos.

Trying Out ArcGIS Online and Esri Maps for Office

Esri Maps for Office is available only as part of the ArcGIS Online service.  There is a free thirty day trial period subscription service available so potential users can try out both ArcGIS Online and Esri Maps for Office.  Those signing up for the thirty day trial period can download the Excel add-in as part of the registration process.  This provides users with a free segment of time to try out the features offered both through ArcGIS Online and Esri Maps for Office.  After the thirty day period is over, paid subscriptions are available and any work done in Excel is carried over.  The cost varies depending on the number of users licensed and service credits used  in the package and is charged a year at a time.  Visit Esri’s purchase page for ArcGIS Online for an outline of the plans available.

Future Capabilities for ArcGIS Online and Esri Maps for Office

Esri’s roadmap for ArcGIS Online and Maps for Office involves bringing offline capabilities.  Currently, an Internet connection is required to access any of the mapping components.

Given that the existing pricing plan is geared more toward institutions that can afford the annual fees, I asked James Killick if future plans include offering a free  but limited version of the Excel plugin to attract potential customers.  Killick responded that there has been a lot of discussion about offering a stripped down version and pointed to Esri’s Business Analyst Online App (BAO) as a model of Esri’s free versus paid version of another location analytics product.  The app provides site analytics and offers for free up to a dozen facts for a one mile radius around a point as well as comparing one location to another.  The subscription service (which also has a thirty-day free trial) allows users to expand the search area up to a 100 mile radius and access more facts as well as browser based access to BAO from a computer.

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About the author
Caitlin Dempsey
Caitlin Dempsey is the editor of Geography Realm and holds a master's degree in Geography from UCLA as well as a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) from SJSU.