GMaps Plugin

I just finished a project where I created a geographic dashboard with the Gmaps plugin from Centigon Solutions. Besides the obvious, the plugin is way better than the maps in Xcelsius, I will share my experience with you.

Pros:
- intuitive, user friendly both for designer and end-user. – lot of format options, you can set formatting on the map and on individual series.
- geotagging on names (next to coordinates). A serie can be based both on names and coordinates in same source column.
- trial version is fully functional, only watermark is shown in preview.
- dynamic zoom and panning.
- Personal response to my post, with very satisfactory answers.

- html formatting of labels.

Cons:
- one example implied use of embedded flash in info window while this is actually an url to Google maps charting. This was otherwise a very good selling point.
[RG] We 100% agree with your assessment here. With version 3.0 you can use SWF charts as a marker using custom icon URLs which is a first step forward. The next version of GMaps after 3.0 will include a complete overhaul of the infowindows. We have lots of great ideas here and will absolutely engage you before we finalize the requirements. We envision infowindows almost having a mini-dashboard inside of the map.

- a few times the series disappeared in the properties window in design. In preview all series still worked as they should
be, however I could not alter them in design. I had to recreate the series again.
[RG] I am hoping we have this bug pinned down for 3.0. We know what the cause is and have been trying different ways with the SDK to prevent it.

- the legend cannot be placed anywhere other then at the bottom. Furthermore the font size and icon size cannot be set
by the designer.
[RG] This is very good feedback as we have not gotten any real feedback on needs for the legend.

- panning only works good with coordinates, when using multiple series based on both names and coordinates, the
panning might not work properly.
[RG] I may need some more details on this one to see if there is an issue that we have missed. This could be something that we can fix for 3.0 still.
[FK]I have 3 series, Region, OpCo, Unit. On opening dashboard only Region is displayed, pan is center world and zoom is 1. When clicking on a pin, the OpCo serie is displayed (containing all pins for all regions), pan is coordinates of selected region, zoom is 4. When clicking on an OpCo, unit serie is displayed (for all OpCos), pan is selected OpCo coordinate, zoom is 6. Each time you click on a pin, that will be the panning. Zoom is depending on series. When I used the name of certain places instead of coordinates, the pin is displayed in the correct location, but the panning did not work, I had to move map with mouse manually. The necessary data for pan and zoom is put through by destination “row” option.

Wish list:
- select whole country based on name or country code instead of needing a shapefile for this.
[RG] We will continue to use shapefiles to import the data and allow any kind of shapedata. However as you will see in 3.0 you will be able to link to 1 single shapefile and hide or display any individual shapes using Xcelsius. We know this will be a huge addition since it was painful to create robust experiences.

- the embedded swf with flash vars or even better yet, chart directly connected to dashboard in info window.
[RG] Can you provide some more details for us on this one and we can add it to our enhancement list.
[FK]I mean creating one default chart e.g. pie which is embedded in each info window of each data point. With FlashVars I can send through certain parameters e.g. country name and month and the pie will show the marketshares of my products in that country of that month (by means of 1 QaaWS query). Like parent – child relationship.

- possibility to use html table coding in labels.
[RG] We agree here, and have this one logged in our enhancement list.

- offline mode, e.g. option to save snapshots for certain period
[RG] We have made requests to our counterparts at Google for this.

- error message created by designer when connection to Google maps cannot be made, or option to show standard image.
[RG] This is a very interesting idea and something that we can look into.

Author’s note:
After publication of this post Ryan Goodman send me an email in response. Which I have shared with you as it is all positive news. His answers are preceded with [RG]

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Femke Kooij is a dashboard and report designer, developer and educator specializing in SAP | BusinessObjects Dashboards (better known as Xcelsius) and Crystal Reports. She has also a lot of experience with other SAP | BusinessObjects toolings like, Web Intelligence (WebI), Information Design Tool (Universe Designer), BusinessObjects Data Services (BODS) and the overall server platform BusinessObjects Enterprise (Launchpad, CMC). She spends a lot of her time thinking about and sharing her knowledge of Xcelsius to others through her own blog. Lately she is exploring other visualization tools like Qlikview and Tableau. On the later she is also posting some experiences. Currently she is in the employment of Cognizant Technology Solutions. Her blog only contains her personal views, thoughts and opinions. It is not endorsed by Cognizant Technology Solutions nor does it constitute any official communication of Cognizant Technology Solutions.

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