My Adventures with Fusion Tables & Google MapsI have been meaning to spending some playtime with Google’s Fusion Tables and the Google Map integration. It’s always nice to have a project to work on that means something and E-Democracy’s new grant from Knight Foundation led to site upgrades for beneighbors.org and that included a request to build a better map to display Twin City neighborhoods with links to the appropriate forum. The missing piece was a map data file for the neighborhoods and and the Wilder Foundation’s Minnesota Compass project was kind enough to share theirs with us. This is my project narrative starting from learning to use Fusion Tables and moving on to getting the map to show up just the way we wanted it.
I was already learning more about Fusion Tables via a free class at a GIS training provider called [ ]. The class is a decent introduction although I found a few glitches in the homework areas and some parts missing. But it was enough to teach me the basics. Wilder shared a .kmz file with us. I was familiar with KML but not KMZ but it turns out it’s just a zipped KML. Generally zipped things unzip when double-clicked on a Mac and this file was no exception except after unzipping it decided to load itself into Google Earth. Not what I wanted and the display in Earth wasn’t good. So I unzipped the file in the Apple Terminal app using the unzip command. That gave me the KML files which can then be exported into Fusion Tables. Once in Fusion Tables, you create a map of the information simply by choosing Map from the Visualize menu.
Here is what the map now looked like after you click on a neighborhood. The table has three columns: Name, Description, and Geometry. Data from the Name and Description columns data is displayed in the pop-up window. Each line in the table is a neighborhood. You can check out the actual table and map here.
To get to the final map display, we need to add color information and links. These get added as columns in the Fusion table. You can add columns in Fusion tables but data entry is painful with no spreadsheet style features. It’s easier to export (File menu) the file out of Fusion Tables and open it either in a Google Spreadsheet or Excel. Since the export format is CSV, this is easy. Once in a spreadsheet you can use standard features like copy and paste to speed up data entry. Plus it’s much easier to navigate outside of Fusion Tables. (To be fair, Fusion Tables is more database than spreadsheet.)
For this map project, I needed to add columns for Color, City, City Forum, and Forum. Each column’s data is then used either for the info popup box or for the color of the particular neighborhood. You are able to specify how it’s used in the Fusion Table interface.
The color column allows for color coding a neighborhood. Colors are specified in hexadecimal. We used two colors: one for neighborhoods that have an E-Democracy Forum (#f3f3f3) and a second color (#FFE303) for those that don’t. To implement the colors, go to Map mode and click the link Configure Styles. That will open the Change Map Styles dialog box. Select Fill Color under Polygons. Choose Use color specified in a column and select Color from the dropdown menu.