December 8, 2008

Creating geographical charts with EuroOffice Map Chart

Author: Dmitri Popov

Suppose you need to chart some demographical or geographical data. Using's chart module you can present the data as a bar, pie, or even exploded donut chart. What you can't do, though, is to create a map chart that shows data distribution by continent, country, or region. To do this, you need the EuroOffice Map Chart Professional (EOMCP) extension. Unlike many other extensions, EOMCP is not free, but the price is right (it costs 9.90 EUR or about 12 USD), and there is a free trial version available.

Extension series

Because it's just a regular extension, EOMCP is easy to install. In, choose Tools -> Extension Manager, press the Add button, select the EuroOffice_Map_Chart_Professional.oxt, and press Open. Once the extension is installed, restart, and you are good to go.

While EOMCP lets you create advanced charts, using its basic features is not difficult. Let's say you want to create a map chart of the population density in certain European countries. First you need a Calc spreadsheet that contains two columns: Country, with the names of the countries. and Population, with the population density figures. Select the A1 cell and choose Insert -> EuroOffice Map Chart to open the EuroOffice Map Chart wizard that guides you through the process of creating a geographical chart. The first screen of the wizard lets you specify a data range for the chart. Usually, the wizard is pretty good at guessing data ranges automatically, but if it fails to do so, you can specify the data range manually using either the Data range field or the button next to it. Select the "Data series in rows" option and tick the "First row as label" check button (assuming that the first row indeed contains column labels). If you want to create a chart in a separate worksheet (which can be useful when dealing with large map charts), you can do so by choosing a worksheet from the "Create chart on the worksheet" drop-down list. Press the Next button to move to the "Configure the map" screen. Since you want to create a chart for the European continent, choose the appropriate database from the "Database to use" drop-down list. Select Countries from the "Data range contains" drop-down list. Make sure that the "Display them over" options are set to "a continent" and "Europe" and press Next. If you want to add a legend to the chart, tick the Legend check box and specify its title in the Title field. Select a chart color scheme you like from the Color scheme drop-down list and press the Create button to create the chart. That's it. Your first map chart is ready.

EOMCP contains a few other useful features that you can use to create more advanced map charts. For example, the extension allows you to specify so-called subcharts, which can help you chart more complex data ranges (i.e., containing more than two columns of data) such as country population and data usage in the example below (this data is fictional):

Country Population Internet Explorer Mozilla Firefox Opera
Germany 83251851 70 27 3
France 59765983 85 11 4

Charting this data with EOMCP requires you to specify the subchart type in the Map Chart wizard. You can choose between pie, bar, and thematic types. Choose, for example, the pie chart type, and the resulting chart displays tiny pie charts of browser usage for each country on the map.

While the pie and bar charts don't need any further explanation, the thematic chart deserves a closer look. This chart type allows you to represent data using a graphical symbol. For example, when charting population density and income per capita, you can choose an SVG drawing of a banknote for the thematic subchart. This way the income data will be displayed in the resulting chart as the banknote, and its size is determined by the income value for the particular country.

EOMCP can handle not only continents but also individual countries and their regions. For example, if you want to chart data on Germany's largest cities and their population, you have to select Cities from the "The data range contains" drop-down list and set the options in the "Draw them over" section to "a country" and "Germany." Better yet, EOMCP supports the Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics (NUTS) standard for "referencing the administrative divisions of countries for statistical purposes." So if you want to chart data on Germany's states, you can do so by selecting the NUTS 1 level from the "The data range contains" list. Although the NUTS standard is limited to European countries, EOMCP does include a database of US states.

EOMCP comes with four databases: countries of the world, states of the United States, Europe, and a separate detailed map of
Hungary. This should cover most of your map charting needs, but if you want to expand the map database by adding custom maps, you can design your own maps using EuroOffice Map Tool. This tool caters to power-users and developers, and it can handle maps in the SVG and Shapefile formats.

Finally, the latest version of EOMCP can work with the Sun Report Builder extension, which means that you can create reports with map charts based on data from a Base database. EuroOffice's Web site provides a detailed explanation of how to use EOMCP with Sun Report Builder.

The fact that EOMCP is neither open source nor free of charge might deter some open source purists. But for users who need a powerful and flexible tool for charting geographical data, EOMCP may well be a killer extension.

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