Shapefiles to Fusion Table Maps

Thursday, August 4, 2011
So you need a web map on the fly?

Google's fusion tables toolkit is something of a killer app for cartographers. As many have already discovered, it's sort of a miniature, compacted version of the process by which a relational database gets viewed as a web map. By tossing it all into the same browser-based, code-free blender, Google has removed a whole slew of otherwise-tedious steps from the process. Fusion tables can do the following:

  • Clean data
  • Serve data
  • Centralize authentication and access
  • Merge/Relate Datasets
  • Map and style geographic data
  • Serve maps on the web.
That's anywhere from three to six different types of software using traditional methods. Hot damn.

The one downside to fusion tables has been the use of KML as the standard accepted geometry type for complex features like lines and polygons. For those of us who work with the shapefile format, that's an extra step. Fortunately, Josh Livni at Google hacked together a way to send shapefiles directly to fusion tables with geometry intact for mapping:

It's a sweet add-on that lets you send - say - a shapefile showing Vermont towns directly to a styled web map, with queryable information via Google charts.

I love how this stuff just keeps getting easier . . .

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