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guarantee they will remain indefinitely so. Then again, do you really need to guarantee your map will remain accessible 30 years from now?
Experienced Internet mappers can argue about whether the Google Maps programming interface is better than Microsoft's, or whether the imagery is more updated than the other. For the inexperienced, though, neither option lets a reporter create a map almost right off the bat. FMAtlas.com, created by recovering journalists at Faneuil Media, makes it much easier to create a solid, professional map. It's also free. FMAtlas maps can also be inserted into an existing Web page using the IFRAME command. In non-technical terms, this means you can take your FMAtlas map and stick your links, logos, and other stuff all around it. FMAtlas works with Google Maps, and still allows you to use street maps, aerial photography, zooms and other basics of the Google service. To create a map, you need: -- A free FMAtlas.com account -- The Web browser to handle most everything -- Spreadsheet software, such as the most common Microsoft Excel, to PortableApps.com's version of OpenOffice, which is free and can even be run off a thumb drive or CD. -- Most importantly, data that you want to map. You'll need a location of some sort, such as street addresses. That's it. One caution: FMAtlas.com relies on Google Maps, which incorporates mapping data through other services. While all of these layers of services are offered for free at the moment, there is no
Laying the groundwork
Begin by visiting http://www.fmatlas.com. Create a new account. Realize your account name will show up in the Internet address of your map; this is not a good time to register as LonelyGuy64 or DorkSlayer. Second, open up your data in your spreadsheet. Browse through the columns to get a feel for what you have. Which columns can be excluded? Which columns will you have to give your audience some context with? Finally, are you giving them too much information to fit in the "map pin" display, or are you not providing enough stuff to be worthwhile? From a technology standpoint, there are real limits to how many items you want to put in a map. From a practical standpoint, you can think as you would a piece of paper – will you have too many pins in a map for it to make sense? Is your information too complex or too voluminous to relate on, say, the electronic version of a PostIt note? Third, figure out how you want the information to show up when someone clicks on each pin of your map. Try writing it out on a scrap of paper. Are there links? Should some information be bolded? Where do you need to force new lines? This process of thinking visually is important to saving time as you begin the actual mapping process.
The basic FMAtlas format
FMAtlas will take only a specific kind of spreadsheet file configured for just three columns. They are:
Column 1: Address or location information. Again, in just one column, you'd need to include the entire address: "1600 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20006" for the White House. Alternately, you can also use latitude and longitude if you already have them. You'd want to have your first column appear as "36.015123,-114.738443" for the location of the Hoover Dam. Column 2: A title for your map point. This is short: "Hoover Dam" or "White House". Column 3: Everything else. If you were working on a dam safety story, you might ultimately want your Hoover Dam entry to look something like this: Built: 1931 Risk if dam breaks: Severe Last inspection: 1 year ago 726 feet tall. Holds 157,900 acres. Concrete construction. That doesn't look so bad. First, though, you have to mix some HTML – the language of Web pages – with some spreadsheet knowledge.
or http://tinyurl.com/2b28sh You'll see a Massachusetts spreadsheet linked for download. Download it and open it in your spreadsheet software. Immediately do a File: Save As. This preserves your original data in the original file in case you make a major mistake. It also gives you an opportunity to come up with an easier name, like CarSeat1. Save it in your spreadsheet's native format, such as Microsoft Excel format. Do not at this point save it in a text format. Everything you're doing is geared toward creating just three columns. So, create three columns. Click in A1. Click Insert: Column, then Insert: Column, then Insert: Column. You should have your goal in sight. If you're using the car seat data, you see it's not pretty. OpenOffice.org sees a bunch of merged columns where there are none. It's only after writing this document that I discovered a second address field. There's even a missing organization name. Problems like that are a hint that you'll see more problems later. You also see a big header at the top -- "Massachusetts CPS Listing." You don't need the big header. Your goal is to have only column headers at the top. In the car seat data, click on the "1" on the left to highlight the row; right click on that, click delete rows. You still have a blank line. Repeat. Now, you should have your column headers in the first two rows. You also have three truly blank columns, which you're trying to fill. Remember, FMAtlas is looking for an address, a title, and stuff to put in the information box. In A1, type MapAddress. In B1, type MapTitle. In C1, type MapStuff. Let's start by building your address column, A. The car seat data now begins at D3. Put your cursor in A3. See what location information you have. There's the street address in H3. There's a city in J3. There's a zip code in M3. So, combined, it
Readying your data
If you're reading this, you probably want to create your own map, for your own project, already. Open up your data within your spreadsheet software, then jump ahead a few paragraphs to follow along with the demonstration. If you're reading this so you'll know how to create your own map when the time is right, you'll need dummy data. Let's take a look at a demonstration with Massachusetts child car seat inspection data. It might be available through http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/people/injury/childps/CPSFittingStations/ CPSinspection.htm
would look something like 25 Winthrop Street, Worcester, 01604. You're missing one nugget of data: The state, which in our demo is from the Massachusetts file. The postal abbreviation we're missing is simply "MA". Your new goal is to have A3 look like "25 Winthrop Street, Worcester, MA 01604". To get there, you need something that the computer will see as H3, J3, MA M3. That means you need a few commas and spaces, plus the "MA" abbreviation for Massachusetts. The Excel formula for combining columns is called Concatenate. Formulas start with =. Put your cursor in A3. Enter this: =Concatenate(H3; ", "; J3; ", MA "; M3) At the top of the screen, you should see the formula appear. Under your cursor, though, you should see the address, perfectly readable, just like you'd want. When you're still looking at box A3, you'll see a little notch in the bottom-right corner of the highlighted A3 square. Click on this notch; drag it down, and down, and down, until you hit the last item in your spreadsheet. The formula will copy down. You should now have a working address field in the first column, one-third of what you FMAtlas needs to start mapping. Let's go for the second part of this: The title. What do you want your title to be? Well, in the case of the car inspection places, probably just the name of the place. That shows up in D3 (and E3, and D4, and E4, yes). So you want your B column, your FMAtlas title, to simply reflect what's in your D column, the organization. Put your cursor on B3. Use this formula: =D3 See that notch in the bottom-right corner of B3 again? Click that,
drag it down, and down, and down, and all of a sudden you have the formula copied and the organization name becoming your FMAtlas title. You're two-thirds of the way done. Unfortunately, this was the easier two-thirds. This is a good time to save your file. The third column in FMAtlas will be the "stuff." Take a look back at your original paper sketch of what your data should show up like. Remember, you're going to have the title in bold, then a blank line, then the stuff. In your spreadsheet software, scroll down to Amesbury. That's the most stuff you'll have to deal with. Maybe you want it to show up like this: Amesbury Police Department *By Appointment Only* Ask for: Dave 19 School Street, Amesbury 978-388-1212 We can probably leave off the state and ZIP code in the pop-up menu. We certainly want to include the phone number and note that it's by appointment only – that note field is actually the most important column of our "stuff" section, so we probably ought to put it first. Of course, most of our entries don't have any notes. Most don't have contact information. So we need to deal with that accordingly. We don't want the first two lines to show up like this: ** Ask for:
So we need to check for blank entries in the contact and note fields and basically ignore them; otherwise, we need to treat 'em. Put your cursor in the D column. Do an Insert: Column. Do another Insert: Column. Your original data should now start in Column F, and your FMAtlas formulas were automatically updated. Let's start with your new note field, which you'll put in Column D. The original notes field is now Column R. So put your cursor in D3. We have to check R3 to see if there's anything there; if there isn't, we don't want anything; if there is, we want an asterisk (*), the note, and another asterisk. The "If" formula lets us check for something. If the answer is yes, your spreadsheet will take the first part of the formula; if the answer is no, the spreadsheet will take the second part of the formula. So let's try this: =If(R3=""; ""; concatenate("*"; R3; "*")) There's one thing still missing here, though. We need to tell FMAtlas that the note field should be on a line by itself. The HTML, the Web page language, for a new line is <BR>. Let's tweak this slightly: =If(R3=""; ""; concatenate("*"; R3; "*<br>")) And in D3 you see ... nothing. It worked! There are no notes in Click the little handle in the bottom-right corner of D3, and drag it down and down. In the lines where you have an actual note in the R column, you'll see the note moved over to the D column. Now we need to do the same thing for our contact column, which we'll make E. Put your cursor on E3. We want the same sort of thing – if there's no contact, we want nothing. If there's a contact, we want it on a line by itself with some extra text, like “Ask for:”, followed by a space, the contact name, and then a new line. The original contact listing is in Column H.
So, in E3, we want this: =If(H3=""; ""; concatenate("Ask for: "; H3; "<br>")) Great! Now we're getting the hang of this. Now we need to pull it all together. Our original Post-It note would now look like this: D3 E3 J3, L3 Q3 That is – special notes followed by a new line; contact info, followed by a new line; street address, a comma, city and a new line; and then the phone number. Remember our notes and contact fields already have a new line, if needed. Put your cursor in C3. We're going to make our final FMAtlas column, the stuff: =concatenate(D3; E3; J3; ", "; L3; "<br>"; Q3) For the last time, click on the thing in the bottom-right corner of C3, drag it down, drag it down. This is a good time to save your file. To recap: At this point, you've got all of your address information compiled in Column A. You've got your title compiled in Column B. You've got the rest of your stuff, the Post-It stuff, compiled in Column C. At this point, you don't actually care about the rest (provided you've saved the file).
Preparing for upload
Go to your prepared spreadsheet, which should still be saved in Excel or a similar actual spreadsheet format. Click on your first column (address information), in the first row with actual data in it;
you don't need the headers. Click and drag to the third column (the stuff) all the way down to your final row (possibly around row 161). Hit Control-C or Edit: Copy. All of your data is now in computer memory. Put it somewhere safe. DO NOT EVEN THINK FOR AN INSTANT YOU WANT TO PASTE THIS INTO A WORKBOOK ON YOUR OLD SPREADSHEET. (Nevertheless, you're going to do it sometime in the next few months, and loathe yourself for it.) To create a safe place, click File: New: New Spreadsheet. Click Edit: Paste: Paste Special. If you click Paste, you'll get something just ugly. Paste Special is your friend. You want to paste in everything but formulas – you only want the values, the interpreted contents, of each cell. Your stuff should appear. You're almost there. Click File: Save As. You want to save it as text, commadelimited, commonly called a CSV or comma-separated values. Find that in the type menu. Give it a useful filename, like carseatupload1. Hit Save. Switch over to your Web browser. Go to http://www.fmatlas.com. Login. A sample, but blank, map will pop up. Click the “Bulk Upload” link at the top of the map display. A box pops up. For map name, why not use something creative, like, “Massachusetts car seat inspection stations”? For datafile, click the Browse button. Find your carseat1.csv file; you want the CSV, not the Excel file. Pick it. Click Add. FMAtlas will chug along for a minute. It really may take a minute. Your map should appear.
Now, if it does not: Switch back to your CSV spreadsheet. Delete all but, say, 10 rows. Do another File: Save As, and call it something like test.csv. Try uploading that, and see if it works. Once things seem to work: Click the My Atlas link in the top-right corner. Find your last map. Right-click on the View link, then left-click on Copy Link to Clipboard – the link is now in your computer's memory. You can now left-click, like normally, on View to check out your map. Your (nearly) finished map should be, er, nearly finished. The Internet address (URL) of the map is in your computer's memory and can be Edit: Pasted anywhere. You can go back to FMAtlas to edit the map, changing the types of pins, how the information box pops up, From here, FMAtlas lets you change the display size of the map, all that sort of stuff. You can embed the map into your own Web page by using an IFRAME tag and the “View” link. The map used in this example is available here: http://fmatlas.com/view/stucka/20080121_massachusettscarseati nspectionstations or http://tinyurl.com/2lsg2e
Now that you've made it through the tutorial, you're probably realizing you can quickly generate a map. The second time you do this, it'll be faster; the third, very quickly. You'll also realize you've got some shaky data. One organization name is missing. The formatting on the spreadsheet is so bad you might not even see the second line of addresses (I didn't, until after export) and
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