Combine maps and spreadsheets with Google's new mashup tool
Make your own Google maps using Google spreadsheets.
Josh LowensohnFormer Senior Writer
Josh Lowensohn joined CNET in 2006 and now covers Apple. Before that, Josh wrote about everything from new Web start-ups, to remote-controlled robots that watch your house. Prior to joining CNET, Josh covered breaking video game news, as well as reviewing game software. His current console favorite is the Xbox 360.
Have you ever wanted to create your own Google map? Maybe a top 10 list, or some of your favorite eateries. There are ways to do this with Ning and Yelp, but what if you really wanted to make changes later down the road and have those updates pushed out to anyone viewing your map immediately? Google has put together an experimental wizard for creating your own Google Maps mashup using data from Google Spreadsheets. The tool uses APIs from both Google Maps and Google Spreadsheets, but you won't have to know a lick of code, or anything super technical to use it.
Making your own test map with the tool is easy. Just start a new Google Spreadsheet, enter names, addresses, and descriptions. The only tough part is grabbing the latitude and longitude, which you can grab just by clicking the "link to this page" button on the top right of a mapped location in Google Maps. In your browser's address bar you'll see a ton of letters and numbers; you just want the two numbers that come after the ZIP code. Paste each one into the longitude and latitude cells on your spreadsheet and you're done with the hard part. From there, just follow the instructions on the wizard, grabbing the spreadsheet ID and picking how big you want your map to be. When you're done, you'll have a custom Google map that will update whenever you make changes and republish your Google Spreadsheet. Neat.
For now the wizard is limited to using a predetermined spreadsheet format setup for restaurants, but, man, is it cool to pull in data from your spreadsheet instead of filling out a form. This also opens up things from a group-collaboration perspective, allowing several people to work on map entries at once.
There are a few other tools that let you create your own Google Map. Google Map Builder is a paid-for software solution aimed at real estate agents that also lets you publish from spreadsheets. Mapbuilder.netis a free service that lets you to create your own maps using forms and a user interface. We're still waiting for a "map this" button in Google Spreadsheets to tie this all together.