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Feed Maps Tips


Introduction

Feed Maps work differently to standard Map Channels. There is no user interface to create a map. Instead there is an API (Application Programming Interface) which lets you easily edit your map settings without having to visit the Map Channels website each time.

Google My Maps

Google My Maps are stored as KML files which use an XML format. Because of javascript cross-domain restrictions it is not possible to read this XML data directly from the Google Maps site. Instead two alternatives are available.

[1] Local KML Hosting

You can copy the KML file containing your data and store it onto your local website. Note that any subsequent changes to the My Map will require the file to be copied over again.

To save the KML file, goto the My Map, right click on 'View In Google Earth' and copy the link location. Open a new browser tab and paste in the copied link. Edit the link and replace 'output=nl' with 'output=kml', then press 'enter' and save the KML file.

Local KML Hosting has the advantage of keeping all the marker, line and polygon styles. Additionally you can manually edit the KML file and remove some unnecessary HTML which My Maps can add to place descriptions during the editing process. You can also add a <link> element which is not currently available for My Maps.

If you locally host your KML data you can use Google Site Maps to get your data included in Google Searches - More Info.

Feed Maps support KML files created through Google My Maps. KML files from other sources such as Google Earth may not load correctly.

[2] GeoRSS Format

My Maps have a GeoRSS option which Feed Maps can use (using the Google AJAX Feeds API). GeoRSS has the advantage that the data is read from the current copy of the My Maps data. Feed caching is used, so changes can take up to an hour to be included in the GeoRSS file.

The drawback of using GeoRSS is that the style information for markers, line and polygons is not included. You can get around this problem by creating a separate My Map for each place type. Within your Feed Map code load each My Maps as a separate GeoRSS feed and set a different marker style for each feed.

Caching Note The Google AJAX Feeds API caches copies of the feed which is updated approximately once an hour. Please note that it will take up to an hour from creating or editing a My Map or GeoRSS feed for the changes to be reflected in your Feed Map.

Google Spreadsheet Format

Data from Google Spreadsheets can be used in Feed Maps. The spreadsheet must be published to be used. The first (header) row of the spreadsheet is skipped.

Unlike My Maps, Google Spreadsheets supports JSON format which lets you load in updated spreadsheet data. However the JSON format used does contain a large amount of unnecessary data and as a result map data may not load as quickly as other formats.

Tab-Delimited Text Format

Tab-delimited text files are probably the most efficient feed format. Fields are separated by single tab characters and rows are separated by carriage return (\r) and line feed (\n) characters. You can use a spreadsheet program to edit the file. The Header line is always skipped.

Note that using MS Excel to edit a tab-delimited file can generate a misleading error message saying that the file is a 'SYLK' file. Get around this problem by editing the first field of the data and enclosing this field in quotes.

Google Earth Limitations

Google Earth is available as a map type and can be set as the initial map type. Google Earth gives access to detailed 3D imagery and generaally works well with Feed maps.

There are some features that are limited when Google Earth is selected:

  • Google Earth requires a plugin available from http://code.google.com/apis/earth/
  • The Google Earth plugin currently only supports Internet Explorer and Firefox running under Windows
  • You should include a note about plugin requirement and browser compatibility
  • Different load commands are used to load the Google javascript libraries (see the example in the Tutorials section)
  • mcfm.footerHeight should be increased to a value of 35 or higher
  • mcfm.mapTypeControl should not be set to 3
  • Some control divs on the map, e.g. for hotel and panoramio, do not display in Google Earth
  • The Street View and Traffic layers cannot be displayed in Google Earth (although Panoramas can be viewed)
  • Only the first tab of Multi-tab info window is displayed
  • Markers cannot be hidden so map filters only affect the sidebar

For these reasons Google Earth is not enabled by default but is available as an option for your Feed Map.






 

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