Enhancing your geography visuals with PowerBI Shape Map

PowerBI Shape Map is a preview feature currently available in Power BI Desktop (at time of writing 03/17). It can be used to enhance your geography visuals when relatively comparing regions to one another.

A quick note; keep in mind Shape Map only shows regional colouration and is not useful to plot specific data points on a map.

Shape Map is based on ESRI/TopoJSON maps and gives you flexible customization options as you can import your own custom maps whether they be geographical, seating plans or floor plans.

To get started you will need to enable the Shape Map Preview if you haven’t already.

The Shape Map visual is in Preview, and must be enabled in Power BI Desktop. To enabled Shape Map, select File > Options and Settings > Options > Preview Features, then select the Shape Map checkbox. You'll need to restart Power BI Desktop after you make the selection.

After applying the Shape Map Preview, you can now insert you map from the visuals panel.

    1. You will find some countries already have built in location information.
    2. Note: The Map sub category will only show after you have applied some sort of location data on the fields pane eg. State Name, Region Name, Town Name as show belo


2. Pre-selecting “Australian: States” for example will produce you a relational region comparison with your selected measure as shown below:


Looks great for quick basic regional comparison. However, what if we want to dive into deeper regions?


Custom Visual

A great feature of Shape Maps is the ability to create your own custom map as a JSON file and upload it to the visual.

  1. Firstly, collate your map data. I have used a subset from the Australian Government statistical region data.

2. Using a map creator (I prefer http://mapshaper.org/  ) upload your file and produce your map image.


3. I suggest simplifying your image with the control buttons (top right) to reduce the size of the file for better performance.

4. Export the image to a TopoJSON file as show below:



5. Now we have a custom map visual we can upload it to Power BI for our very own custom Shape Map.


6. Apply some colour scheme in the Data colours tab and now you have a beautiful, fully interactive map perfect for regional comparison


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Topics: Blog, Geography, Power BI, Power BI Desktop, powerbi, Shape Map, Visuals

Dominic Colyer

Dominic has over 6 years IT experience with a background of programming and BI Development. He has completed end to end Microsoft BI stack solutions in the retail industry leveraging SQL Sever, SSIS, SSAS and tabular/Power BI models.