These are projects posted by the students of Dr. Gove Allen at Brigham Young University. These students have taken one semester-long course on VBA and generally have had no prior programming experience

Thursday, December 6, 2012 Excel Plugin

In February of 2012, I launched a software-as-a-service startup company, ( is a website that provides geospatial business intelligence tools for data visualization and analysis. That’s basically a really fancy way to say it makes it really, really easy for business analysts to create maps from their data.

For example, if I have a spreadsheet of all of my sales volumes in all my retail outlet stores, I can copy and paste my data into, and it will build a map for me, plotting all my locations and embedding all my data in the “bubble” for each location. I can then plot my competitor’s stores with a different icon, build a heat map of sales-per-square-foot by zip code, and then overlay demographic data of income levels, population density, etc. The goal is to help businesses visualize their data so they can make better strategic decisions.

I do all the development work, and my partner handles all of the marketing, SEO, and PR. Since our launch, we’ve grown at a tremendous pace, and now have almost 10,000 registered users, including analysts from many Fortune 500 companies, small businesses, state and city governments, and major universities.

While our software has many different applications (from supply chain optimization to market segmentation analysis to customer relationship management), our users all have one thing in common: Excel. We’ve tried to focus on making it dead-simple for our users to build their maps, but no matter how easy the website is, it’s still two-system process to have to copy my data from Excel and paste it in When my data changes frequently (such as daily sales volumes, for instance), it can be very tedious to update all my maps.

For a while now, we’ve wanted to build an Excel plugin that will help our users speed up this process. So that’s what I did for my final project. The Excel plugin basically communicates with the API (which I also had to create for this project) via XMLHTTP requests. This allows you to interact with your account straight from Excel. So rather than copy my Excel data and paste it in my browser, I can simply click a button within Excel and it will create the location sets and maps for me.

There is still a lot of refining that needs to happen before we’re ready to release the plugin to our users, but this was an excellent starting point. Currently, many of the features available on the website are missing from the plugin (such as the ability to change the icons, the ability to apply filters, etc.), but these will be added with time. Right now, the most basic (and most widely-used) features are available:
  • Login to your account
  • Import locations sets from your account directly to Excel
  • Create and delete location sets
  • Add/edit/delete locations from a set
  • Create a new map
  • Add location sets to a map
  • Build a location-density heat map
  • View your map directly from within Excel
Project Write-Up (PDF) Excel Plugin (XLSM)

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