Prism Maps


A Prism Map is a 3d map that uses color and height to indicate a single value data field. These are often considered as Themes, but Prism Maps are plotted in their own window and do not auto-update when the underlying data changes.

An example application would be to plot sales by zipcode within a sales territory. The images below use the built-in demographic data to plot Population by US County.

Creating a Prism Map

To create a Prism Map, select the required data layer in the Display Manager and set it to be the working layer (right click, select Make Working Layer). Then select Prism Map… from Map on the main menu. This will display the main Prism Map Properties dialog box:

The Prism Map Properties dialog box

Make sure you set the Field to the data field that you wish to plot (Population in this example). You can also set the input data to the entire layer, visible layer features only (as above), or a specific selection set. This is a good way of limiting the resulting plot to just the area of interest.

The Options tab has a number of display options:

The Options Tab. Use this to set the vertical scale and the initial orientation.

TheĀ  Options box controls how the vertical axis is plotted. You can set a height, choose logarithmic or linear scaling, and whether the vertical chart axis should be displayed. A logarithmic scale will tend to “flatten” the map if you have a large dynamic range of values.

The Angles of observation set the initial orientation reletive to you, the observer. You can change this interactively after the prism map has been created.

The Styles tab: Use this to set the color scale

The Styles tab is used to set the color scale. This is where the Apply button is useful. Use this to create a temporary prism map without closing the Prism Map Properties dialog box. You can only change the orientation once the dialog box is closed.

The Fonts tab is used to change the font styling of the resulting prism map.

Once you are satisfied with all of the property settings, press OK to create the prism map. It should look something like this:

The resulting Prism Map. (click for larger view)

Maptitude will also display the 3D Controls toolbox:

The 3d controls toolbox. Use this to interactively manipulate the viewing angle of the prism map.

This can be used to interactively change the view orientation and zoom level. Beware of using the Scale: A prism map of a large area (e.g. the US) would require a very small scale – perhaps 1:25,000,000. The default of 1:0 will zoom to the extents.

Here is an example with the same data but using a logarithmic scale (notice it looks “flatter”) and a much more colorful palettte:

The same data plotted with a logarithmic vertical scale, and a more colorful palette. (click for larger view)


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