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It was early in the morning (I hadn’t even had my coffee yet) and I got an email from a customer asking me if it was possible to see all of the labels for all of their points at once.
The short answer was “It’s not possible”, but we don’t like giving answers like that in eSpatial!
Now I should explain that the reason the customer couldn’t see all of their labels at the same time is because they had a lot of points (a lot!!!) and we have a thing called clash detection.
Clash detection! What is that, you might ask?
Well it may sound like something that all cars should be fitted with but what it does is stop labels overlaying each other at certain zoom levels.
Think about it: if you have a lot of points, that means a lot of labels. If they are all on a map at once, it becomes unreadable. Not to mention untidy too – and here at eSpatial we like a tidy map.
So how do we solve this issue?
To make things even more complicated, the customer also wanted to show labels for more than one field at a time, which also, theoretically, cannot be done (for similar reasons as the one outlined above).
However, showing labels on more than one field is actually quite an easy workaround.
Say we want to have a label that shows the values from two columns – State and Total Sales. What we do is create a new column in the csv file that concatenates (links together) the values for both columns. So, if you have “Texas” in one column and “$5000” in another column, the concatenated column would then read “Texas $5000”.
Upload the data, create your map and apply the label to the new column. Job done.
Except that, now that label sizes are even bigger (because of concatenation), we will see less as clash detection calculates the available space!
But here’s the thing: quite often, we fill labels with superfluous information. For example if your company is the Acme Corporation you’re probably tempted to label your map-point “Acme Corporation, Texas, Total Sales $5,000”.
However, do you need to see all that if, instead, you could just use a recognizable form of shorthand e.g., “Tx, TS $5k”? Isn’t this providing you with the same amount of information?
Using this method immediately allows you to see more labels at a higher zoom scale.
I ran this solution by the customer and they were more than happy with the final result.
Then… Well, then it was time for coffee. At last.