Eye Candy of the Highest Order

Eye Candy of the Highest Order

  • Comments 24

Hi Folks,

One of the most common questions about the spatial support in SQL Server is how to visualize results.  To illustrate the problem, consider a query over zip code data:

select id, shapegeog
from zipcodes
where id like '981%'

The results, while an accurate description of the data, are profoundly unhelpful:


We can improve the human readability of this by fetching WKT instead of the original geography data:


While we can now read it, it still doesn't mean much.  Unlike social security numbers or names, visualization is almost required if you want to understand spatial data.  And if you really want to visualize the data, our only avenue has been to make use of an external program, such as Virtual Earth.  It's not super hard to make a mashup with VE, but it is another step.

Thanks to some very hard work of a number of people, a very late feature has been slipped into the server: a map control.  With the map control, if you run the query, you get the following:


And the magic reveals itself when you click that mysterious "Spatial result" tab:


These maps are interactive: you can zoom; you can pan; you can even label the results.  It isn't aimed at reporting, and this isn't a reusable component that can be used in other applications, but it can be invaluable in giving you a feel for what your results look like.  It goes far beyond eye candy: it actually allows you to understand your data.

Unfortunately, it's a bit of a tease at the moment: the code just went in, which means none of this will be available in our upcoming RC0.  It will be in RTM, however, so you shouldn't have to wait too long.

I can claim precious little credit for this, but if you're at TechEd this week, I'd be happy to demo it for you. So would Goldie Chaudhuri, who actually led the effort.


  • Awesome! This is a great addition to the spatial offering for SQL2008... no more relying on dodgy third-party visualisation tools when all I want to do is roughly check whether spatial data looks sensible.

    Congrats to everyone who managed to get this included at such a late stage - can't wait to start using it.

  • Well well, I had a feeling this was coming and I see its now going to be made available in the final release. Microsoft SQL Server 2008 is getting a map viewer! Many people have been asking how they can visualize their results from spatial queries they

  • Looks really good Isaac. Great work.

  • Issac, are these the Dundas map controls by chance?

  • But this eye candy is worth waiting for. What I am talking about? I have spend that last weeks nose down

  • Kent,

    Yup: Dundas it is.


  • "Eye candy of the highest order?"  That would be Google Earth, not this dumb toy.  Your low standards are an embarrassment to Microsoft.

  • Sorry Ben. But where's your spatial database Map Viewer. I'm sure we'd all like to see it.

  • well, here's _my_ spatial database Map Viewer:


    although competing with Microsoft isn't my idea of fun, so it's hard to tell whether to spend any more time on it... will wait for the RTM to see what's in the box.

  • Hey - where'd that "Select Projection" drop down come from?

    The last I heard - projections weren't supported and coordinate tranformations were a no-no.

  • Hi Hugh,

    There's no big change here.  We still don't support projections in the engine, but we need to have *some* projection support to display round earth data on your flat monitor.  (I'm still looking for a spherical monitor to make my boss buy me---let me know if you find one.)

    I don't show it in the picture, but we only support equirectangular, Mercator, Robinson, and Bonne projections.



  • Thanks Isaac.  No worries - just checking.  

    Projection support would be handy, but its not critical as any goood corporate GIS will only have data in a single projection, which makes projections largely irrelevent in the DB.



  • Isaac, I noticed that there isn't a sql function similar to Oracle's sdo_nn do you know of anything in the works?


  • In an earlier post I mentioned the new visualisation functionality for spatial data.  Michael Rys

  • Related to visualization of SQL 08 spatial, we just posted a new iteration to our (IDV Solutions) Silverlight 2.0 r&d project where you can draw on the map and export to SQL Server 08 script. See


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