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Driving Distance and Time Calculations Using Microsoft Excel and MapPoint

Microsoft Excel “custom functions” can be used to perform many tasks related to address and zip code information, such as importing demographic data, checking address accuracy, even identifying zip codes within a radius. Some of these are discussed in the EzineArticle “Using Microsoft Excel to Manage Mailing Lists” by my colleague, Ian Roberts. Custom functions, also called User Defined Functions (UDFs), perform complex calculations or tasks and are used in cell formulas like the standard Excel functions SUM, AVERAGE, LOOKUP, etc. In this article we will review how custom functions can also be used to calculate driving distance and driving time between addresses listed in an Excel worksheet.

Let’s say you have lists of addresses in Excel that require analysis based on driving distance, driving time, or both. Such analysis can support a variety of purposes—estimating shipping costs for your business, optimizing delivery service routes, even helping to plan sales calls. You may be familiar with internet-based mapping services such as MapQuest or Google Maps where you plug in start and end points to get driving directions, miles and estimated driving time. This works well for a single pair of addresses, but for large sets of data an automated approach is needed.

A custom function that works with a mapping program like Microsoft MapPoint can calculate driving distance or time for different route options (such as shortest distance or fastest driving time) and automatically return the result to an Excel worksheet. There is no need to learn a new application, as all interactions with MapPoint occur in the background; you work only in the familiar environment of Excel. For example, to calculate the driving time between the addresses listed in factory cells A1 and B1, just enter the appropriate custom function formula (for example, placed in cell C1) that would look like this: “=Function Custom (A1, B1)”. If you have several pairs of addresses in columns A and B, just copy and paste this formula as needed in column C – this way you can automatically get the driving distance or time for literally thousands of addresses, without time-consuming manual. input is required for typical mapping programs.

This type of function can also calculate routes with defined stopping points along the route, for example, to make a real-time delivery route. In this case, just list the addresses in their order on the path, in a custom function formula like “=Custom Function (Address 1, Address 2, Address 3, etc.)”. To optimize the route, you can change the address range to see the effect on driving distance and time.

In cases where exact addresses are not available, custom functions can also retrieve driving times or distances using generic addresses based on street name, city, or zip code. The route calculation uses the geographic center of the given address. List types do not need to be consistent within the formula of a single custom function. Examples of valid addresses are: “20015” “Louisville, KY” “Washington Street 02121”.

In short, this is a great example of how the built-in functions in Excel can leverage the power of other programs, such as Microsoft MapPoint, while allowing the user to work within the familiar Excel environment. From checking the accuracy of mailing lists to calculating driving distance and hours, it’s easy to see how custom functions can be valuable tools for analyzing address information in Excel.

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