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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 based information, such as entering location data, checking address accuracy, and 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. Standard functions, also called User Defined Functions (UDFs), perform complex calculations or operations and are used in cell formulas such as the usual Excel functions, SUM, AVERAGE, LOOKUP, etc. used to calculate driving distance and driving time between addresses listed in an Excel worksheet.

Let’s say you have a list 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 options, even helping to plan sales calls. You may be familiar with internet-based mapping services such as MapQuest or Google Maps where you enter a starting and ending point to get driving directions, mileage, and estimated driving time. This works well for a single pair of addresses, but for large data sets an automated approach is required.

A common function that works with a mapping program like Microsoft MapPoint is to calculate the driving distance or time for different options (such as the shortest distance or the fastest driving time) and return the results automatically to an Excel worksheet. There is no need to learn a new application, because all interaction with MapPoint happens in the background; works only in the standard Excel environment. For example, to calculate the running time between the addresses listed in worksheet cells A1 and B1, simply enter the appropriate custom function formula (entered in cell C1, for example) that will look like this: “= CustomFunction (A1, B1)”. If you have several pairs of addresses in column A and B, copy and paste this formula as needed in column C – this way you can automatically find the driving distance or time for thousands of addresses, without a time-consuming book. input required for standard mapping systems.

This type of function can calculate routes with specified stops along the way, simulating a real-life delivery route, for example. In this case, just list the addresses according to their order in the method, in a custom function formula like “=CustomFunction(Address 1, Address 2, Address 3, etc.)”. To increase the route, you can change the address to see the effect on driving distance or time.

In cases where exact addresses are not available, custom functions can restore driving time or distance using generic addresses based on street name, city, or zip code. The route calculation uses the geographic center of the given address. Address types do not have to match within the same custom function formula. Examples of valid addresses are: “20015” “Louisville, KY” “Washington Street 02121”.

In summary, this is an excellent example of how custom functions in Excel can tap into the power of other programs, such as Microsoft MapPoint, while allowing the user to work within the standard Excel environment. From checking mailing list accuracy to calculating driving distance and time, it’s easy to see how custom functions can be valuable tools for analyzing address information in Excel.

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