Creating and uploading custom icons and map pin icons in SAS® Visual Investigator

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SAS Visual Investigatorcustom icons and map pin icons in SAS® Visual Investigator has an attractive user interface. One of its most engaging features is the network diagram, which represents related ‘entities’ and the connections between them, allowing an investigator to see and explore relationships in their source data.

For maximum impact, each entity in the network diagram should have an icon – a symbol – which clearly represents the entity. Network diagrams are significantly more readable if the icons used relate to the entities they represent, particularly when a larger numbers of entity types are in the diagram.

SAS Visual Investigator 10.2.1 comes with 56 icons in various colors and 33 white map pins. But if none of these adequately represent the entities you are working with, you can add your own. The catch is that the icons have to be vector images – defined in terms of straight and curved lines – in a file format called SVG, rather than raster images defined in terms of pixels, as GIF, JPEG, PNG files or similar. The vector format greatly improves how good the icons look at different scales. But requiring a vector icon file means you can’t just use any image as a network diagram symbol in Visual Investigator.

So where can you find new icons to better represent your entities? In this post, we’ll see how you can make (or more accurately, find and set the colors of) icons to suit your needs.

For this example, I’m going to suppose that we have an entity called ‘Family,’ representing a family group who are associated with one or more ‘Addresses’ and with one or more individual ‘Persons.’

There are good icons for an ‘Address’ in the default set of 56 provided: I’d choose one of the building icons, probably the house. There are also good icons for a ‘Person’: any of several icons representing people would be fine. The ‘house’ and ‘people’ icons come in a nice variety of colors, and there are white-on-some-background-color versions of each icon for use in Map Pins.

But, there is no icon in the default set which obviously represents the idea of a ‘family.’ So, let’s make one.

We will use the free* library of icons at www.flaticon.com as an example of how to find a source icon image.

*NOTE: While these are free there are some license terms and conditions you must adhere to if you use them. Please read, but the main points to note are that you must give attribution to the designer and site in a specific and short format for the icons you use, and you’re not allowed to redistribute them.

Begin by browsing to https://www.flaticon.com/, and either just browse the icons, or search for a key word which has something to do with the entity for which you need an icon. I’m going to search for ‘Family’:

Notice that many icons have a smaller symbol beneath them, indicating whether they are a ‘premium’ or ‘selection’ icon:

Premium:

Selection:

Premium icons can only be downloaded if you subscribe to the site. Selection icons can be downloaded and used without any subscription so long as you give proper attribution. If you do subscribe, however, you are allowed to use them without attribution. Icons with no symbol beneath them are also free, but always have to be properly attributed, regardless of whether you subscribe or not.

If you are planning on using icons from this site in an image which may be shared with customers, or on a customer project please be sure to comply with company policies and guidelines on using third party content offered under a Creative Commons license. Please do your own research and adhere by their rules.

The icons here are shown at a larger size than they will be in SAS Visual Investigator. For best results, pick an icon with few small details, so that it will still be clear at less than half the size. For consistency with the other icons in your network diagrams and maps, pick a simple black-and-white icon. Several icons in this screenshot are suitable, but I will choose this one named ‘Family silhouette,’ which I think will be clear and recognizable when shrunk:

Icons made by Freepik from www.flaticon.com is licensed by CC 3.0 BY

When you hover over the icon, you’ll see a graphic overlaid on top of it, like this:

If you are working with a number of icons at once, it can be convenient to click the top half of that graphic, to add the icon to a collection. When you have assembled the icons you require, you can then edit their colors together, and download them together. Since I am just working with one icon, I clicked the bottom half of the overlay graphic, to simply view the icon’s details. This is what you see next:

Click the green SVG button to choose a color for your icon – a box with preset colors swings down below the buttons. This offers 7 default colors, which are all okay (white is perfect for map pin icons). But you may prefer to match the colors of existing icons in SAS Visual Investigator – to set your own color, click the multicolor button (highlighted in a red box below):

These are the hex color codes for icons and map pin backgrounds in SAS Visual Investigator 10.2.1. Enter one of these codes in the website’s color picker to match the new icon’s color to one already used in VI:

I chose the green in the center of this table, with hex color code #4d9954:

Then, click Download, and in the popup, copy the link below the button which will allow you to credit the author, then click ‘Free download’ (you must credit the author):

Your SVG icon file is downloaded in your browser. Paste the attribution text/HTML which credits the icon’s author in a text editor.

You must ensure that the files are named so that they contain only the characters A-Z, a-z, 0-9 and ‘_’ (underscore). SAS Visual Investigator doesn’t like SVG filenames containing other characters. In this example, we MUST rename the files to replace the ‘-‘ (dash or hyphen) with something else, e.g. an underscore.

You may also want to rename the SVG file to reflect the color you chose. So, making both these changes, I renamed my file from ‘family-silhouette.svg’ to ‘family_silhouette_green.svg’.

Adding the color to the file name is a good idea when you create multiple copies of the same icon, in different colors. You should also consider creating a white version of each icon for use as a map pin. Doing that, I saved another copy of the same icon in white, and renamed the downloaded file to ‘family_silhouette_white.svg’.

Then, if necessary, copy your SVG file(s) from your local PC to a machine from which you can access your copy of SAS Visual Investigator. To import the icons, open the SAS Visual Investigator: Administration app, and log in as a VI administrator.

When creating or editing an Entity, switch to the Views tab, and click on the Manage icons and map pins button:

In the Manage Icons and Map Pins popup, click Upload…:

Select all of the SVG files you want to upload:

The new icons are uploaded, and if you scroll through the list of icons and map pins you should be able to find them. Change the Type for any white icons you uploaded to Map Pin, and click OK to save your changes to the set of icons and map pins:

You can now use your new icons and map pins for an Entity:

Don’t forget to include a reference to the source for the icon in any materials you produce which accompany the image, if you share it with anyone else. Here’s mine:

Icons made by Freepik from http://www.freepik.com/ is licensed by CC 3.0 BY

See you next time!

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About Author

David Stern

Principal Technical Architect

David has worked at SAS in the UK for over 7 years, as a consultant and as an architect. He specialises in SAS administration after deployment, in areas such as upgrades, migration and security administration. David graduated in Physics and Computer Science at the University of Manchester. He lives in Marlow, England, with his wife and two young children.

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