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Suppose I have an Excel spreadsheet with the latitude and longitude of the centroid of every county in the U.S. I want to know the shortest distance from each county to any part of Oklahoma (presumably, somewhere along the border). I then want this distance in this Excel spreadsheet as a new column.

Is this possible to do and how? I know next to nothing about GIS

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What tools do you have at hand? There are n ways to skin this cat. Let us know what tools you have, skills (GIS, Programming, etc), and we'll give you a good start. –  OptimizePrime May 24 '12 at 19:55
    
@OptimizePrime Thank you for your quick response! Would that be easier to hash out over a chat forum here? –  J G May 24 '12 at 20:06
    
Have you checked gis.stackexchange.com/questions/2/… –  underdark May 24 '12 at 20:41
    
I understand how to do the distance between 2 coordinates. The problem -- as I wrote below -- is that I don't know how to do the distance between a county whose coordinates I know and the boundary of Oklahoma, whose coordinates I do not know. Perhaps it is possible to get those coordinates. –  J G May 24 '12 at 20:51
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1 Answer

If you know the coordinates of the point in OK, the haversine formula should be pretty easy to implement in Excel. This will give you the approximate as-the-crow-flies distance between the points.

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My problem is that I do not know how to get the coordinates for the state of Oklahoma. Do you know how to do this? –  J G May 24 '12 at 20:49
    
If you only have a couple points, you can get the coordinates by hand from Google Earth. For example, OK City is 35.467588 and -97.516426. If you have lots of addresses, you can geocode them as a batch. There are some free options if you don't have too many (like webgis.usc.edu/Services/Geocode/BatchProcess/Default.aspx). –  Dimitriy V. Masterov May 24 '12 at 21:00
    
Could any of this be done through GIS? –  J G May 24 '12 at 21:02
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This answer seems to miss the thrust of the question, which inquires about a way to compute distances between centroids (points) and a polygon (representing the state of Oklahoma). I'm afraid that will not be resolved only by knowing the Haversine formula. –  whuber May 24 '12 at 21:06
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@DimitriyV.Masterov I want the shortest distance between the centroid and any point along the OK boundary. –  J G May 24 '12 at 21:18
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