Before I get into how to make maps, let me talk a bit about what programs I’ll be using– and some ones that we’ll be learning together.
- ArgGIS – This is an ESRI product that can be difficult to acquire, but there’s a ton of features and reliability in this site. At the same time, with such a monopoly, be careful of limitations that ESRI will put before you. This program uses geostpatial information like geodatabase files and shape files in conjunction with spreadsheet data that relates to the geospatial data. Some useful features include linking your own files and datum, data cleaning, georeferencing, styling (colouring, point type, naming, etc), exporting maps, programming and a lot more. Note that this program can only be run on Windows systems.
- ArcGIS Online – Just as difficult to acquire, if not more. It is substantially more limited in its designing tools and the amount of information you can pack onto it. But it’s a lot more versatile and shareable. If you’re a big map-heavy company, there’s a series of ways to share maps amongst people and your group. There’s also access to others’ maps and datum. This program isn’t meant for static maps the way that ArcGIS is, it’s tailored more towards creating interactive webmaps for supplementing websites.
- QGIS – If you’re a casual mapper, I suggest looking into this program. The Q is short for Quantum, implying that this like a beta version of ArcGIS. But it’s free and can be used on iOS and Windows, so who’s complaining? I would, however, recommend saving often. QGIS has a similar toolbox to ArcGIS, but it isn’t as polished or reliable.
- Adobe Illustrator & Sketch (Mac only) – These design based tools are useful for creating your own maps. You have compete control, which is both liberating and tormenting. Because these programs don’t run things like shapefiles or geodatabases, you have to make these things on your own. This is not only physically laborious, but it also means that you have to make huge cartographic decisions when simplifying, eliminating and doing anything that isn’t exactly the base map you’re tracing or imitating.
- Mapzen – For now, I just know that it’s comparative to Mapbox. When I know more myself, I’ll update this.
- CARTO – This is also used heavily for interactive web mapping. Personally, I’ve only used it to merge data sets and overlay their points, lines and polygons tools over base maps I made on Mapbox. To add interactivity on CARTO, you’d have to use SQL instead. I’ll update this as I dive more into it myself.
- OpenStreetMap – This is a good place to grab open source data. We’ll explore this later on.
- Apple Maps – Apple is the epitome of capitalism when it comes to allowing you to do anything with even your own data. But I’ll still show you some cool things with Apple Maps, if I can.
- Google Maps – Sort of similar to Apple, Google isn’t that great from a cartographic standpoint, but we can still talk about their cartography and mass implementation. If you have an Android phone or even just Google Maps, then you are permitted access to your own data, which we can mess around with.
I know there’s a handful of programs that I’m not too familiar with at the moment. But I’m here to learn just as much as you are!