I gave a workshop/presentation on tools for map-making at Data Days CLE on Friday. One of my favorite moments was the city employee who asked me about alternatives to ARCGIS/ESRI and specifically being able to offer read access to geodatabases to other departments of data without using ESRI (hope I remember that correctly).

My slides are at http://skorasaur.us/ddc18 and below is a long list of resources, most of which I mentioned in my talk. This list is also available in my github repository for this - https://github.com/skorasaurus/ddc18

This list is by no means, comprehensive, but a starting point for tools for map-making, primarily focusing on web maps (maps that are viewable online) outside of the ESRI ecosystem.

mapschool - As brief as it is, it’s an extremely useful overview of modern maps and some theory. I don’t know of any other document on maps that is as short yet as informative.

mapmaking suites (SAAS, software as a service):



shinyapps - R-based

Quicker and simpler web map templates:

All of these simpler web map templates require a relatively minimal amount of data (not a very rigid rule, but I’d say less than a couple hundred points/features and that you don’t have a lot of properties on them). If you have more than this, you’ll need to upload them to one of the above services.

mapzap - less styling options but easier to use

mapstarter - also has print options

leaflet + and google sheets

umap - If you want a map to share with others with some custom icons quickly and aren’t picky about the basemap; can embed as well.

data manipulation/gis in browser:

As above, these may not work (or will work very slowly) if you’re using files that have hundreds of features or are above, say 10mb, in size.

geojson.io - quickly edit and save to numerous formats; works on files < 10mb

mapshaper - relatively simple yet powerful, also has command-line based tool

dropchop - do some common GIS operations within the browser

turf.js - do some common GIS operations within the browser (javascript)

utilities for printing web maps:

portmap -

staticmapmaker.com - limited options; but usable

LA Times’ Web Map Maker

Petroff’s Print Maps



smartstreets Not free; but does a relatively great job and has relatively easy to use interface; good if you’re on a timecrunch and/or limited skills.

Meta (a list of other lists):

robin’s list

awesome-spatial - great list of all types of spatial tools, many of these require knowledge in a particular programming language, comfortability with command line.

awesome-geojson - great utilities for working with geoJSON.

color-tools - all resources on colors

dataviz-tools’ list - thorough list, somewhat out of date


maptime - An informal association of meetup groups that teach geospatial concepts and maps. They have accessible tutorials. I co-organized Cleveland’s maptime from 2012-2014ish.



csvkit - python library and command line to manipulate CSV files

qgis - geospatial analysis, map-making, and so much more; comparable to ArcGIS.

cheat-sheet for fiona and rasterio - Cheatsheet for using python libraries of fiona, rasterio, manipulating geospatial data.

miller - command-line based; very powerful and advanced; specifically for parsing CSV files.

GDAL cheatsheet - GDAL is a geospatial library at the core of many geospatial applications; data conversion; reprojection; analysis, and more. Cheatsheet for using some of its command-line based tools.

d3 - extremely powerful javascript library for dataviz and maps

observable HQ - a sandbox for experimenting with javascript and D3

Sites/Articles mentioned in talk:

Most famous set in every US state

when it shouldn’t be a map

data sources: Guide to Cleveland Data sources - A list of places to get available open civic data for the Cleveland area

If you want to start with the command line: https://github.com/jlevy/the-art-of-command-line

Highly recommended Books: Interactive Data Visualization for the Web: An Introduction to Designing with D3 (2nd Edition) - Scott Murray - clearly written with examples; good not just for D3 as a refresher or extremely concise overview of html, css, and javascript.

GIS Cartography - Gretchen Peterson Great design influence for making print and web-maps.

cat photo by Walid Mahfoudh