GIS software for dummies
May 14, 2012 10:24 AM   Subscribe

I need maps of specific countries in 300 dpi format, suitable for inclusion in a book. I found some promising GIS files, but I don't have any experience with GIS software, and am having difficulty finding something that fills my needs. More details inside

The maps have to be public domain, and need to include city names and rivers/lakes and other geographical features. I found Natural Earth Data, which has high-quality PD vector maps with the data I need. These are in shp format (with accompanying files).

I have no GIS software, nor any experience with it. What I want to do is to open up these files in graphic format, and convert them to standard image files (jpg, png, whatever), which I can then layer in Photoshop. Is there free software, suitable for a noob, that will do this?

Software I've tried: gvSIG (can't download the English pack), Shape Viewer (can't zoom in for details), and ShapeView (won't actually open file).

Alternatively, if anyone knows of public domain images that are 300 dpi or greater, I would be so fucking grateful. This request is killing me.
posted by cereselle to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Could this be a start, or some placeholders
posted by caclwmr4 at 10:53 AM on May 14, 2012

Pretty sure GDAL can do this, though I myself don't know how to use it.
posted by Wretch729 at 10:56 AM on May 14, 2012

Mapcruizin's fair use policy states that they've gotten some of their data from copyrighted sources. They don't seem to identify what's copyrighted and what isn't, so that's out.

GDAL doesn't support SHP files, which are the only ones I've found that cover everything I need.

Still on the hunt...
posted by cereselle at 11:06 AM on May 14, 2012

ummm this would probably be super overkill BUT if you use the trial version of MAPublisher you can probably do what you want by opening the .shp files directly in Illustrator. Good luck.
posted by The Biggest Dreamer at 11:11 AM on May 14, 2012

If these suggestions don't wor, you could try calling/emailing area colleges with GIS programs. When I was a GIS student these requests would occasionally pop up on the department listserv. Typically, someone in the area would contact the department because they needed maps and the department would pass it on to the students/a professor would ask one of the best students. It's a good way for the students to gain additional experience while earning a little cash. It will cost you, though, probably between $50 and $100 (ask the department).
posted by troika at 11:37 AM on May 14, 2012

I don't have Illustrator, sadly. There is also zero budget for obtaining this. My last-ditch option is to get someone to go to another university library and scan the physical maps, though there's the chance they don't have scanning for public patrons.

If anyone has any other ideas, I'm listening. Thanks for all your ideas so far.
posted by cereselle at 12:29 PM on May 14, 2012

Consider looking into the functionality of ArcGIS Online. I know you said you haven't any experience with GIS software, but it's a fairly straightforward process and I'm available to help via memail if you need it.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 12:41 PM on May 14, 2012

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