Need a map!
September 19, 2012 6:56 AM   Subscribe

Is there any kind of slick map-generation tool available online (preferably for free-ish) that I can use in my presentations?

I work for a firm that doesn't have an in-house graphics department, so creating quality images to use in our Word documents and PowerPoints falls to me. We do not have the budget for either Photoshop or Illustrator (and really, those would be overkill for what we do), so I usually rely In my line of work, we use Gliffy to create our flow charts and other basic graphics. I'm trying to find out if there's any kind of similar tool out there that will let me create a map of the U.S. with thumb tacks or some other map-y thing to pinpoint our different locations. Ideally, I'd be able to pick the shading on the map as well as the colors used to indicate our branches, because some of the branches are bone fide offices while others are "satellite locations" (marketing-speak for our telecommuters).

I know I could sort of do this through Google Maps, and then screen-cap it, but I'm hoping to find something a little glossier, especially since most folks can spot a Google Map from 200 yards away. Help?
posted by shiu mai baby to Work & Money (6 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
NB: I do have some basic Photoshop skills, but since we can't afford Photoshop, I usually head over to SumoPaint to make basic image edits.
posted by shiu mai baby at 7:01 AM on September 19, 2012

TileMill is an excellent tool for doing this, but it requires a little bit of programming and data wrangling. You could do it with a couple of layers; a political map of the US with state boundaries, then a KML file that contains all your branch locations.
posted by Nelson at 7:06 AM on September 19, 2012 [4 favorites]

A friend of mine makes maps in Powerpoint itself - he puts in an image, traces over the relevant bits, and then removes the image. This technique makes nice clean, simple maps.
posted by jb at 7:18 AM on September 19, 2012

By checking out the Help in PowerPoint, I found this add-on that you can try via a free trial that gives you editable maps direct from the ribbon.
posted by xingcat at 7:28 AM on September 19, 2012

Google Fusion will produce some less-Googly-looking maps, like this, but you'll still have to do a little wrangling.

Check out ArcGIS online, which is free and has a variety of basemaps available. I do not know if these are licensed for commercial use. The more powerful version has a free 30-day trial and you can import data from Excel.

How exact do your locations need to be, and how many are there? If there are less than, say, 20, and you only need approximate locations, you might just be better off with a vector map and an editing program, rather than learning something new. Depends on your deadline.
posted by desjardins at 8:47 AM on September 19, 2012

Yeah, definitely thinking vector map. The final product needs to be a very basic (but sleek) map of the U.S., onto which I've dropped pins to illustrate the locations of our offices. It definitely doesn't need to be road-precise, just here's a pin for Chicago, here's one for Detroit, here's one for Philadelphia, etc. We're only talking a handful of sites, so a drag-and-drop solution would be ideal.

The VMap program looks to be the closest to what I'm looking for, especially since it's integrated into PowerPoint. $150 isn't bad, either, so maybe I can get purchase approval for it.

Thanks so much, everyone!
posted by shiu mai baby at 8:53 AM on September 19, 2012

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