Dead-simple software for visualizing geographic data.
May 20, 2008 8:24 AM   Subscribe

Dead simple mapping software for visualizing data? Any idea how to make something similar to these pretty maps without expensive and complicated GIS software?

I know I can trace a map in photoshop and adjust the colors myself, but is there a way to synch the variable color with my data?

Additionally, I'm open to a discussion on neat geographic data visualization tips/tricks/software/etc...

posted by willie11 to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
You can definitely do this sort of thing in R, which is freely available and takes out the expensive part, but not the complicated part.
posted by zsazsa at 8:47 AM on May 20, 2008

Those maps aren't that complicated, you could probably use quite a few GIS's to make them (a few free ones - GRASS, MapMaker) But it's not like learning a photo editing program. It is complicated, no matter which route you go. It's almost fun though. =)
posted by bigmusic at 9:05 AM on May 20, 2008

Map Maker? They provide a free version. You did not mention what OS you were operating on.
posted by jadepearl at 9:12 AM on May 20, 2008

jadepearl: Windows XP, OS X, & Ubuntu depending on where I am :)
posted by willie11 at 9:23 AM on May 20, 2008

If you're already familiar with Microsoft products, then Map Point will be "dead simple" to use. I don't know what you consider "expensive," though - it's $299. They have a free trial in your browser (but they make you register).
posted by desjardins at 10:35 AM on May 20, 2008

R isn't ideal for maps like this, and learning R is a far cry from dead simple. If you're around a university, the easiest thing to do would be to see if they have a GIS desk in one of their libraries. Once you have a good clean dataset, maps like this literally take 10 minutes to make in ArcGIS, if someone that knows how to use it is driving. There are free alternatives, but honestly, none of them are as quick as ArcGIS for 'doing the right thing.'
posted by devilsbrigade at 10:52 AM on May 20, 2008

"Quantum GIS" is free, and less complicated than R (which is command line), GRASS (also command line). The industry standard is ArcGIS, which is big big bucks, and probably harder to use than Quantum GIS.
posted by figTree at 11:30 AM on May 20, 2008

Google Docs has a Spreadsheet application that allows you to do some basic "heat-map" style things given a column of zip codes or state abbreviations and associated numbers.

Here's a demo.
posted by odinsdream at 8:59 AM on May 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

Meanwhile, Geocommons Maker has been launched. You can create interactive maps displaying your uploaded data, and you can choose different visualizations and styles. Quite nice.
posted by Henrik at 6:08 AM on March 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

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