Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Maps, Data, and Graphics

Below are a few of the programs/applications we've come across in the past few months that could be useful for anyone interested in mapping, data, or design.  If you haven't taken the graphic communications class I highly recommend it!

1. CartoDB   CartoDB is sort of like GIS in your browser. You can make some pretty cool looking maps with pop-ups and then embed them. Limited features in the free version though--for example in the Tompkins County shapefile you can only show 10 of the 16 municipalities.  This is a good choice if you have some georeferenced data and want to produce some web content.

2.Tile Mill

Tile Mill is a great tool for making really nice looking maps that are accurate and web-ready.  All you need is a shapefile or json type file that you add as a layer--these can then be exported to png, pdf, or svg if you want to use Illustrator.  It uses styling that is basically html/CSS styling, which can take some getting used to but is good to be familiar with.  Best of all, it's free!

3. Tableau

Thanks to our own Anni Zhu for spreading the word about this awesome program a few months ago. It isn't free, but has a 2 week trial period in which you can get a feel for it and see if you want to buy (or have someone else buy it for you).  Great for visualizing all types of data sets.Check it out here.

4. Mapbox

The creator of TileMill above, Mapbox is a good place to draw your own polygons or lines and then export them as json or kml files.  This would be a good tool if you wanted to draw a few polygons to put on top of a google map or something--maybe neighborhoods in your town, your favorite places to eat, whatever. 


If you haven't already, download the free and open source QGIS and familiarize yourself with it. It is a lot like our old friend Esri's proprietary ArcMap, though there are some peculiarities here and there--some good, some bad. Either way, a lot of people seem to be pretty excited about this open source project.


The Germans have great cities, great healthcare, and they just wasted Brazil 7-1.  Datawrapper is another reason to love them--it is sort of like a free online Tableau.  Just drag and drop your excel data or upload CSV.  I know the colors in the above chart are terrible, my bad.


I just came across this recently and it looks pretty cool, if only for getting ideas on how visualize your data. A lot like datawrapper but a bit flashier.  You have to make an account and pay monthly to get charts out of it though. Check it out here.

8. ArcScene

Land and Property values in Ithaca. The green mountain is of course CU, the taller parcels along the lake the hospital.

ArcScene is part of ArcGIS and might only be available with certain licenses.  It has been described as eye candy, but sometimes that's just what you need.  You might already know about this one but I spent the whole semester in GIS class and never even opened it.  You can both extrude features and do symbology by color.