Bernhard Jenny keeps busy over in Switzerland working for the Institute of Cartography, ETH Zurich. Bernie and I collaborated on Color Oracle, a software utility which helps designers create artwork that is more legible for color-impaired readers. Now he’s working on Flex Projector, a free, cross-platform application for creating custom world map projections (with Tom Patterson, US National Park Service). Tom presented Flex Projector at this year’s NACIS conference in St. Louis.
Flex Projector’s intuitive interface allows users to easily modify dozens of popular world map projections—the possibilities range from slight adjustments to making completely new projections and examine their accuracy and distortion. Flex Projector is intended as a tool for practicing mapmakers and students of cartography. The software is still in “alpha” but don’t let that fool you… it is a powerful, mature tool.
I’ve been helping out this week by converting Dick Furno’s excellent LoRes world dataset (nations, nation lines, continents, lakes, capitols, major rivers) from our custom Washington Post database to work in Flex Projector. Dick was the last projectionist at National Geographic and is now semi-retired from The Washington Post. He programmed Azimuth, a CAD plugin for mapping that is especially adept at automatically choosing the most appropriate projection for a map dataset and optimizing projection settings to minimize distortion. The Washington Post still uses Azimuth to rapidly create breaking news maps. ArcMap is just too cumbersome.
Bernie and Tom like the data so much it is now the default in the new version of Flex Projector, released this week. Dick’s low resolution world data will be available for download in shapefile format from the main Flex Projector website, too. Especially useful for creating maps at the continental or world scale at small sizes, even in ArcMap. Enjoy!