Posts Tagged ‘Projection’

Review: Geocart 3 (Kelso)

Friday, May 14th, 2010


Once a required computer application in many cartography shops in the 1990s, Geocart has come back with a vengeance with Mapthematic’s 3.0 release (Mac and now Windows).

“If map projections are your problem, Geocart is your solution”

While most GIS and remote sensing map software support a couple dozen obligatory projections, Geocart supports over 175 general case projections. Map projections are mathematical formulas for converting the earth’s round shape to a flat surface and their “parameters” can be adjusted to form thousands of specific projections. For comparison, ArcGIS, the popular commercial geographic information system software from E.S.R.I. supports 1/3 as many projections; MaPublisher from Avenza supports 1/2 as many as Geocart.

The program’s author, daan Strebe, is a leading authority in this specialized subject and the new version incorporates corrections to many standard formula resulting in near loss-less projections. Unlike other software packages, Geocart can transform any projection to another projection (full forward and inverse transformation support for all projections). Other map applications can damage data when it is transformed. Furthermore, Geocart 3 introduces a new rendering mode using PixSlice technology to create a sharper, more detailed raster images (examples after the jump). This works both for resizing images and when transforming from one projection to another (reprojecting).

The application manual includes a handy decision tree to assist in what projection to use depending on the map’s topic and geographic coverage. The application includes innovative advanced tools  to visualize the distortion inherent in each projection (sample image).

Pricing: For lapsed users, upgrade pricing is available for $500 with new professional licenses running $860, discount for multiple purchases. Steeply discounted non-commercial and student licenses are available. Price includes map databases (36GB with the pro version!) and, importantly, the new version imports shapefiles, the defacto geodata format.

Full review continued below . . .



I tested Geocart using the free, month-long trial (note the watermarks in the screenshots). Download and installation (once for the application, again for the default databases) went quickly but you will need an administrator account to accomplish the install. When the package downloads, it is labeled with your operating system type rather than “Geocart” so in my case I looked for “Mac OS 10.5/10.6″ in my downloads.

The app and included databases each weigh in about 150 mb for 300 Mb of disk space. Rather than collecting associated database files in the Applications folder (Program Files on Windows), they are installed in Library > Application Support > Mapthematics > Databases. If you want quick “template” access to frequently used data, it should be added in that location. The “add recent databases” command partly makes up for this.

Setting up a map document

To start mapping, go to File > New. Then go to Map > New. Multiple maps can be stored in a single Geocart document, each having their own projection parameters and database content.

When making a map, the first step is to determine how large the map dimensions will be and how much geography it will show. The relationship between the two is called map scale. Some databases, like Natural Earth, are set up based on map scales. Using the right database will result in prettier maps that are generalized appropriately (the linework doesn’t look too detailed or too coarse) and smaller files that are easier to work with.

Geocart also includes a useful linework simplification routine when your data is complex and needs to be simplified. This toggle is on by default and is accessed under Map > Generalize vectors. Toggle it on and off to compare the resulting resulting lines, your mileage will vary by map scale, even with the same source database.

Tip: The application takes map scale seriously and includes a tool to calibrate your system under Preferences > Display. This calibration functionality is absent to most other mapping packages.

To add data to the map

Each new map starts with “Stylized World Topo 5400×2700″ raster image in layered with a vector grid (Map > Graticule) in sinusoidal projection. With the map selected, go to Map > Databases. I was able to easily add in shapefiles from Natural Earth, some of which are included in the default databases. If you have existing Geocart 2 format databases, those will import directly, including typesetting databases.

Tip: To modify which databases load for each new map, go to Preferences > New Map Databases. I set mine to use Natural Earth country boundaries but removed the default image database.

Have a scanned map without a projection?

Geocart will help you figure it out. Add the map with File > Place image. (Vectors are not supported at this time). Then align with a map with a vector map database. Adjust the settings of the map until it matches. Then choose File > Export Database. Load the database back into a Geocart map and start projecting.

I was also able to add several map images and quickly georeference them and then deproject to geographic (platte carrée) or into another projection. One was a simple map of the ash plume in Europe in Mercator. The other was a complicated world wall map from National Geographic in Winkle Tripel (examples below).

Tip: When georeferencing an image, maximize both the map and the placed image to fit the window (Map > Scale to Window). Then adjust your Geocart map to use the same boundaries as the placed map image (make an educated guess). Then cycle thru the projections until the vector lines (graticule and country boundaries, etc) begin to match. Mercator and Robinson are common for world maps, a conic like Albers or Lambert is common for country and state maps. Then adjust the projection parameters and fine tune the boundaries and nominal scale and map resolution till everything fits exactly. Finally, export the placed image to database format.

Note: For raster maps that are georeferenced, the exported database file remains in the native projection of the image (it it not transformed to geographic). This does not affect your ability to reproject the image, however

Choose a projection

The familiar icons by projection class are still found in the main menu bar (see screenshot above). With a map selected on the document, choose a different projection (some are even listed in cyrilic and arabic!) and watch the map update in real time.

If you want assistance in choosing a projection (who can remember all their quirks!?), check out Projection > Change Projection. A dialog with the same listing comes up but with descriptions, history, preview maps, and distortion information. Gain insight with the programmer’s unique and comprehensive expert knowledge will help guide your projection choice. While the map is projecting, a progress wheel with a rough remaining time will show in the upper left corner. Advanced datum support and transformation are provided.

Tip: The manual includes a full decision tree for choosing a projection. This is one of the best features of Geocart.

I love interrupted projections like the Goode homolosine and making one in Geocart is a cinch. Simply choose the Goode from the Pseudocylindric menu (oval icon on left) and then chose Projection > Interruptions > Goode Continental. While you’re getting the projection parameters, map size and resolution right, keep the rendering quality at draft (Map > Draft). When the settings are right, change that to Map > Final Quality for more precise results.

All databases in Geocart are geographic with live, on-the-fly transformations into your map’s specified projecting (see exception above for georeferenced images). I added in coastlines, rivers, lakes, country boundaries, US state boundaries into my test vector map. Even on my slowest, older laptop, rendering was responsive for basic usage creating vector world, regional, and country maps.

Tip: If you somehow end up with a strange looking map (off center, etc), choose Projection > Reset Projection and the current projection parameters will revert to defaults

Tip: When using a conic projection like Albers or Lambert, make sure the Projection > Projection Center is set to Latitudinal 0°N.

Geocart 3.0 is a world unto itself, however. While it does import raw data in shapefile format (YES!), it does not currently import or export PRJ files, part of the SHP file specification, the defacto geo data storage and exchange format. Imported SHP files must be in geographic projection. This makes sense in part as Geocart supports many more projections and parameters than most other mapping software packages (3 times as many as ArcMap, 6 times as many as Natural Scene Designer, 2 times as many as MaPublisher and Geographic Imager). Geocart also sometimes uses slightly different formulas for the same projections as the other applications (the author claims Geocart’s implementations fix errors in common formulas, which is probably the case based on my experience with the literature and web source code snippits).

But for the projections that are shared in common, it would be useful to offer PRJ support (including transformations out of the error prone versions), and shapefile export of databases after their coordinates have been transformed (and GeoTIFF for raster).

More importantly, PRJ files offer a quick load of common projection parameters. So if I’m in California I can load up the Albers with the standardized parameters so my data will interoperate with other cartographers working in that area, and they take some of the guess work out of choosing a map projection. Both ArcMap and MaPublisher are better then Geocart in this regard. MapTiler thru Proj4 is the worst. Azimuth (r.i.p.) is the best at setting appropriate projection and parameter for the visible, selected geography.

Tip: If you do have a PRJ file, open it in a text editor and manually copy over the parameters to Geocart. They use a “well known text” structure that is human readable.

Legend editor (stylizing your map)

Geocart includes basic legend editor for setting line and fill styles, appropriate for general reference mapping. Geocart is a general projection tool, not for making thematic maps. The layer sorting of individual databases is adjustable in the Map > Databases dialog.

Tip: Consistent styles can be shared between map projects by going to Preferences > New Map Line Styles.

Testing the limits

Don’t want to plot the entire world? Use Map > Boundaries to set a crop (and speed up map rendering). This window is quite amazing and has both 2d and 3d views with actual spherical trapezoids! Boundaries can be set relative to the projection center and can be a circular diameter, spherical trapezoid, or irregularly shaped “custom” boundary. To remove the boundaries, change the setting back to “Unconstrained”.

Quibble: When adjusting boundaries in most conic projection, your standard parallels should also change. A prompt should be provided in this use case to automatically adjust those to your new view. In the special case of setting standard parallels in Projection > Parameters, it would be helpful if Geocart showed these on a map like in the Projection Center dialog.

Quibble: The draw on map interface in Boundaries needs a little more work for modifying the existing settings. Other apps, like Geographic Imager, allow me to drag the edges of a drawn boundary while in Geocart I have to start over (or use the number fields). It’s also a little wonky when dragging exactly horizontal or vertical (a full latitude or longitude strip). There are also no ticker buttons to increment the parameter values, either. Once you have this set, though, you’re golden so it’s a minor inconvenience.

Next: Rendering quality and speed . . .


Above: Brand X on the left. Geocart at right. Examine the letter forms (U in United Kingdom, N in London, all in Paris, the Ca in Cariff). The Geocart render results in sharper, crisper letter forms with less “pixel burrs”. The demo water mark not with standing.

Rendering quality

The key concept is Geocart creates an optimized map on each render. The original data resolution is stored in the document, but what draws on the screen is determined by the map size and resolution. Set that in Map > Set size and resolution. Once adjusted, the map will fill that space in the window. You can zoom in and out with the normal Cmd-+ and – keyboard shortcuts and the zoom with update in the window title.

When Geocart is set to render in Final mode, its output results in better output than applications that use only nearest neighbor or bicubic interpolation. In the example above, looking at the letter edges on London, the Geocart version is crisper and smoother. This also comes into play at the edges of a world map where the projection distortion is more extreme and is especially important with projecting raster data.

For my heavy-use scenario, I put Geocart up against the latest National Geographic world map

The map is in Winkel Tripel projection. I rasterized the PDF (took about 1 hour with Photoshop on my old laptop) and then loaded the image into Geocart and georeferenced it and saved it out as a database (78 mb, seems small), see section on Adding map data above. I then reprojected it Goode homolosine in Geocart. I also ripped out a platte carrée from Geocart and projected that into Goode in Geographic Imager, Natural Scene Designer, MapTiler (Proj4), and ArcMap.

The final projected Goode image dimensions was 22,700 pixels by 9,910 at 675 mb in TIFF image format. Enough detail to print back out as a wall map or tile for a web map service.

Geocart is built for speed and will utilize all processors, including multicore

Paul Messmer’s under the hood improvements allow the application to make 100% use of all processor cores. I was still able to use other applications while Geocart processed data, however. One side effect of supporting multiple cores is rendering occurs per core in real time, see screenshot below. Geocart also plays nice on idle.


I tested Geocart on 3 different machines, all Intel Macs running 10.5 or 10.6 from an older laptop to a new desktop towers. Application task completion speed increased directly proportional to the number of cores available.

Fun fact: Geocart uses a Hilbert curve to render the map when utilizing multiple cores to keep memory accesses as local as possible in order to make the best use of the processor caches. This results in seperate render traces on the screen, see image below.


At best “final” settings, the huge map in Goode homolosine projection described above took 20 min on the 16 core Mac Pro (2 x 2.93 quad core GHz quad-core Intel Xeon with 8 gb of RAM) but 1 hour 20 minutes on an older 4 core Mac Pro with the same RAM configuration. The draft render took significantly less time and was comparable in time and quality to Natural Scene Designer, Geographic Imager, ArcMap, and MapTiler (Proj4).

Because Geocart is always planning for the most general case with the most advanced options, this can slow down it’s rendering compared to other applications (most noticeable when in Final rendering mode). Future versions might speed up if special functions were added for the standard parameter cases. But by the time the programmer did that, the speed difference might be equivalent to increases in hardware speed and cores, so this doesn’t worry me much.

Compared the competition

Geographic Imager ($699 for Adobe Photoshop plugin, add $699 if you don’t already own Photoshop) did not support the interrupted form of the projection and produced confetti until I tweeked the settings. To project vectors, you’d need MaPublisher, a vector plugin from Avenza for Adobe Illustrator, will set you back $1399 plus cost for Illustrator. ArcMap (thousands of dollars) required a RGB (not indexed) version of the geographic TIFF version but insisted on reprojecting into grayscale. Natural Scene Designer ($160) produced the most comparable raster results and ease of use, but at less quality (though faster). It should be noted the Pro version of Natural Scene Designer 5 also supports multiple cores and limited vector shapefile support (raster rendering only), plus better handling of GeoTIFF with TFW export. MapTiler, Mapnik, and other open source GIS options are free but you’ll spend time setting them up and learning their make-by-and-for-programmer quirks.

Visualizing Distortion

Geocart is a good teaching tool as well when using the distortion visualizations and mouseOver readouts (available under Window > Information). The pertinent readouts are Angular deformation, Areal inflation, Scaler distortion, and Scale factor range.

Note: Geocart quit on me once when I tried to use Map > Copy Attributes while visualizing distortion with a very large selected map, but I was not able to replicate the error or any crash in subsequent testing sessions. In general I’ve found the program to be very responsive and to not hang up, even when rendering extremely large maps with multiple databases.

Quibble: The Information panel should display how long it took to render the selected map.


On exporting out your final map, vector (PDF) and raster (TIFF, PSB “Photoshop”, and JPG) formats are available. On opening the map in Illustrator, each database layer is conveniently grouped, with clipped content. Geocart could take a page out of IndieMapper’s layered SVG approach where the file format would still be PDF but the groups would be named and even better yet actual PDF layers.

Quibbles: Geocart suffers from the same zealous masking and embedding as other apps. If no boundaries have been defined in Geocart, the clipping masks should not be included. Saving out as PDF will embed the raster databases into the file, like all other programs. On export of the raster formats, an option should be provided to NOT export the vector database layers. Another option should be provided to export each raster database layer to a separate file (or layered TIFF / PSB). Needs to export out a PRJ file for the raster and GeoTIFF with embedded registration, pixel size, and projection tags.

Note: If you’re looking for SHP export, you’ll be disappointed. Though that’s kind of missing the point of Geocart. See “Choose a projection” section above.

Final word

Geocart 3 is a solid release that will satisfy most of your reference mapping needs, especially if projection matters to you. If you liked Geocart 2, you’ll definitely enjoy working with version 3, and on the latest computer hardware it simply screams. The addition of direct shapefile import removes a barrier to geodata access, though more could be made of the PRJ files and DBF attributes. There are still some missing features when compared to version 2 and daan (the programmer) is interested in hearing from the cartography community which should added back. They also seem responsive to fixing some of the usability issues I’ve noted above.

But where are those Kelso Corners, I ask? Besides being a personal soapbox, my blog is named for the “corners” that form when a pseudocylindric or lenticular projection is extended to fill out it’s rectangular bounding box by repeating content that would otherwise only be found on the opposite edge of the map. They are righteously awesome, plus they satisfy non-carto designers  proclivity to design to a boxy grid. However, you can only find these “corners” on a few old print maps; I don’t know of a single digital app that creates them. I’ve staked naming rights ;)

Pros: Over 175 projections (best in industry), support for advanced projection parameters, loss-less reprojection, PixSlice technology for sharper, more detailed raster images. Runs on both Windows and Mac, with support for multiple core processors. Now imports shapefile vector map data. Large document support. Easy to use. Software programmer responsive to emails and forum posts.

Cons: No PRJ support. Does not export GeoTIFF, or world file created after georeferencing images. Does not include a SHP filter in file dialogs, and file dialogs do not remember last browsed directory. Should start with blank new document on launch. Linework generalization engine filters just by Douglas-Peucker in this version, not the smooth bezier curves found in Geocart 2 or the amazing generalization found at Rendering in PixSlice can significantly increase render times. No support for scripting/automation. No export back to SHP format (especially with DBF attributes), useful for thematic mapping in a secondary GIS application.

NodeXL: Network Visualizations in Excel (Visual Business Intelligence)

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

[Editor's note: Visualizing complex connection topologies is made easier with a new plugin for Microsoft Excel. Now someone needs to port it to Flash ActionScript 3!]

Republished from Visual Business Intelligence.

This blog entry was written by Bryan Pierce of Perceptual Edge.

The chances are good that you’ve seen network visualizations before, such as the one below in which the circles and octagons represent large U.S. companies and each connecting line represents a person who sits on the board of both companies.

(This image was created by Toby Segaran:

While these types of graphs have become more common in recent years, there’s still a good chance that you’ve never created one yourself. This is because, traditionally, to create network visualizations, you’ve either needed specialized (and often unwieldy) network visualization software or a full-featured (and usually expensive) visualization suite. That’s no longer the case. A team of contributors from several universities and research groups, including the University of Maryland and Microsoft Research, recently released NodeXL, a free add-in for Excel that allows you to create and analyze network visualizations.

Using NodeXL you can import data from a variety of file formats and it will automatically lay out the visualization for you, using one of twelve built-in layout algorithms.

Continue reading at Visual Business Intelligence . . .

Bounding Boxes for World Countries (Berkeley GADM)

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

[Editor's note: Knowing the longitude-latitude (latLng) bounding box of a feature gives us a clue as to what map scale or zoom level is required to fit the feature into our display area and thus what base map scale set to draw from. While this image does not provide actual coordinates, it visually establishes what such bounding boxes look like (further refinements can be had with respect to crossing the 180° meridian, note New Zealand). ]

Republished from Berkeley GADM (Global Administrative Areas).

Here is a map of all countries and their bounding boxes (when using a lat/long “projection”), highlighting those countries that cross the international date line, and for which these bounding boxes make little sense (this map is provided for diversion only).


IndieProjector for KML and Shapefiles (IndieMapper)

Monday, June 1st, 2009




[Editor's note: The brilliant folks at AxisMaps have done it again with this free online tool for reprojecting KML and shapefiles.]

Republished from Axis Maps / IndieMapper.

Indieprojector is a free web service that re-projects digital map files and converts them to SVG for use in vector graphics editing software. Map projections are an essential part of map making but we found the existing tools to be too expensive, inflexible or complicated. Indieprojector is the smarter, easier, more elegant way to reproject and convert geographic data. It’s a preview of our indiemapper technology that will bring map-making into the 21st century using web-services and a realtime visual approach to cartographic design.

Read more and watch demo screencast . . .

Go directly to IndieProjector to reproject your KML and shapefiles . . .

Cartographica 1.0 – “GIS” for the Mac

Thursday, May 14th, 2009


[Editor's note: At $500 a seat ($395 limited time offer) this Macintosh-compatible GIS solution is cheaper than Avenza's MaPublisher but lacks some advanced features like customizable projections. Requires 10.5.3.  They have a survey asking which new features they should add. Thanks Tom!]

Republished from (ClueTrust).

Flexible File Import

File Import

Cartographica has a wide range of data import capabilities, nearly assuring that you can turn your data into maps. Bring in your georeferenced raster data (like orthophotos and satellite imagery), your vector data from almost any source, or even CSV text files. A more complete list of imported and exported formats is available.

Rapid Filtering
Rapid Filtering

This is a Macintosh, and you’d expect fast filtering of data. With Cartographica, you get just what you’d expect. Using the search box, you can filter on any field. If you like, you can use expressions like > and < to filter numeric data arithmetically.

Sophisticated Layout
Sophisticated Layout
Cartographica now provides sophisticated print layouts, including the ability to put multiple maps on the same page, overlay scale and legends, or keep them aside, and add text notations. Even have multiple copies of the same map on a page with different zoom levels and extents.
Flexible Styles
Flexible Styles
Styles define what layers should look like in a map. Easily put together a simple style based on fill and stroke colors, or create a sophisticated style set for a layer allowing easy identification of features with different attributes.
Direct Editing
Direct Editing
Need to define geometry for your map without exact coordinates? Cartographica lets you create a new feature, or edit an existing one with ease. Just double-click and move the control points. Styles and related information follow right along.
Undo Support
Undo Support
We believe that exploring geospatial data should be risk-free. Why should you have to live with every change you make? Cartographica’s ubiquitous undo capabilities means whatever changes you’ve just made… you can undo them… and then put them back.
Layer Transparency
Layer Transparency
Take advantage of the sophisticated graphics you love on the Macintosh by using transparency to see through one level of data to the next. It is, of course, adjustable on a per-layer (or per-feature basis when you are using complex styles). You can even make a raster layer transparent (or any part of it), in order to enhance visibility of your crucial data.
Simultaneous Data/Map Browsing
Map And Data
Look at your data and map at the same time. Zoom in and filter the map and the data view follows. Scroll around and select features in the data set and they are hilighted on the map. Visualize your data your way. Don’t want to give up screen space for the data view? That’s fine, just drag it shut, and then open it when you need it again.

Got addresses? Load up a reference file (such as those available free in the US from the US Census Bureau) and you’ll be mapping the addresses of your data in minutes. Cartographica will take addresses from lists in text files, tables in databases, or even your Macintosh Address Book.

GPS Support
GPS Support
If you need to load up field data from a variety of GPS devices, go no further than the File menu. Using the GPS import modules tested over the last three years in our free LoadMyTracks software, we can import waypoints, routes, and tracks directly from hundreds of devices, including those from: Garmin®, Magellan®, Lowrance®, Sony®, and others. And, if your device isn’t directly supported, it can import the data using GPX files (the standard for GPS information).
Direct Database Access
Direct Database Access
Is your source data stored in a database? Cartographica can load data directly using ODBC (the standard for database exchange) and geocode it, join it to existing table data based on keys, or just import it as points with X and Y or latitude and longitude. No more multi-step processes and complex multi-program importing.
Web Map Server Support
Web Map Server
There’s lots of good data available on the Internet. Getting data from a Web Map Server into your map document is a snap. Just load up the area you’re looking to cover and select the Map Server. Cartographica will do the rest, from matching the coordinate system to testing the boundaries, to warping the graphics if necessary to meet your current CRS.
Intelligent Projection Management
Intelligent Projection Management
There’s a lot of data available out there, but often each layer is coded with a coordinate reference system that is specific to its producer’s own needs. Cartographica understands that, but doesn’t let that get in the way of making the data easy to use. Although you can change coordinate systems in existing layers, we’ll be just as happy to do the conversions behind the scenes (for raster as well as vector data) in order to make sure your layers match up.

 Read more at . . .

Announcing IndieMapper (Axis Maps)

Tuesday, March 17th, 2009

[Editor's note: The same folks at Axis Maps who brought us Finder! and Maker! from GeoCommons (blog post) announce IndieMapper, a new tool for cartographers by cartographers to make awesome maps. When released (summer 2009?), this online, Flash-based solution will fill a nitch between full bore GIS systems and manual compilation in Illustrator. I hope they'll add an "embed this map" option for people who want to publish their maps straight to the web for their 2.0 release. Screenshots below.]

Republished from the Axis Maps IndieMapper blog.
Add yourself to their email list to get the 411 on the first release.

Note: David Heyman of Axis Maps was at SXSW Interactive 2009 this weekend in the NeoCartography: Mapping Design and Usability Evolved session.

Welcome to! We’re very excited that you’ve taken the time to learn about our project. Put your email address in the subscription box below so we can tell you about indiemapper developments and most importantly… the launch!

A little about indiemapper:

  1. It’s big. We’re not satisfied with the current tools available for making maps. They’re too expensive and their cartographic functionality doesn’t always give us everything we need. We’re building indiemapper to replace those tools. It takes in shapefiles and spits out a vector file to Illustrator, just like GIS. It supports multiple projections, just like GIS. Labeling, map layout, data classification, just like GIS. If you need it to make a map, it’s in there.
  2. It’s focused. The problem with the existing tools for making maps is that they aren’t designed exclusively for making maps. You’re only using about 10% of the software to make your map (but paying for all 100%). We built indiemapper for only one purpose: making maps.
  3. It’s visual. If I want to reclassify my data, why do I need to go into the map properties dialog box, select the symbology tab, click on the data classification button that opens up a new window, move the tabs around in that new window, click OK in the new window, click OK in the first window I opened and then wait for my map to redraw to see if the classification looks good? With indiemapper, every update is live and every control is easily accessible. No more hunting. No more waiting.
  4. It’s online. Updates are available as soon as they’re released. No more waiting for service packs or paying for upgrades. And Mac users: Get ready… we are 100% platform independent. Use it on a Mac, use it on Windows, even try out Linux (you might like it!)

I could go on and on, and I will, right here on this blog. Check back here for a discussion on functionality, coding, design, cartography, all things indiemapper. We’ll be releasing some free tools along the way that we’ll want to tell you about too. Most importantly, we want your feedback so let us have it!

Top features:
  • Fast, visual editing.
  • Nothing more than 2 clicks away.
  • Rolling release with constant updates.
  • Choropleth mapping.
  • Dot density mapping.
  • Proportional symbol mapping.
  • Cartograms.
  • Unlimited undos.
  • Colors from ColorBrewer.
  • Type from TypeBrewer.
  • Basemaps from Natural Earth.
  • Map layout for print and screen.
  • Load data from shapefile and KML formats.
  • Export to vector SVG.
  • Export to JPG.
  • Visual selection process
  • Re-project vector data on-the-fly
  • Filter by projections that preserve area / shape / direction
  • Learn more about projection best practices
  • Create custom standard lines / centering
  • Manage multiple thematic data layers
  • Create new layers on-the-fly from attributes of existing datasets
  • Control editability / visibility
  • Instantly access style / label options for each data layer
  • Create both classed and unclassed choropleth maps
  • Select from built-in automatic classification routines or set your own breaks
  • Visually set manual class breaks using interactive live-updating histogram
  • Automatically select built-in ColorBrewer color ramps
  • Create your own custom color ramps
  • Every change is updated on the map instantly

Gitmo In Limbo (Wash Post)

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

[Editor's note: While President Obama has committed to closing the military prison at Guantanamo Bay within a year, it's hard to know what to do with some of the prisoners.

This graphic reminds me of the old adage about people being able to deal only 5±2 things at once. There are almost 200 countries in the world. It's hard to keep track of them all. But there are only 7 continents, and those are easy to remember because it fits the 5±2 rule. To instead of listing out all those countries alphabetically or ordered by number of detainees, sometimes it is more useful to group them first by geographic "region". Note: Washington Post style views the Middle East as a separate continent-level region from Asia. Thank also to Laris for formulating these ideas with me.

Why wasn't this information shown on a map instead of listed in a structured table with charting? For several reasons: Geography, while useful as an metaphorical principle, does not function as a the most important thematic (organizing) principle in the distribution. We know nothing about where the individual detainees are from in each country so we would have had to create a by country choropleth map which would have given a false importance to larger countries like China, and been hard to show the three thematic subcategories. We could have placed the thematic symbols (1 for each detainee and color coded to their status, like in the table) on each country, but then it would have been harder to compare each country between countries for number and type of detainee as each entry would not have shared a common baseline. A table with charting accomplishes our goals: We list the countries sorted by number of detainees and grouped by continent. This serves the same function as a map would have in terms of giving in indication as to where each country is (metaphorical principle, reminding readers of the country's location in the network topology). And we get to easily compare the quantities and thematic types associated with those countries at a glance because of the common chart axis baseline.

What exactly are continents anyhow? Geology seems to have moved on to plate techtonics with 20-some major plates that often meet or rip apart the middle of "continents", but continents remain popular I think exactly because of the 5±2 rule.

Some cartographers are moving beyond the physical geography "continents" into top-level cultural regions. Allan Cartography's Raven world map does exactly this, take a look. The same holds true for any large set of thematic data. Find the trends, group them together, and use that hierarchy (topology) as an access metaphor. And remember geography doesn't always need to mean map. Your users will thank you.]

Republished from The Washington Post.
Orginally published: 16 February 2009.
Reporting by Julie Tate.

About a third of the detainees held at Guantanamo are either facing charges or approved for release. The rest are judged to be enemy combatants, and it is unclear whether they will be prosecuted, be released or continue to be held.

4 Cases Illustrate Guantanamo Quandaries
Administration Must Decide Fate of Often-Flawed Proceedings, Often-Dangerous Prisoners

Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 16, 2009; Page A01

In their summary of evidence against Mohammed Sulaymon Barre, a Somali detained at Guantanamo Bay, military investigators allege that he spent several years at Osama bin Laden’s compound in Sudan. But other military documents place him in Pakistan during the same period.

One hearing at Guantanamo cited his employment for a money-transfer company with links to terrorism financing. Another file drops any mention of such links.

Barre is one of approximately 245 detainees at the military prison in Cuba whose fate the Obama administration must decide in coming months. Teams of government lawyers are sorting through complex, and often flawed, case histories as they work toward President Obama’s commitment to close the facility within a year.

Much of the government’s evidence remains classified, but documents in Barre’s case, and a handful of others, underscore the daunting legal, diplomatic, security and political challenges.

As officials try to decide who can be released and who can be charged, they face a series of murky questions: what to do when the evidence is contradictory or tainted by allegations of torture; whether to press charges in military or federal court; what to do if prisoners are deemed dangerous but there is little or no evidence against them that would stand up in court; and where to send prisoners who might be killed or tortured if they are returned home.

Answering those questions, said current and former officials, is a massive undertaking that has been hampered by a lack of cooperation among agencies and by records that are physically scattered and lacking key details.

Continue reading at Washington Post . . .

Global Forces Converge to Drive up Oil Prices (Wash Post)

Thursday, January 8th, 2009

[Editor's note: January begins newspaper design association page contest season. We came across this graphic looking thru our 2008 work in the Washington Post and was reminded how it fits in with my geography and projections as network topology thesis. Lines on this map of "Major Global Trade Routes" of oil connect each geographic feature with related geographic features. Weights are given to each connection and represented visually. Overall the network is conformal to real geography in a top level abstract sense, but the connections (flow lines) between them shine. Kudos to Renée, now at the Wall Street Journal.]

Reprinted from The Washington Post, July 27, 2008.

In the time it takes most people to read this sentence, the world will have used up (forever) about 9,520 barrels of oil. At 40,000 gallons per second, it’s going fast.

The United States plays a central role in the global energy system as the largest consumer, the largest importer and the third-largest producer of oil in the world. With use of this finite resource rising at breakneck speed, will the world have enough to meet its needs, and will it be able to afford it?

Where does the oil come from? Just three countries — Saudi Arabia, Russia and the United States — pump about 31 percent of the world’s oil. More than 9 million barrels per day of crude oil (plus another 1 million barrels per day of liquids derived from natural gas) are being extracted from the reserves underneath Saudi Arabia, the world’s single largest oil producer.

Every day, the U.S. consumes more than 20 million barrels — almost one-fourth of all the oil used in the world and more than two times as much as the second-biggest consumer, China. Consumption in most developed countries, including Britain, France, Germany and Italy, hovers around 2 million barrels a day — barely a tenth of that used by the U.S.

Screenshots below and above. Download PDF.

Graphics reported by Brenna Maloney, graphics by Todd Lindeman — The Washington Post. Map by Renée Rigdon – The Washington Post.

Beautiful Visualization Of People Connecting via Facebook (TechCrunch)

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

[Editor's note: The amount of people using Facebook and other social networks are astounding. This 3d globe visualization movie shows Facebook users friending each other, commenting to each other, and otherwise interacting, all geolocated via IP addresses. I like the flight paths and pulses best. Thanks Lynda!]

Republished from TechCrunch. By Michael Arrington on November 22, 2008.

A group of Facebook engineers – Jack Lindamood, Kevin Der and Dan Weatherford – have created a small project called Palantir at a Facebook Hackathon event. The project is named after The palantír of Orthanc, a crystal ball-like object from The Lord Of The Rings (yep, they’re nerds).

Anyway, it’s a video of the earth showing Facebook activity visually and geographically. One view shows activity as dots of light that flow upward. Another view shows connections between people around the globe as it occurs. The images above show a little of it, but you really have to see the video to appreciate it. You can see it here and here.

Facebook says they are strongly considering productizing this, but for now it isn’t on the roadmap. If they do go forward with it, presumably you’ll be able to watch friend connections happening all over the world.

Iran Missle Test Map Review (KELSO)

Monday, October 27th, 2008

Back in July, Iran tested a new class of missiles including the Shahab-3 which Tehran maintains is able to hit targets up to 1,250 miles away from its firing position. Parts of western Iran are within 650 miles of Israel.

Read more about this (old) news development at the Washington Post and NY Times, including how Iran tried to cover up the misfiring of one of the test rockets.

News media produced a wide range of maps for this event. A good map needs to:

  • show the range contour, with Israel in the hit area
  • accurately preserve distances (scale) on a
  • projected base map (centered on Iran) and
  • show an organic distance contour based on the outline of the country (not concentric circles out from a single point from within Iran).

Most of the maps below get the basic facts right (the range and what countries (eg: Israel) are within reach). Some maps presented these basic facts better than others.

Washington Post

New York Times — Not an optimal projection.

BBC – Winner for smallest map.


Wall Street Journal – Only one missile launch site in Iran?

Global Security – Good context of other rocket types. More of a data exploration map than presentation.