Digital mapping can be kind of complicated, but there’s actually a surprising amount of stuff that people have made easy for us to do. This page is a work in progress, but here are some resources.
When thinking about maps and computers, you’ll run into the acronym GIS, which stands for Geographic Information Systems.
Northwestern Library’s GIS department offers workshops and one-on-one consultation.
Simple Data visualization with maps
Most of the popular tools for making charts from data can also make maps.
Storytelling with maps
- StoryMapJS (made right here at Knight Lab)
- Felt is a very easy to use, yet powerful tool to make maps.
More advanced tools for working with map/GIS data
- ArcGIS is the leader in commercial mapmaking software. All Northwestern faculty, staff and students have access to ArcGIS for free, but it is quite expensive otherwise.
- QGIS is free, open source software which runs on Mac and Windows. It’s kind of complicated to master, but you can learn just enough to get a few things done without mastering all of it!
- Mapbox is a provider of map and location data for developers. Their services are not free, although they have a free use tier which is probably enough for most student projects. Mapbox Studio is a very cool tool that allows you to customize the base layer of maps, as well as importing data to place points or present choropleth maps.
- MapShaper is a website you can use to convert GIS data files from one format to another. It’s also available as a command line tool.
- GeoJSON.io is a website where you can import GIS files to look at them or edit them. You an even draw a map “from scratch” and then export it.
- If you’re accustomed to using the pandas library to analyze data in Python, there is a project called GeoPandas which makes it pretty straightforward to read in GIS data and do standard operations including containment queries, dissolves, and such. GeoPandas can make maps, although without a basemap, they can be hard to read. Another related project, folium, makes it easy to show GeoPandas data on top of a basemap, including enabling an explore method on GeoDataFrames.