WorldMap, developed by the Center for Geographic Analysis (CGA) at Harvard, is a web-based platform to enable scholars to work with geospatial information.

Intended to fill a niche between big GIS applications and lightweight map interfaces, WorldMap can be used as a tool to visualize, edit, collaborate, and publish maps. When publishing a map, you can provide an abstract and other relevant information, making this a particularly apt scholarly tool. Additionally, you can choose to publish the map for the public, or share it only with a few collaborators.

With WorldMap, you can also work with large datasets, overlay them with thousands of other layers, export data, link maps to rich media content, and georeference paper maps online via WorldMap WARP.

WorldMap is an open-source platform with full source code available here. The developers are interested in engaging with users of the tool and in expanding on its functionality.

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Exhibit: Data-Rich Interactive Webpages

Exhibit is an open-source software implemented through JavaScript that you can include in your webpage. This can be integrated into whatever CMS you are using and works entirely on the client browser.

This free tool lets you easily create an interactive webpage with interactive maps and timelines, text search and filtering, and the possibility to create additional visualizations. Because of its ability to integrate geospatial and temporal mapping, Exhibit would be a great choice for historians.

There is a full tutorial available here, and the source code is available on GitHub.

The screenshot below is from a US Presidents example, available here.

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Timeline is a widget that you can use on the web to visualize temporal data. It does not take too much room on the page, but scrolls back and forth. Users can also click on points on the timeline to show a popup with more information. This is free, open-source software with the full source code available here. Although this requires some knowledge of web development, there is a Getting Started guide on their wiki here, that will walk you through the process. Learn more about this project and play with the interactive timeline on the Timeline website.

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Google Maps from Google Drive

You can now start creating maps right from your Google Drive natively, simply create a new item and choose the map option:

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There are several options for the base map, and the ability to import data from csv, kml and spreadsheet files. You can also add markers, draw lines,  measure distances and space, and add directions.

What I find most useful about the Google Drive suite is the collaborative possibilities, so sharing this Map document in your drive with others can help you build something interesting when working as part of a group.

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In addition to Mapbox StudioMapbox also offers TileMill for building interactive maps. They provide a crash course to get you up and running with the documentation used. If you have familiarity with CSS, this will be a natural tool for you, as you look at an editor and at the graphic representation of your map at the same time. This tool was built on a suite of open source libraries including Mapnik, node.js, backbone.js, express and CodeMirror, and you can look at the source code on GitHub.

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OpenStreetMap is an open-source alternative to Google Maps, providing similar information culled from the user base. It has a few layer options and is aesthetically designed. Working with OpenStreetMap to create your own maps requires some more technical abilities than Google Maps does, but you can read up about contributing to the project, and how to work with the available GIS data on OpenStreetMap Wiki. Mapbox provides a short tutorial for using OpenStreetMap, and you can also use PostGIS to work with OpenStreetMap’s available databases.

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Music Map

The Music Map, created by Constantine Valhouli, started out as a musical mapping of New York based on the long “List of songs about New York City” on Wikipedia. Valhouli turned the list into a spatial database instead, with many links to songs on YouTube, and thus rendering the information much more accessible, interactive and interesting. Relying on Google Maps and the information on Wikipedia, a map like this that visualizes an otherwise tedious list is a straightforward, free and easy way to approach mapping as a tool to organize knowledge. The Music Map is expanding to other cities, and Valhouli has not stopped there, having created other interesting maps about New York.


Google Earth Pro

Google has just announced that Google Earth Pro is now free. This is a tool used for planning, analysis and decision-making, and is based around a three-dimensional interactive globe. The interface offers a lot of layered data points with which to work with, and it is a collaborative application. A lot of the functionality is fairly intuitive if you are accustomed to using Google Maps. You can obtain a free key here.

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Gnuplot, a portable command-line driven graphing utility, for interactive and web-based data plotting, can be integrated with raster data (from Natural Earth, for example) to create maps.

Gnuplot’s source code is copyrighted but freely distributed. They provide links to tutorials, and the Gnuplotting blog has a few informational blogs about working with maps.


Download Gnuplot for free here.


CartoDB is a cloud tool for mapping and visualization on the web. Users can use the company’s free platform (that is, up to a certain size), or deploy their own instance as the software is open source (check them out on GitHub). This tool is appropriate for users at various technological proficiencies, as there is a web application with interface to create custom maps and visualizations, while advanced users can access an interface to use SQL.

There is a Maps API, SQL API, Import API, and CartoDB.js library.

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