How To Map Your Data

There are numerous mapping applications and programs available to map your data.  They vary in ease of use, cost and functionality.  Here at RJI, we find it useful to divide mapping choices into three tiers:

Tier One: Browser-Based Mapping

If you are a beginner, this is a great place to start learning. All that you need to create Tier-1 maps is internet access. Click the link above to explore browser-based mapping programs.

Tier One is presented in two parts – generic mapping applications (T1) and specialized mapping applications (T1-A).

Tier Two: Virtual Globe

Virtual globe mapping applications are not complicated, but they need to be installed and may require some experimenting to become familiar with the programs. Click the link above to explore virtual globe mapping programs.

Tier Three: Desktop GIS

Desktop GIS requires training and is expensive to use, but the program has capabilities beyond Tier 1 and Tier 2 applications. Click the link above to learn more about Desktop GIS.

Important Information:

If you already have a large dataset of spatial data – for example, zip codes of all your program participants – the applications in Tiers 1 and 2 are worth a look but it is likely you will need to utilize Tier 3: Desktop GIS to map your dataset.  See our page on Desktop GIS for more.

No matter what kind of data you are mapping, your attribute data, that is your non-spatial data, needs to be linked to a certain geographic unit. To learn more are attribute data, especially if you are creating your own data, please read our post.


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