7 Best Applications for Making Geographical Maps
This list covers both basic and advanced applications, catering to different types of uses of geographical maps.
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Maps are used to depict the relationship between key elements. This might include objects, space, an area, etc. Spatial information has long been interpreted using cartography since at least 7 BC. However, it isn’t known when the concept might have originally taken root.
Geographical maps in the modern era are a key aspect for understanding spatial information to collect digital data for commercial reasons associated with places, people, and activities, and educational and scientific purposes. This spatial information can be best mapped using many handy applications. Below is our pick of the 7 best applications for making geographical maps. This list covers both basic and advanced applications, catering to different types of users and applications of geographical maps.
1. Google Earth
Google Earth is one of those applications that arguably made it possible for people around the world to use geographical maps increasingly. An app that was earlier known as Keyhole EarthViewer has become a giant project that has spun out many other ventures including Google Maps and Street View.
Google Earth Pro was initially an upgrade for Google Earth, geared towards businesses. However, the app currently stands as the standard edition of Google Earth for desktop operating systems, with availability for Windows, Mac, and Linux. There are also apps for Google Earth for Android and iOS. Google Earth can be used for advanced printing and to pinpoint geographical information with precision. Other versions include the upgraded web-based version Google Earth 9 and Google Earth VR. The app in recent years has branched out to outer space with the introduction of Google Earth Engine, Google Sky, Google Moon, and Google Mars.
2. Google Maps
Google Maps is commonly used for a variety of purposes by app developers. From integrating maps in apps to providing coordinates for finding a place. With an estimated 1 billion monthly users, we can safely assume that Google Maps is perhaps the top geographical mapping software globally. With Google Maps you can get satellite, aerial, and street maps including a 360° street view. App developers routinely use Google Maps APIs and SDKs. However, there is an easier way of generating maps using the platform. If you are a common user with no programming knowledge, you can use the ‘create a new map feature’ for generating a custom map in no time.
Note: Before you start using Google Earth or its offshoots like Google Maps or Street View, it is advised to read the geo and search guidelines by Google to understand the licensing information and permissible use of the applications.
3. Apple Maps
Apple Maps provide many features similar to Google maps including directions, traffic information, 3D preview for locations, etc. Apple Maps also offers its API and Mapkit for third-party integrations.
The downside of using Apple Maps can be its limitation of use with Apple products. Not to mention the app had a rough start with complaints of inaccurate maps in its early days. Apple Maps is also limited to fewer countries as compared to Google Maps. However, if you are concerned about privacy, Apple Maps might be a better option due to its Intelligent Tracking Prevention and Privacy Reports features.
4. ArcGIS by Esri
Environmental Systems Research Institute or Esri is a supplier of Geographic Information System or GIS software. One of the most widely used platforms by Esri is ArcGIS. It consists of various desktop applications for performing queries for mapping, editing, or viewing spatial data and manipulating 3D data sets.
ArcGIS is available for Windows-based operating systems including client-based versions like Windows 7 and later versions including Windows 10, as well as Windows Server. For server-based versions, ArcGIS is compatible with Windows Server 2008 and later editions including the latest Windows Server 2019.
Unlike Google Earth, ArcGIS can be hard to use for an average user and is suitable primarily for enterprise use. ArcGIS can be suitable for GIS professionals, app developers, IT and database administrators, etc.
5. Microsoft PowerPoint
You might be surprised to see PowerPoint on our list of geographical mapping applications. However, precise templates mapping out countries, regions, and entire continents have made it possible to make use of PowerPoint as a tool for making geographical maps. We aren’t talking about pulling maps from Google Maps for your slides but actually designing a geographical map.
There are a number of third-party PowerPoint template providers that offer presentation slide decks that can be edited with precision to showcase geographical maps created using editable map illustrations. A few examples include SlideModel’s geographical PowerPoint maps for making maps for presentations. Websites like SlideHunter also offer geographical maps like this free editable US Map PowerPoint template. Alternatively, you can also embed map images into PowerPoint and combine them with other presentation backgrounds to produce high-impact slide decks.
6. Adobe Illustrator
If you are an Adobe illustrator user who hasn’t designed a map as yet, your thoughts might revolve around the use of vectors or designing a map from scratch using the application. However, making accurate geographical maps in Adobe Illustrator is easier than you might think.
There are numerous platforms like Avenza that can be used for Geo-Spatial Mapping using applications like Adobe Illustrator from the Adobe Creative Cloud. You can even download ArcGIS maps for Adobe Creative Cloud apps like Illustrator or Photoshop.
7. Adobe Photoshop
It is a common misconception to consider Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop as similar applications. For anyone who has used both, the difference is immense. Illustrator is a vector-based application, whereas Photoshop uses pixels.
While Photoshop is commonly used for editing photos and making artwork, Illustrator is commonly used for making graphics and has applications in print media. Such as for designing multi-page documents. However, you can use both applications for making geographical maps. Perhaps for different purposes.
Avenza, for example, provides the Geographical Imager for Photoshop for adding filters and pixel editing for maps while maintaining spatial information. On the contrary, the MAPublisher by the same developer is meant for Adobe Illustrator for making GIS maps using industry standards.
The list above provides apps for making geographical maps for a variety of purposes. Be it a PowerPoint presentation, mobile or desktop app, to map your customers, provide support for geographical data for your customers, etc.
As cartographic apps become easier to use, it is likely that the trend of using geographical maps will pick up not only advanced users but also novice digital users. This might also eventually lead to increased privacy concerns, as apps look to track end-users to the ends of the world to sell their products by making invasive buyer personas that know more about you than you might know about yourself!
If you are someone looking to integrate maps in your line of work, you can start by exploring apps that best suit your requirements and expertise to see how they might provide the best fit for your needs.
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