ScapeToad Cartogram Software

ScapeToad is an interesting, free, stand-alone cartogram software for Mac, Windows (and available platform independent). ScapeToad 1.1 is available for download under a GPL license.

Classical thematic mapping displays spatial patterns of theme or series data depicted on familiar reference maps of standard land-area polygons, which are typically distorted only by the selected projection. A cartogram is a map in which some thematic mapping variable – such as travel time or Gross National Product – is substituted for land area. The geometry or space of the map is distorted in order to convey the information of this alternate variable. There are two main types of cartograms: area and distance cartograms. To see examples, provides a nice collection of cartograms.

(from the ScapeToad website) “The visualization of social phenomena through classical thematic mapping often leads to unsatisfying representations… Cartograms are a well-known technique used to compensate for this inconvenience by breaking the link between statistical regions and their topographical areas. Consequently, this liberates one visual variable (that of polygon size) for a more relevant use, such as the representation of the relative social importance of these regions (usually measured by the size of their populations), while leaving intact their topological relations.”

Flex Projector for Interactive Creation of Map Projections

Flex Projector is an interesting new program for anyone who has ever been interested in map projections. The program provides a great hands-on interface for understanding more about how map projections work as well as to create your very own. Alpha 0.32 was released 1 April 2008 for Linux, Mac and Windows by Bernhard Jenny, Oregon State University, and Tom Patterson, US National Park Service.

According to their website ( Flex Projector is a freeware, cross-platform application for creating custom world map projections. The intuitive interface allows users to easily modify dozens of popular world map projections—the possibilities range from slight adjustments to making completely new projections. Flex Projector is intended as a tool for practicing mapmakers and students of cartography. It took a couple tries to get the shape files to show up in the map window, but once they did I was off and running. Very ingenious application. I think this will become standard material for every introduction to cartography class out there. Its well worth a look for all mapping professionals.

GIS for the Mac – gvSIG

Thanks Marcel St-Germain for turning me on to gvSIG v1.1. This relatively new open-source GIS software was reviewed by Adena Schutzberg All Points Blog on October 1, 2007 (and at its startup in 2005) and provides a quick review on the status of the project and major features. What I missed was the ability to run gvSIG on the Mac OSX operating system (Intel only) as well as Windows. Since I am now a MacBook Pro user (and lovin’ it), I am always on the prowl for good GIS applications that are low cost and robust. I mentioned in my review of My World GIS that most open source GIS for Mac (that are easy enough for me to have installed) are currently heavy on viewing capabilities but low on analysis. I am pleased to see that gvSIG is another GIS platform that runs on the Mac and includes a suite of analysis/geoprocessing capabilities.

Data File Types

This no-cost GIS platform seems well positioned for enterprise implementations due to its impressive ability to use vector (shp, dgn, dxf, dwg, gml, etc.), raster (ecw, mrsid, tiff, img, jpg2000, etc.), and it’s ability to connect with remote services like WMS, WFS, WCS, JDBC (geodatabases), catalogue, and gazetteer services (though maybe with a bit more development; there are some known problems that may merit holding off) . This likely stems from its government sponsorship by the “Conselleria de Infraestructuras y Transporte” (Council of Infrastructure and Transportation) of the “Generalitat Valenciana” (Regional Government of the Comunidad Valenciana in Spain) and its strong orientation to manage geographic information and towards Spatial Data Infrastructures (SDI).

Adding Your Own Data

Installation was easy. Even though a standard install file wasn’t available, it was easily created and I was up and running within about 60 seconds.

I’m one of those who dive right into a piece of software and then follow-up with the instructions if I can’t figure it out. While I didn’t find the interface immediately intuitive, MicroImages provides a good quick-start guide (January 2007 on version 1.0.1) that I found quite helpful for adding a WMS. Adding shapefiles and ArcIMS worked in much the same way. The gvSIG website states that most users of ArcView should find the interface intuitive. Unfortunately, its been a while since I’ve been on that platform.

Cartographic Features

Editing the symbology of layers was pretty straight forward. While the symbol sets are limited (small group of points and hatching), there appeared to be an option to add your own point graphics. Standard color ramps (swatches) and RGB menu ware available, as well as transparencies. Cartographic rendering options include display of unique values, intervals, and labeling with a similar interface to ArcGIS.

I probably missed it, but I didn’t see a print menu. Nonetheless, under VIEW>EXPORT users can export the map image to the following formats: JPG, BMP and PNG files.


I was able to use the geoprocessing tools, but found them a bit buggy and slightly clunky (for example, I changed the map and measurement units before preforming a buffer operation, but they didn’t seem to stick). The following analysis functions are available, complete with graphic depiction and description (in English) of the function:



-Spatial Join






Computational Geometry

-Convex Hull



Data Conversion


-XY Shift


To support SDIs, future development would definitely benefit from the ability to re-project map data “on the fly.”

Overall I found the system impressive, though there may be a way to go on development and usability. It seems the team is well on its way and has the right support to make this a great open-source option for desktop and enterprise GIS.


While I haven’t tested it out yet, the system appears to have a full range of vector editing tools. Users can also create new layers. Users have the ability to export layers in shape, Oracle spatial, dxf, postGIS, GML raster and annotation.

Other Stuff

In addition to the MAC platform, at FOSS4G2007 the first migration of the gvSIG product ( to mobile platforms was presented. This first launch is a brand-new open-source GIS client to be used in PDAs, with a good set of capabilities which fills a gap in the FOSS4G panorama, under a GPL license.


The third gvSIG Conference will be celebrated the next November 14th, 15th, and 16th in the Valencia Conference Centre. Congrats to the entire gvSIG Team for the contributions they have made thus far. I’m looking forward to following its development.

My World GIS for the Mac

UPDATE: My World GIS is no longer being developed and may not work with the latest operating systems.

(2007) Earlier this summer I made the switch to a MacBook Pro OS-X. While I knew there was a dearth of GIS software for the Mac, I knew all the other reasons for a switch made good sense for me. I continue to use my PC only for GIS needs and every time I use it I hate to boot up the system at all. I have been searching for an easy, inexpensive GIS system to use on my Mac and have been continually disappointed – until now.

First, let me give a quick overview of what I have found… (a more comprehensive review of these systems is on The tools I’ve downloaded so far are Quantum GIS (QGIS), UDig, SimpleDEMViewer, and OpenOX-Grass. The biggest disappointment is none of the really easy ones have any ANALYSIS capability — I personally don’t think it is a GIS if you can’t analyze the data. Viewing the data is great, but I definitely need more. Also, let me admit I am not sophisticated enough of a Mac user yet to do everything required to run OpenOX-Grass (it requires Apple X11) but I will try to work toward this because it does look very powerful and the price (~$60 US) is right. Also, QGIS with Grass support looks very promising (if I can figure out how to implement it). My conclusion with these existing programs is that those that are easy enough to plug-and-play lack basic analysis capabilities, and those that show promise for being very powerful are limited by not being plug-and-play.

This brings me to a review of My World GIS (v4.1.1) for the Mac (it can also run on a PC). So far I have been pleasantly surprised.

My World GIS

Northwestern University has developed a GIS called My World, which engages ESRI’s MapObjects Java technology. My World is distributed by Pasco Scientific ( Built in Java, My World runs on Macintosh OSX and Windows environments. It provides a robust subset of capabilities from a professional GIS environment, including multiple projections, table and map view, hyperlinks, and a common language approach to conducting analyses. It is marketed to educators, but licensing is also available for non-educational use (for research or other non-educational uses) directly from Northwestern University (currently priced at $99 US per single license). There is a fully functional 45-day trial period available.

Data File Types

My World supports the following types of data files and/or folders for reading and writing shape data:

* ESRI Shapefile, Comma-Separated Values, Tab-Separated Values, and GPX Waypoint Files; plus a variety of Grid and Image file types, and WMS data feeds (more info here).

Adding Your Own Data

I did find adding my own shape files a bit confusing at first since My World doesn’t support the shape files in their native projection and requires them to be un-projected. That this wasn’t totally straight-forward was my only real disappointment with My World. But once I got past the hassle involved with importing my own data, I had a lot of fun with this program.

“My World accepts shape data only in Unprojected Latitude and Longitude in Decimal Degrees, and the longitude must be in the range -180 to +180 (rather than 0 to 360).

If your data uses another projection or different units, you can use My World to un-project and convert it to the proper units by selecting Un-Project Shapefile… from the File menu, or by clicking the Import Data From File… button in Construct mode.

My World accepts projected grid and image data, but you must know all the details of the projection used to project that data before you can use it in My World.”

How I added my own shape files… (some data does come pre-packaged)

I had to really experiment with this before being able to import my shape files and have them show correctly on the map. I was successful using the following steps:

1. I copied my existing data into a temporary folder before using the “Un-project” function (and DEFINITELY HAD A BACKUP OF MY ORIGINAL DATA ON AN EXTERNAL DRIVE).

2. I also created a new folder in the Data directory (in the My World application folder) to hold my data after I un-projected it.

3. When I used the “Un-Project” function, I saved the new files into the new directory folder (I got errors every time I just replaced the existing files).

4. I then deleted the temporary folder containing copies of my original data (My World gets confused if it finds 2 datasets with the same name).

5. Under the “Construct” tab, I added my data to the map by simply dragging and dropping the layer from the Library to the Layer list.

6. You can set the map projection later.

Now the fun part – seeing what My World can do.

Note, under the Visualize and Edit tabs, single click a layer to make it active and double click the layer to set parameters or edit.

Cartographic Features

I am pleasantly surprised by the cartographic capabilities of My World. You can outline and fill polygons with any standard or custom RGB value, easy create color ramps, categorize data, create dot density maps, transparencies, etc. If you’re familiar with commercial GIS platforms it should be pretty intuitive (and maybe even easier). There are about 20 shapes for point symbols, all of which you can control the size, color and transparency.

Labels (Annotation)

In My World you don’t label features per se, you create annotations. This wasn’t intuitive and was kind of buried in the documentation (especially since I was expecting labeling to be done in the same place as symbology), but it was really easy to do once I figured it out. Under the Edit tab, you have to click create new layer. One option you will be presented with for the new layer type is “Annotation.” You can then create an annotation layer from an existing layer, select the existing database field for the annotation, choose from a wide array for fonts, colors, sizes, style, alignment etc. While you can’t do a halo, you can do a background block color and make it transparent to help your text stand out. And since it is annotation, you can just select and move your text around to improve placement. Pretty sweet.


This is by far my favorite part.


Not only is it robust, but the analysis menu is also super easy to use. Again, if you know GIS and how to do analysis it should be pretty intuitive. Otherwise, there is pretty good documentation available. For example, I was able to very easily “select by spatial relationship” all the building features (first layer) that were within 15 feet of all commercial properties (second layer)(see example). You have the option to save this as a new layer, or make it a selected subset of the existing layer. All the analysis capabilities for selecting by value, by comparing values, by spatial relationship; combining by intersect, union, subtract, and clip; adding fields by math operation, by copying values, reclassifying, computing distances, and selecting members; creating charts of the data, buffering data; dissolving, summarizing statistics, and converting data are all in one place, intuitive and easy to use, and come with a menu complete with graphic depiction of the operation. Wow.

Editing Data

From the edit tab, you can create new layers and/or edit the geometry and data for any of your existing layers, including grids. I easily moved vertices and created new polygons. A note of caution, it seems to automatically save your changes, but there is an undo button or ctrl-Z.

Other Stuff

Overall, the data were pretty zippy to load large files and Web Map Services (WMS). While this wont replace your enterprise GIS, it is a fine system for stand-alone GIS use on your Mac. Besides my own use, my kid’s school only has a Mac computer lab and I now have a good option for getting GIS into their curriculum. I personally am thrilled to have a functional GIS option for my Mac.

My World GIS – I put in the category of “robust low-cost GIS; professionals will be surprised.”

Guidance From Above: IndianaMap Across Indiana

Over the past several months, I worked with producer Aric Hartvig of WFYI to document some of the uses and benefits of the IndianaMap for their series Across Indiana. In 2005, Indiana developed very high resolution orthophotography (aerial photography) as part of a single, consistent digital base map for geographic information systems — called the IndianaMap. The photography has made quite an impact –saving money, time, and lives by making an accurate base map available to everyone. This segment from WFYI documents some of those benefits.

Featured in the video are several Indiana Geographic Information Council members, including: Anna Radue – Indiana University UITS; Jim Binkley, Scottsburg Municipal Electric Utility; Nathan Eaton, Indiana Geological Survey; Brooke Gajownik, Hamilton County Sheriffs Office; Jill Saligoe-Simmel, Indiana Geographic Information Council.

Thanks WFYI!

Indiana’s GIS Law

Years in the making, Indiana passes first comprehensive GIS law. It defines data exchange agreements, identifies framework data as essential elements of a statewide base map, emphasizes open access, establishes the first Geographic Information Officer as an appointee of the governor, establishes (but does not fund) a GIS fund, and recognizes the role of state universities and the not-for-profit Indiana Geographic Information Council.

Sponsored by Sen David Ford and Rep. Scott Reske.


 Chapter 7.3. Indiana GIS Mapping Standards

Sec. 1. As used in this chapter, “data exchange agreement” means an agreement concerning the exchange of any GIS data or framework data.

Sec. 2. As used in this chapter, “electronic map” has the meaning set forth in IC 5-14-3-2(d).

Sec. 3. (a) As used in this chapter, “framework data” means common electronic map information for a geographic area.
(b) The term includes the following:

(1) Digital orthophotography.
(2) Digital cadastre.
(3) Public land survey system.
(4) Elevation.
(5) Geodetic control.
(6) Governmental boundary units.
(7) Water features.
(8) Addresses.
(9) Streets.

Sec. 4. As used in this chapter, “fund” refers to the Indiana mapping data and standards fund established by section 19 of this chapter.

Sec. 5. As used in this chapter, “GIS” refers to geographic information systems.

Sec. 6. As used in this chapter, “IGIC” refers to the nonprofit entity known as the Indiana Geographic Information Council, or its successor organization.

Sec. 7. As used in this chapter, “political subdivision” has the meaning set forth in IC 36-1-2-13.

Sec. 8. As used in this chapter, “state agency” has the meaning set forth in IC 4-13-1-1.

Sec. 9. As used in this chapter, “state data center” refers to the state data center established under IC 4-23-7.1.

Sec. 10. As used in this chapter, “state GIS officer” refers to the individual appointed under section 13 of this chapter.

Sec. 11. As used in this chapter, “statewide base map” means an electronic map of Indiana consisting of framework data for Indiana.

Sec. 12. As used in this chapter, “statewide data integration plan” means a plan:

(1) to integrate GIS data and framework data developed and maintained by different units of the federal, state, and local government into statewide coverage of framework data; and
(2) that includes details for:

(A) an inventory of existing data;
(B) stakeholder data requirements;
(C) identification of data stewards;
(D) data standards and schema, costs, work flow, data transfer mechanisms, update frequency, and maintenance; and
(E) identification of appropriate data sharing policies and mechanisms to facilitate intergovernmental data exchange, such as data exchange agreements.

Sec. 13. (a) The governor shall appoint an individual as the state GIS officer.
(b) The individual appointed by the governor must be an experienced geography and mapping professional who has:

(1) extensive knowledge of the principles, practices, terminology, and trends in GIS, spatial data, analysis, and related technology; and
(2) experience in administration, project management, policy development, coordination of services, and planning.

Sec. 14. The state GIS officer shall do the following:

(1) Function as the chief officer for GIS matters for state agencies.
(2) Review and either veto or adopt both the:

(A) state’s GIS data standards; and
(B) statewide data integration plan; as recommended by the IGIC. If either of the recommendations is vetoed, the state GIS officer shall return the recommendation to the IGIC with a message announcing the veto and stating the reasons for the veto. If the IGIC ceases to exist or refuses to make the recommendations listed in this subsection, the state GIS officer may develop and adopt state GIS data standards and a statewide data integration plan. The standards and the plan adopted under this subsection must promote interoperability and open use of data with various GIS software, applications, computer hardware, and computer operating systems.

(3) Act as the administrator of:

(A) the state standards and policies concerning GIS data and framework data; and
(B) the statewide data integration plan.

(4) Enforce the state GIS data standards and execute the statewide data integration plan adopted under subdivision (2) through the use of:

(A) GIS policies developed for state agencies; and
(B) data exchange agreements involving an entity other than a state agency.

(5) Coordinate the state data center’s duties under this chapter.
(6) Act as the state’s representative for:

(A) requesting grants available for the acquisition or enhancement of GIS resources; and
(B) preparing funding proposals for grants to enhance coordination and implementation of GIS.

(7) Review and approve, in accordance with the statewide data integration plan, the procurement of GIS goods and services involving the state data center or a state agency.
(8) Cooperate with the United States Board on Geographic Names established by P.L.80-242 by serving as the chair of a committee formed with the IGIC as the state names authority for Indiana.
(9) Publish a biennial report. The report must include the status and metrics on the progress of the statewide data integration plan.
(10) Represent the state’s interest to federal agencies regarding the National Spatial Data Infrastructure.
(11) Serve as the state’s primary point of contact for communications and discussions with federal agencies regarding framework data, spatial data exchanges, cost leveraging opportunities, spatial data standards, and other GIS related issues.
(12) Facilitate GIS data cooperation between units of the federal, state, and local governments.
(13) Promote the development and maintenance of statewide GIS data and framework data layers associated with a statewide base map.
(14) Approve and maintain data exchange agreements to which the state data center or a state agency is a party to increase the amount and quality of GIS data and framework data available to the state.
(15) Use personnel made available from state educational institutions to provide technical support to the:

(A) state GIS officer in carrying out the officer’s duties under this chapter; and

Sec. 15. The publication and access requirements of this chapter do not apply to data that would otherwise be exempt from public disclosure under IC 5-14-3-4(b)(19).

Sec. 16. With money from the fund, the state GIS officer, through the data center, the IGIC, and the other organizations, shall do the following:

(1) Ensure that there are adequate depositories of all GIS data and framework data obtained by a state agency.
(2) Acquire, publish, store, and distribute GIS data and framework data through the computer gateway administered under IC 4-13.1-2-2(a)(5) by the office of technology and through the state data center. The state GIS officer may also provide access through the IGIC and other entities as directed by the state GIS officer.
(3) Integrate GIS data and framework data developed and maintained by state agencies and political subdivisions into the statewide base map.
(4) Maintain a state historical archive of GIS data, framework data, and electronic maps.
(5) Except as otherwise provided in this chapter, provide public access to GIS data and framework data in locations throughout Indiana.
(6) Provide assistance to state agencies and political subdivisions regarding public access to GIS data and framework data so that information is available to the public while confidentiality is protected for certain data from electronic maps.
(7) Develop and maintain statewide framework data layers associated with a statewide base map or electronic map.
(8) Publish and distribute the state GIS data standards and the statewide data integration plan adopted under section 14(2) of this chapter.
(9) Subject to section 20 of this chapter, make GIS data, framework data, and electronic maps available for use by the Indiana Business Research Center.


Sec. 17. The state GIS officer shall coordinate with state educational institutions to do the following:

(1) Promote formal GIS education opportunities for full-time and part-time students.
(2) Provide informal GIS learning opportunities through a series of seminars and noncredit concentrated classes provided throughout Indiana.
(3) Coordinate research assets for the benefit of Indiana by maintaining inventories of the universities’ academic and technical GIS experts, data and technology resources as provided by the universities, and research interests for collaboration to pursue research grant opportunities.
(4) Implement an outreach network to Indiana political subdivisions to enhance communication and data sharing among state government, political subdivisions, and the business community.

Sec. 18. (a) Except as provided in subsection (b), a state educational institution may not bid on contracts to provide photogrametry services or framework layer data conversion services for the benefit of a state agency or political subdivision. This section shall not be construed to prohibit the purchase of any of the following by a state agency or political subdivision from a state educational institution:

(1) GIS data or framework data.
(2) Data previously created by the state educational institution as part of the educational, research, or service mission of the state educational institution.

(b) If there is a lack of qualified bids on contracts referred to in subsection (a) by entities other than state educational institutions, the state agency or political subdivision may, with the advice of the state GIS officer, solicit bids from state educational institutions.

Sec. 19. (a) The Indiana mapping data and standards fund is established for the following purposes:

(1) Funding GIS grants.
(2) Administering this chapter.

(b) The fund consists of the following:

(1) Appropriations made to the fund by the general assembly.
(2) Gifts, grants, or other money received by the state for GIS purposes.

(c) The state GIS officer shall administer the fund.     (d) The expenses of administering the fund shall be paid from money in the fund.     (e) The treasurer of state shall invest the money in the fund not currently needed to meet the obligations of the fund in the same manner as other public money may be invested. Interest that accrues from these investments shall be deposited in the fund.     (f) Money in the fund at the end of a state fiscal year does not revert to the state general fund.

Sec. 20. (a) Except as provided in subsections (b), (c), and (d), a political subdivision maintains the right to control the sale, exchange, and distribution of any GIS data or framework data provided by the political subdivision to the state through a data exchange agreement entered into under this chapter.
(b) A political subdivision may agree, through a provision in a data exchange agreement, to allow the sale, exchange, or distribution of GIS data or framework data provided to the state.
(c) Subsection (a) does not apply to data that is otherwise required by state or federal law to be provided by a political subdivision to the state or federal government.
(d) As a condition in a data exchange agreement for providing state GIS data or framework data to a political subdivision, the state GIS officer may require the political subdivision to follow the state GIS data standards and the statewide data integration plan when the political subdivision makes use of the GIS data or framework data as provided by the state.

Sec. 21. (a) Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to permit the IGIC, the state GIS officer, or the state data center to recommend or restrict standards for GIS hardware or software that a proprietary vendor provides to any political subdivision.
(b) It is the intent of the general assembly in enacting this chapter to promote high technology enterprise and employment within Indiana. To the extent practicable, the “Buy Indiana Presumption” required by Executive Order 05-05, shall be observed with respect to all procurement decisions related to this chapter, so long as Executive Order 05-05 is in effect.

Sec. 22. The publication and access requirements of this chapter do not supersede IC 5-14-3.

Simplify your Shapefiles

As mapping professionals, we often want more detail – the more accurate the better. But occasionally we need to simplify our maps (specifically our shapefiles) for presentation purposes or to speed up web map applications. Now you can very easily simplify your shapefiles online using MapShaper. I’ve used it and it was a breeze. Here is some info directly from their blog: “MapShaper is a free online editor for Polygon and Polyline Shapefiles. It has a Flash interface that runs in an ordinary web browser. Mapshaper supports three line simplification algorithms: Douglas-Peucker, Visvalingam-Whyatt, and a custom algorithm designed to smooth convoluted coastlines and spiky features.  The MapShaper project was conceived in 2005 by Matthew Bloch and Mark Harrower at the University of Wisconsin, Madison Geography Department. A paper [pdf] from the 2006 AutoCarto conference describes how MapShaper works “under the hood.”” Since it is a web application, you upload your shapefile, tell it what simplification program to run, and let it go. Thanks Matthew and Mark for a very nice app.

AccuGlobe 2007 (DDTI) Free GIS Software with WMS Capibilities

I use a range of different GIS software, both free and commercial. I also try and keep the pulse of free downloadable GIS tools that help me do my job without breaking the bank (Mapz mentions several great ones).

A couple years ago, I was turned on to Accuglobe by DDTI and was incredibly impressed. With DDTI’s Accuglobe (and grants from AT&T and IEDC), we in Indiana have been able to freely distribute our statewide IndianaMap 2005 Orthophotography data with over 70 other data sets bundled with free software to over 200 Indiana public libraries and economic development organizations (with the grant assistance, we provided training too!). Now the DDTI team has released their completely rebuilt 2007 version – and it rocks. It has a new look and feel (OK, I haven’t quite gotten used to it yet) and greatly improved features, including Open Web Map Service (WMS) functionality and a Pictometry viewer that I haven’t used. It can also now handle on-the-fly reprojection of shapefiles – a blessing for regional or statewide applications using data from multiple projections. I am particularly excited about the WMS capability – we have several map services running huge databases (did I mention our statewide orthophotography project?) and now users can stream in the whole state to a free desktop application. Check this one out. Go to to download and give it a whirl.