Cartographer's Toolkit

Map Making Tips, Tricks, and Inspiration

Easy Way to Make Maps

March 21st, 2012

There are non-GIS people out and about who are looking for super-easy ways to make maps. Maybe they need to put a dot where their city is for an office presentation. Maybe they need to show a few polygons of their study-area for a thesis. Maybe they need a detailed jpeg showing a map of their area for their website.

Imagine these people as folks who don’t even know the term GIS (see this post for a discussion on explaining GIS concepts to non-GIS people). What do you think they are going to do?

Maybe they’ll take a screen-shot of Google Maps, or put a pin on Google Earth and take a screen-shot of that. Those are the first two things that I’m pretty sure those folks are going to think about doing. Is there any other main-stream way of creating a quick map that these people will think of? Even ArcGIS online is A) too new for these types and B) a bit too confusing (i.e., will the map have to be public, etc.?) for them.*

These aren’t people we want to marginalize, we’ve got to be thinking of them, their needs, and where they are going to turn. They are the bulk of the people out there who need our help.

There are some start-ups out there like mapbiquity (I’m affiliated) to meet this need. Add any you can think of in the comments, please.

*Unfortunately they use the phrase “dissemination of geospatial information” on the welcome page to ArcGIS online. This is, essentially, industry jargon that will put off a casual, one-time user.



  • Gretchen says on: March 21, 2012 at 6:43 am


    @DonMeltz comments via twitter: Google/Bing + screen cap + annotate with a familiar paint program = still the easiest way to go.

  • Don says on: March 21, 2012 at 6:46 am


    Gretchen – Unfortunately, I think using a screen capture of the area of interest in Google/Bing, and then annotating with a familiar paint program is still the easiest way to go for most novices. Many screen capture tools have built-in editing tools, making the process even easier. Here’s an idea: A simple mapping portal with some annotation tools designed specifically for the novice cartographer?

  • Gretchen says on: March 21, 2012 at 8:50 am


    Don – Thanks for elaborating on your tweet. I think your idea for a simple way to annotate a map would be well received. Especially if it had a few export options.

Cartographer's Toolkit

Map Making Tips, Tricks, and Inspiration