GREAT IDEAS

5 data mapping tool alternatives to Google Maps

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Reprinted from GateHouse Newsroom

Whether you're a data fiend who loves creating maps for readers to visualize the geography of a story, or you're just dipping your toes into the world of data visualization, you have probably used Google's mapping tools.

Google's custom maps are a great place to start visualizing location data, and for many datasets, the tool does the trick. But don't stop there – beyond Google Maps there is a world of digital mapping tools full of different aesthetic and functional possibilities.

Spark your inspiration with our list of five data mapping tool alternatives to Google Maps:

1.  StoryMap

Knight Lab's StoryMap tool allows you to create a highly interactive map to illustrate a story's location-based data.

Use this tool when you want to include detailed information about each plot point in a way while allowing users to interact with the map itself.

For an example, see The Daytona Beach News-Journal's map of MLK Day events within the News-Journal's coverage area.

2.  Google Fusion tables

Google Tables allows you to create maps or charts from either their database of public tables, or your own data table.

Click image to view interactive map.

Click image to view interactive map.

Use this tool when you want to use a mapping tool that is more robust than Google Maps, or want access to public datasets when creating your map or chart.

For an example, see the Cape Cod Times' map of fatal drug overdoses, map of snowfall totals and map of affordable housing data.

3.  Tableau

This data visualization tool allows you to display data trends or topics through interactive charts, maps and graphics. Tableau does not require coding or development work beyond pasting an embed code to your news site.

Use this when you want to explore the different ways of analyzing and presenting your data from within an intuitive interface.

For an example, see Cape Cod Times' interactive map of tick-borne disease cases.

4.  CartoDB

This highly customizable mapping tools allows users to demonstrate changing trends or demographics using animation across a map, among other interactive features. The tool is free with up to 250MB of vector data.

Click image to view interactive map.

Click image to view interactive map.

Use this when you want to show a progression in data over time within a geographic region, or a more powerful mapping tool than Google Maps.

For examples, see MetroWest Daily News' map of female bear movements and map of EMC properties in Hopkinton.

5.  MapAList

This tool works in partnership with Google Sheets and Maps to create customized maps from the information within a Google spreadsheet in your Drive that you specify. To update or add to the address points on your map, you simply need to update your spreadsheet as you normally would – MapAList refreshes your map once a day to check for updates and changes, and there is also the option to force refresh at any time.

Click image to view interactive map.

Click image to view interactive map.

Use this when you want to quickly link a Google spreadsheet with location data to a map, and have the freedom to update your dataset without reloading it into the map.

For an example, see Medford's interactive map of local holiday lights.

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