On a budget and looking for free mapping software? I know that feeling.
Not too long ago, making a custom map required extensive knowledge and experience. It involved the use of a complex and expensive geographic information system (GIS). Now, there are various map makers available online. These map makers require only a few clicks to make a personalized map.
There are many different mapping software options available, depending on your needs. What kind of maps do you want to show? How do you want to show it? What kind of interface do you prefer?
The following article gives a list of ten free mapping software options. All of these serve to create custom maps, ranging from simple maps to sophisticated interactive ones.
Many people are familiar with the service that Google.com and Google maps provide, including the route planner. My Maps is an additional, less well-known product that allows people to create simple, customized maps. This app works on a desktop computer or a portable Android device.
The pins that Google Maps uses to mark places are well known. My Maps uses the same pins, but the user can add customized information to it. Also, the user can adjust the color code of the maps. This tool is ideal for planning vacations, highlighting business locations, or map delivery locations.
It is very practical for sharing information with friends, family, or business partners. It integrates with Google Sheets, so it can upload and update information in spreadsheet format.
In the field of open-source GIS software, QGIS is a big player. QGIS3 is their third major release. QGIS3’s core philosophy is that of the open-source principle. Its aim is to break free from the common commercial GIS options.
This third release is now in 3D. However, with the introduction of this new feature, QGIS has lost nothing of its famed power.
QGIS 3 is by far the most innovative release in the QGIS series. Besides the 3D feature, it now offers a new set of attractive maps. A beautiful and practical option that makes its promises come true.
Mapme is a free mapping software tool for creating custom maps. The service, which is entirely online, is very basic but allows the user to create simple interactive maps.
Its major feature is the option to directly embed maps in external sites. After creating the desired map, Mapme provides a link for direct use on a different site. This makes it very practical for companies that want to use maps to show their office or retail locations.
Mapme users are in all kinds of industries, ranging from real estate to government, to travel. Easy sharing of locations and property information easy are clear benefits for the real-estate branch. This has a beneficial effect on the sales. In the travel sector, Mapme is often used to make interactive guides and itineraries.
Whitebox GAT is an expert tool for advanced geospatial data analysis, generally used in the geomatics industry and environmental research.
One of Whitebox GAT’s most interesting features is the LiDAR data management function. It allows the user to examine in detail natural as well as manmade environments.
In 2009 Whitebox GAT came with a new Terrain Analysis System, mainly for hydrogeomorphic purposes. Since then it has seen many improvements, which has resulted in a fully developed GIS option.
ArcGIS offers a complete package for mapping solutions. It includes various location tools and specialized apps. There are three subscription models. ArcGIS Pro is installed on the local computers. ArcGIS Enterprise operates from servers on the client’s premises. Finally, ArcGIS Online is a Saas hosted option.
Esri ArcGIS comes with an extensive database of geographical data to enrich personalized maps. Esri has everything to create customized maps and other location intelligent applications.
The next option on this free mapping software list is Map Chart. This tool allows the user to make maps for school or work projects that look very professional. It offers maps of single countries, regions, continents, and the entire globe. All these maps are customizable.
Map Chart enables you to make a map quickly and easily. Click on a country or region and change the color. Then add a title and description. Finally, preview the map to see if everything looks fine and download the map. Other options are the use of patterns, hide countries or regions, and zoom.
Multiplottr is a fast and simple tool. This is a good option for making a map with a highlighted location pin for, for example, a PowerPoint presentation. This mapping tool is even easier than Google My Maps.
Copy and paste the address or address in the plotline and click Plot. Then save maps, edit pins, or add legends to the map if needed. There are many more options to choose from. So, whether it is for a quick and simple map or a more sophisticated chart, MultiPlottr is the right tool.
ZeeMaps is a no-nonsense online custom mapping service. As such, it has limitations. Yet, it stands out because it offers more technical options than most of the online map-making tools.
ZeeMaps can import information from a spreadsheet and use it as the map’s base layer. This is, in fact, a function that most GISs have, but ZeeMaps’ transformation is easy.
A fun and modern feature is the crowdsourcing option. For example, someone can publish a map of a certain area and request the help of the community to locate all hamburger restaurants in the area.
SAGA is an acronym for System for Automated Geoscientific Analyses and is popular for good reason.
SAGA’s area of expertise is geoscientific analysis. It is capable of LiDAR data processing and 3D visualization. These features make SAGA specialized free mapping software.
This powerful tool processes raster and analyzes terrain and other geoscientific data. This makes SAGA particularly popular for more technical applications.
Other features of SAGA are the geostatistics tools. Predictive exercises are within reach with the regression analysis and semi-variograms. These are complex and advanced processes, but according to users, they are easy to relatively easy to use.
gvSIG is an excellent free option. It has a field app, 3D capabilities, and a desktop application.
It does not have English documentation, however, the gvSIG is easy to work with and it does not have a steep learning curve. The NavTable is one of its responsive tools and shows individual records vertically.
The CAD tools included in gvSIG are impressive. OpenCAD Tools is an open-source version and it allows the user to trace geometries, snap and split lines, and edit vertices.
There is also a mobile-compatible version available. This, combined with GPS tools make this a great option for fieldwork.
Technically speaking SnazzyMaps is not a map builder. It improves the appearance of maps by applying different design templates to them. It works by extracting maps from Google Maps, which can then be made ready for publication on the web. This is a good free option for web designers who want to publish professional-looking maps but without custom coding.
SnazzyMaps offer different default styles to choose from. These include dark, light, and monochrome overlays.
Using SnazzyMaps is very simple. Go to the map builder page and enter the required information. Choose a language, markers, size, and style, then download the result and use it for a commercial or personal project.
DIVA-GIS is a free computer program for mapping and geographical data analysis. It also makes maps of the world or smaller areas. It can indicate state boundaries, rivers, show satellite images, and other special distributions. The information that DIVA-GIS offers is free to use, either with DIVA itself or a different GIS program.
OpenStreetMap, or OSM, is an open-source mapping platform, developed by a global community of voluntary mappers.
It offers good mapping options offered, however, it lacks geospatial analysis tools. Its simplicity also makes it easy to work with, so is a good choice for map-making and web development beginners. It is also frequently used by hikers to map trails.
The current information on OpenStreetMaps is maintained by contributors from the worldwide community. They enter new information about railways, roads, trails, and many other relevant points of interest.
The disadvantage is that OSM does not use an approval or review process. Any information that is entered by any contributor will be immediately published for all to see.
BatchGeo was released in 2006. It is an easy way of getting a list of addresses on one map. It has been used to publish millions of maps. Its customers include large international companies, non-profit organizations, and private individuals.
Often geographical data is organized and stored in spreadsheets, using Excel, or Google Sheets. BatchGeo facilitates the use of this data, by allowing the user to import their data using a spreadsheet file. The information is imported into a map by drag-and-drop or copy-paste methods.
After entering the information, all data points are laid out on an easy-to-navigate Google Map.
An additional feature of BatchGeo is the routing option. It allows the user to optimize routes for up to 23 points. This optimizes travel time when visiting many customers. Map sharing is also very easy.
Click2Map is a practical free mapping software tool, for making customized maps. It contains a large library of markers. The user can use them to show specific places and add extra information and interactivity.
With Click2Map, the user can add lines and other shapes to their maps. These can be used to indicate or highlight certain areas. After making all the adjustments to the map, download it and embed it without cost.
This app is fully integrated with Office 365. It is popular for organizing and managing geographical data. Excel 3D Maps uses Excel to plot maps. It is straightforward and easy to learn, with many customizable options.
Excel 3D Maps displays geographical maps, as well as making thematic maps, such as a heat map or a time-based growth chart. It breathes life into data and makes attractive and impressive maps.
There are unique ways to add more information to a map with Excel 3D Maps. The user can, for instance, add a three-digit zip code boundary to a map. It requires some extra skill, but the method is easily retrievable with a Google search.
Maptitude started as a mapping program for businesses. In recent years, it has started to explore other applications as well. It now includes any kind of spatial analysis. It integrates with Microsoft office. Familiarity with the Caliper Script programming language is a requirement.
Maptitude only asks for the geocoded address and the software will do the rest. It is cloud-based and is also a location intelligence tool. It allows the analyses of any kind of spatial data.
Maptide offers the option of a free trial and their paid subscriptions are very affordable.
GRASS GIS is usually referred to as GRASS, which is short for Geographic Resources Analysis Support System.
Originally developed by the US Army Corps of Engineers, GRASS is a program for land management and environmental planning. Now it has become a GIS tool for various areas of investigation.
GRASS finds use in academia, environment consultants, and government agencies like NASA and USDA. GRASS enjoys such popularity because of its practical graphical user interface and dependability.
There are over 350 reliable vector and raster manipulations tools available in this program. Its primary use is mainly for GIS for analysis, image processing, statistics, digital terrain manipulation.
Scribble Maps is an online GIS and mapping platform. It is simple and easily familiarized. The user can annotate, filter data, geocode, measure distances, make interactive maps, optimize routes, and much more.
Scribble has a team portal that allows teams to work together on a project. It is therefore an ideal option for larger organizations. It can export maps in a variety of ways and integrates with existing workflows.
The programming interface that Scribble Maps offers is specially included for software programmers. They can use this feature to continue using the Scribble Maps’ features outside its website.
Scribble Maps has much to offer those interested in the technical aspects but is simple enough to engage beginners and less technical persons in map-making.
Unearth was specially designed for people in the physical industries. It has map-making and data management abilities. It is great for larger teams to work together, even if they are working in different locations.
This is a cloud-based mapping platform, which allows communal access to collect and share data. Therefore a person’s location is irrelevant.
The user interface is simple and straightforward, helping the user to make a map fast and easy in only minutes Unearth offers modifiable satellite images by overlaying drawings, shapes, and measurements.
Unearth can also be used on mobile devices. It comes in an iOS and an Android version. This is very practical for recording data while in the field.
MapTiler is used by companies such as Apple, Google, and NASA. Its popularity is due to the many features it offers, making it well suited for making map tiles from geodata. These map tiles are used in Google Maps API mashups, Google Earth, MapQuest, and Microsoft Bing, to name a few.
MapTiler is downloadable in a version for Linux, Mac, or Windows. There is a free trial version, but additional features are available in one of the four paid versions. The number of features depends on the specific bundle.
OpenJUMP, as the name indicates, is open and free to use. This GIS software is JAVA-based and is powerful enough to handle large datasets. It was developed by a large GIS community. JUMP stands for Java Unified Mapping Platform.
OpenJump can analyze data, read and write shape files, and interpret various vector formats. This gives OpenJUMP the ability to read and edit geometry. This is supported by the feature that allows the program to connect with third-party spatial databases.
Even though it is free software, OpenJUMP is a very capable visualization tool. It makes choropleth maps, pie charts, and plots, making this an above-average platform.
Additional plugins are available to expand the capabilities of OpenJUMP. There are plugins for manipulating rasters, accessing large databases, and conducting spatial analysis.
TillMill caters to the needs of those who want to make a map quickly and easily. It offers plenty of custom data. It is based on Mapnik, an open-source maps rendering database. This is the same database that is behind OpenStreetMap and MapQuest.
TileMill is not made for every map-making application. It is more for simplifying the needs of a small group of web designers.
uDig is free and the acronym stands for:
u: user interface, which is made to be friendly and practical.
D: Desktop. uDIG runs on Linux, Mac, and Windows.
i: Internet-oriented consuming standard. The standard includes WFS, WMS, and WPS.
g: GIS-ready. It has capabilities for complex analysis.
uDig too uses Mapnik, the open-source mapping database. Its main use is in basic mapping projects. It is built around the Eclipse Rich Client (RCP) technology. This enables the user to build complex analytical data, within a user-friendly framework.
If you liked this article about free mapping tools, you should also check out this article about online mapping tools.
A bit obvious by now, but we really like maps so we wrote even more about subjects like the blank map of Italy, Africa, Australia, and a few others, about websites with maps using interactive maps, and SVG animation examples.