Nonprofit Mapmaking Tool Review: MAPresso!
MAPresso is a free Java-based utility for creating and displaying cartograms and choropleths, two types of maps that nonprofits can use to visualize their data. Although importing your data into MAPresso isn't the simplest procedure in the world, the resulting maps offer a variety of analytical and aesthetic tools suitable for creating powerful and dynamic maps.
Because MAPresso is Java-based, you can use it as the base of an online (Web-based) simple geographic information viewer. Viewers can change the type of map, select various color schemes and analysis tools, and zoom into specific areas to find specific data. Since the interface isn't intuitive for users without GIS experience, I would imagine many nonprofit organizations would instead use the powerful analysis tools to generate static map images for use in websites, print publications, or presentations.
After converting your shapefile and associated data to the formats required by MAPresso (using a conversion utility that accompanies the program), you'll get a web page and some Java files. Opening the web page starts the MAPresso applet, which operates entirely within your web browser. By default, the program displays a choropleth spectrum-shaded based on a data column you select (or columns if you wish to graph bivariate or trivariate values).
The "geometry" feature in MAPresso allows you to create two other types of maps, both "cartograms" where regions are drawn with different sizes according to another variable (in our case, rates of poverty). The typical area cartogram looks similar to the one we created last week using the free uDig tool:
Finally, the utility lets us create Dorling cartograms, where shape is not preserved and instead displayed by relatively-sized circles. These kinds of maps can be helpful to visualize data abstractly without the distraction of shape or geographical complexity. Looking at the map below, it's easy to tell that the poverty rates of North Lawndale or East Garfield Park are significantly greater than those of Lincoln Park or the Loop.
Want to experiment with MAPresso without downloading it yourself? We've installed a demo version using the Chicago community poverty data (variable "POVPCT" in the demonstration menu) for you to experiment with!