What is the best mapping software?

What is the best mapping software?

After a few years of mapping by hand, armed with colored pencils, using layers and plotting lines, what could be more logical for geography students than training in digital cartography ? It is still necessary to choose the adapted digital mapping software. This will allow us to get along with the methods of representing qualitative and quantitative data (cartogram, 3D elevation, anamorphosis, triangular diagram …). And to apply the concepts studied during the university course (matrix of Bertin, factor analysis of correspondence, ACP and AFC, regression, hierarchical ascending classifications …). Especially since behind the term digital cartography hides a technical jargon difficult to grasp at first glance when you start: S.I.G . (Geographic Information System) geomatic, geocoding, modeling … We present to you in this article the 5 main characteristics which make digital mapping software a tool adapted to the university audience and necessary to become a cartographer.

1. Unlimited digital mapping software

First point: good digital mapping software must offer its user a large number of functionalities, that is, the possibility of using various methods of representation thanks to operators (cartogram, creation of points, fusion, manual sectoring or not, inclusion / exclusion, etc …) and set these representation methods to the environment (see below examples of modules present in the Maps & Data software). It must be configurable to the desired to correctly represent the data analyzed. For example, in any digital mapping software, it must be possible to represent the same symbol with 4 or 5 types of elements that can be varied such as:

  • the size
  • the form
  • filling
  • the outline
  • the orientation of the symbol

Good digital mapping software, in addition to offering various representation methods, must offer a set of tools that allow you to cross, analyze and synthesize the data. The goal is to make them both intelligible and representable on the map.

2. Digital and scientific mapping

Another extremely important point: the methods of processing and representing the information offered by the digital mapping software must be scientifically correct, namely in accordance with the techniques and canons of cartography. Any good digital mapping software has an obligation to comply with commonly accepted graphic semiology rules. The tool must be scientifically fair when it comes to representing a size, proportion, surface, distance or diameter of the symbols that will illustrate the map being developed. The right digital mapping software takes into account all of these rules, which were passed on to students during their studies and which they are asked to implement concretely. They guarantee the consistency of the design and visualization of the edited maps: the readers will immediately understand the information and above all will not be misled.

3. Simple and intuitive software

The easier it is to use digital mapping software and intuitive, the easier it will be for a student or university teacher to create a card. He can focus on processing information and making the card rather than running the software itself. This means saving time and increased efficiency. Ergonomics is one of the essential assets of good mapping software and crucially determines the level of learning of a student, this professional in the making. The work done on a map will be optimized so that it conveys the message as precisely and as objectively as possible.

4. Open and connectable mapping software

The goal is clear: to no longer waste time formatting data ! It is now unthinkable for training students and professionals to juggle all the formats on the market (Excel, Csv, Txt..) without being sure that the mapping software takes them into account in their entirety. You might as well acquire good reflexes from the start and equip yourself with digital mapping software that has two main characteristics: being open and connectable to a wide variety of databases (SQL Server, MySQL, PostGRE SQL, etc …) and a multitude of data formats (Csv, Excel, Tab, Dbf, etc …).

The same applies to card funds: digital mapping software must accept almost all of the formats already present in the world of open data and within the public data made available by the French administration. Among which the following formats: the GeoJSon, the Shapefile, the MapInfo Tab, KML … There are an ever-increasing number of free card funds on the web: the software must be able to integrate them without the need to convert them beforehand.

Symbol customization in the Maps & Data software

5. The purpose of digital mapping software: the export of a card

This is the final element, the one that makes the difference: the export of a card for useful purposes and its sharing with fellow students, teachers (within the framework of the defense of a thesis or a master’s thesis), or even a potential employer. Hence the crucial importance of paying particular attention to the editing of cartographic documents. It is essential to give the best possible visibility to the key elements of a card:

  • the title
  • the source
  • the legend
  • comments
  • the logo
  • the addition of a cartridge (to place the DOM-ROM next to metropolitan France for example)

The digital mapping software must provide layout functionality in order to be able to work on the size (A3, A4 or other …), the format (Png, vector PDF, Jpg …) and the resolution (to web in low definition or high definition print in particular). The idea is also to reuse the document published in other works via graphic software such as Photoshop or Indesign (among others).


The digital mapping tool adapted to the student audience – in training and / or in the process of professionalization – combines several main characteristics. He offers :

  • a wide variety of representation methods
  • a proven scientific methodology
  • an intuitive and ergonomic approach
  • time and efficiency savings
  • the successful dissemination of convincing cartographic documents

However, digital mapping software is completely effective when it serves interest on a sustainable basis:

  • students: for the preparation of teaching competitions, access to research or integration into working life
  • teachers: for the preparation of courses and TD, the illustration of conferences or to expand their university work

This is the solution provided by Articque with the GeoCampus pack, which meets the expectations of students in geography while being in line with university teaching. This offer provides access to free, ergonomic mapping software, which offers a wide range of features, including:

  • presence of an organization chart structuring the genesis of the map
  • variety of cartographic representation methods and symbols
  • integration of open data or personalized data (Excel, Csv, etc. table)
  • choice between multiple funds of Articque or open source cards
  • constitution and sharing of statistical and dynamic maps

This solution has made the success of Articque since 1989. Most importantly, it is unanimous among many students and their teachers.

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