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Q: Mapping software ( Answered 4 out of 5 stars,   2 Comments )
Subject: Mapping software
Category: Reference, Education and News
Asked by: maxinebrooklyln-ga
List Price: $20.00
Posted: 28 Sep 2003 04:01 PDT
Expires: 28 Oct 2003 03:01 PST
Question ID: 260914
I am writing a grant proposal for a social service program I am
developing.  I want to create a map of upper Manhattan with 15
locations on it.  I want to use four different icons to mark the
locations, with each location having an icon that indicates the type
of activity that will take place at that location.  Is there a web
site that will enable me to do this?  Free would be preferred.
Subject: Re: Mapping software
Answered By: byrd-ga on 15 Oct 2003 19:52 PDT
Rated:4 out of 5 stars
Hello Maxine,

As a matter of fact, there are a number of sources available that
should enable you to create your map for free.  To begin with, if you
don’t already know, what you’re looking for is a GIS tool or program. 
GIS stands for “Geographic Information System,” and such programs
usually combines several layers of information about a particular
place, depending on your specific needs or purposes, resulting in a
map image for printing or including in a larger report, such as the
grant proposal you’re working on.  Here’s a great site explaining GIS:  and another, here:

Now then, there are a couple of different ways you can proceed.  You
could download a fully functional software program, or you could use
an interactive online site, most of which ask you to input your data,
such as lat/long coordinates, etc. and then will return a map to your


Here are several free downloadable programs.  While I can’t personally
vouch for them, they appear to be good quality, and they promise
relative ease of use, though I’m sure there will be at least a small
learning curve involved.

MapMaker Gratis (Windows based):

Arc Explorer (Either Windows or Mac OS):

Natural Resources Database GIS (Windows based):

Open Systems Mapping Technology (Java Open Source):  *Note – this one’s a bit
technical, and is really designed for Open Source developers, but even
if you’re not in that league, it couldn’t hurt to take a look at it. 
Seems like a great tool.

Other free GIS resources: 


Then, there are also some sites that will allow you to interactively
generate maps online, and might work for you, though they seem to be
simpler with fewer controls than the software solutions provide.  Here
are a few:

Online Map Creation:

The Great Globe Gallery: 

List of interactive map links: 


Other tools: 
U.S. Census Bureau mapping resources: 

Brown University Geographic Sciences and Services, Online Maps links: 

Map locator resources: 


I hope you will find one or more of these tools to be useful and right
for your needs.  If not, or if any of the links don’t work, or if
there is something you don’t understand, please do use the “Request
Clarification” feature to ask before rating and closing the question,
so I can be sure you’re satisfied, and have the tools you need to
clearly illustrate and complete your proposal.  Also, since you're
concerned about cost, I haven't included links to GIS software for
purchase, but if you like, I can also add a list of such links if
you're not satisfied with the free ones.  Just let me know.

Best regards,

Search terms used:

“what is” GIS
free download GIS
free interactive online GIS OR “map creation”

Request for Answer Clarification by maxinebrooklyln-ga on 16 Oct 2003 03:18 PDT
Thank you for your answer.  It is not satisfactory to me because it
doesn't answer my question.  I am familiar with GIS concepts, and have
seen the results of several, such as ArcView, used in Information &
Referral systems.  What I hoped to obtain with my question was a free
system that would do what I wanted, namely to be able to type in 16
addresses (some you suggested need latitude and longitude for heaven's
sake) and give each one a "type" which would result in a map with all
of the places typed in shown, each with its own type icon.  It's great
to have the list that you provided, but now I have to explore each one
to see if it does what I want it to.  That's exactly the work I wanted
to avoid by posting my question to Google Answers.

Clarification of Answer by byrd-ga on 16 Oct 2003 18:21 PDT
Dear Maxine,

I’m sorry you weren’t happy with the information given in my original
answer.  You asked for a website, preferably free, that would let you
plot a number of addresses on a map of New York City using one of
multiple icon choices for each address.  I spent quite a few hours
searching on this topic and was confident I had provided you with a
number of resources that can do what you asked.  Since you didn’t
mention that you were already familiar with GIS and didn’t want to use
it, please understand there was no real way for me to know that, and
thus disregard it as a resource.  I included it as a first choice
since GIS is the most currently used standard in mapping software, and
“mapping software” was also the subject line of your question.  Your
clarification does make a big difference.  And I think you can help
you find what you want without your having to learn to use a GIS
program, though you may still have to jump through a few hoops.


But before you write off it altogether, or any other programs that
make use of latitude and longitude coordinates to plot points, you
might be surprised to know that converting street addresses to
lat/long values is not as difficult as it might at first appear. 
Though such converters, oddly enough, aren’t as common as they used to
be, they can still be found.  Try this one: , type in your
address, and you will get a return with lat/long coordinates in both
decimal and standard values, which you can then input into various
mapping sites/programs.  This site will let you input up to 25
addresses as is, or you may sign up for a free trial account to input
up to 100 addresses.  I tried the “test drive” version, and I also
signed up for the trial account to test it.  You have to wait for them
to email you a user id and password, then use that to download their
client software (which is 2.2 Mb and took me 10 minutes to download
and install over a 56.6k dialup connection).  They both work.  I tried
a number of addresses known to me around the U.S. and got accurate
lat/long coordinates.  You do need to have the zip code, since at
least the test drive wants to default to somewhere in California
without it.

Multi Map will also show the lat/long for a given address.  Check them
out here:

Another excellent tool is the Tiger Mapping Engine from the U.S.
Census Bureau map resource site I gave you the link to above.  Here’s
the main link:

You can select a number of different overlays depending on what you
want.  In this example, I zoomed in on Upper Manhattan with lat/long,
streets, zip code points, and highway labels, among others as selected

Center the map on any address and you can read the lat/long
underneath.  The engine also allows you to select icons and place
markers on the map. If you need to plot an address by number first in
order to know where it is, you can use any number of simple map
programs like: ,  , or , to find the location, and then place your
marker on the Tiger map to get the lat/long.  Conversely, you can find
the lat/long as detailed above for each address and then plot that on
the map.  However, you can only plot one point at a time with a
labeled icon.


So along those lines, aceresearcher-ga, one of my esteemed colleagues,
had another suggestion that I’d like to pass along, and which I think
has a lot of merit as it’s very easy and quick to do.  Here’s a link
where you can find street maps of Manhattan:
 (among other sites), including Upper Manhattan:

Find the one you want and right-click on the image, then click on
“save picture as,” and save it to a folder on your computer. (Note: it
will be saved as a .gif file) Do the same with icons you can find

Then open up a new document in MS Word.  Click “insert,” “picture,”
“from file” to open up your map.  Double click the image to open the
“format picture” box, then click on “layout,” “behind text,” and close
the dialog box.  Do the same with each icon you’ve selected, except
set their properties to “in front of text” and place them on the map
at your selected addresses.    I did a sample map of five addresses in
about ten minutes.

Again, you can use just about any online map (including the one from
the Tiger Engine) as your base by simply right-clicking it and saving
the image to your computer.  Multi Map, however, has some copyright
issues, although they do allow the printing of their maps for private
use.  Check their policies to be sure.

If you want to add a legend to your document, you might put everything
in a table or text box to give you control over placement, or however
you like best to format a document.   Alternatively, you could create
a new file in a graphics program, and type your addresses in text
boxes on the image itself,  and enlarge the canvas to add text boxes
for the legend beside the image.

Just for the sake of thoroughness, I also downloaded Smartdraw, the
program recommended by hummer-ga, also a colleague, in the comment
section below.  I found it also to be quite easy to use, and it does
create beautiful maps.  However, again, it requires you to spend the
time to download, install, and undergo a short learning curve to use. 
But it’s not difficult and I found it well worth the effort.


In summary, I have not been able to locate, either online or as a
standalone program, one single utility, either an interactive website
or a downloadable program, that will let you simply type in your 16
multiple street addresses, select an icon, and then generate a map for
you, either free or for a price.  The closest would probably be
Mapquest (link above), which will let you add up to five locations to
your original map.  But since you have 16, you would need to save the
first map as explained above, then add the rest of your addresses
manually.  The next closest I could find for multiple inputs was the
Online Map Creation site above, which I tried with lat/long
coordinates from my own neighborhood.  It generated a pretty good map,
using my text labels, but had no icons, and few details other than my
plotted points.   My recommendation would be SmartDraw, or the MS Word

Bottom line is, you can get what you what, but you are going to have
to do some work yourself, and likely spend a bit of time also learning
what and/or how to do it.   Just to reiterate, you will likely have to
either go to a simple map program like AccessMaps or Mapquest, find
and save a map of Upper Manhattan, open up a file with the saved
image, then find your locations one by one, and paste them with your
selected icon(s) to your saved map image, using a graphics program, or
as illustrated above, MS Word or something similar, add a legend, and
then save it and print it out as a separate image file or a document.

I hope you will find this additional information useful, and that it
will enable you to create the map you need.  Let me know if any of the
points given require any further clarification or explanation.

Best wishes,

Additional search terms used:
“street address” to lat long conversion OR converter
latitude longitude “street address”
maxinebrooklyln-ga rated this answer:4 out of 5 stars
I asked a difficult question and I wasn't as clear as I should have
been.  It appears that there is no satisfactory answer to my query,
but I am pleased with the clarified response I received.  Thanks!

Subject: Re: Mapping software
From: hummer-ga on 28 Sep 2003 15:57 PDT
Here's a possibility -

SmartDraw: free to try for 30 days:
"SmartDraw Gives You Beautiful Maps and Flags for Creating Reports,
Illustrations, and Web Graphics — Try It Free!"

Subject: Re: Mapping software
From: jimmyguitarman-ga on 15 Oct 2003 18:33 PDT
for professional mapping software go to this link: I have used ATLAS
GIS and it nothing short of sensational. Very pricey but worth it,
include the cost in yuor grant application.

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