The 3 Very Best Free Map Icon Sets

The Mango team digs out 3 hidden treasures amongst the bewildering array of free map icons available on the web.

Here are 3 noteworthy sets of free icons that would make a great addition to your mapping arsenal and help to grab the user’s attention.

Default map icon sets tend to be stale and boring but creating your own custom map icons for each project is rarely practical as it’s so time-consuming. On the other hand, finding those hidden treasures in a pool of thousands of free map icons also takes time.

Below are our three absolute favorites!

Map Icons Designer

The Map Icon Designer icon set gives you a selection of 207 symbols and 10 push pin designs. You can combine the symbols and push pins to make your own custom map icon set.

This free map icon set also provides a Photoshop PSD file so that you can even make your own customizations to the design.image

You can download this icon set here. When downloading there is an option to donate to the author which we encourage, but you can also enter $0 for the donation and download the set for free.

Map Icons Collection

Map Icons Collection is a set of more than 700 free icons to use as placemarks for your POI (Point of Interests) locations on your maps. 

Organized into logical color coded categories, for better and quicker overview, you get a complete and diverse collection of unique markers for point of interests, for example cinemas, hotels, banks, restaurants and stores.

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The map icon set is available here for free download.

Maki

Maki is a clean point of interest icon set made for web cartography. It includes 112 different symbols at 3 sizes each for a total of 336 icons and growing.

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The Maki icon set can be downloaded here.

Custom Icon Sets

If you are not a Photoshop wizard and need your own custom icon set or need additional symbols added to an existing icon set, then fear not. There is a quick and affordable way to high quality icons produced.

At Mango we’ve had many additional icons made for us by freelancers on Elance. Elance is a website that allows you to submit jobs and have freelancers bid for the work, you can then pick the freelancer with the best bid and strongest resume. Best of all your don’t pay unless you are 100% satisfied with the work.

The map icons we’ve had designed by freelance graphic designers via Elance have always been of very high quality and the icons have often cost us less than $20 each. If you need custom markers that aren’t available in the free map icon sets above then we strongly recommend taking a look at Elance.

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5 Reasons to Choose MangoMap over ArcGIS Online

I get asked several times a week why it’s better to choose Mango over ArcGIS Online for web map publication, and here’s the short answer:

1: Making Maps is Quick, Simple and Enjoyable

Simplicity is our core design principle at Mango. We go to extraordinary lengths to make it child’s play to create engaging, fully featured interactive web maps. There’s no complicated jargon and no dependencies to server or desktop products. Just a simple intuitive interface that makes it easy to make a map like this in minutes:

2: You Don’t Need to be a GIS Expert or a Programmer

Our goal is to make web mapping accessible to all. That means you don’t need to know anything about GIS to understand how to use Mango. Moreover, the really cool tools and widgets are available to anyone who knows how to point and click with a mouse, absolutely no coding required, we promise!

3: We Have Labels!

For some bizarre reason that I’ve never been able to comprehend ArcGIS Online doesn’t have an easy way to add labels to a map. In Mango is takes just a single click:

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See this in the docs

4: Easy to Understand Pricing

To work out what a Mango account will cost, you don’t need a scientific calculator, a crystal ball and a masters degree in applied mathematics.

So in ArcGIS Online, if it costs 1 credit per 1,000 tiles generated and 2.4 credits per 10 MB of stored feature service per month, how much will my map cost? Your guess is as good as mine.

Things are much simpler with Mango, just choose from one of the five simple to understand plans listed here.

5: Easy to Pay, Easy to Cancel

Once you decide you want an account with Mango it’s as simple as filling in some credit card information and pressing go. Want to cancel your account? It’s a single button click.

For ArcGIS Online you will have to send an email to your local authorized Esri distributor and wait for sales rep to call.

Give it a Try for Yourself!

Rather than have me tell you, it’s much easier for you to go and try for yourself! Sign-up now for a no obligation 14-day free trial. No credit card required.

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WMS Layers, Multiple Languages, Custom Point Icons and Much More!

We’re excited to announce a medley of exciting new features. You guys asked for these features and we listened. Please take the time to sign-in to your account and try them for yourself!

Web Map Service Layers (WMS)

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You can now add any web map service to your maps as a layer. The new feature is very easy to use, just paste the WMS URL, choose the layer you want to add and away you go.

Language Packs - Publish Maps in Languages Other than English

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You can now set the interface of your maps to be available in Dutch, French and Spanish. If you require the interface in another language and can help with the translation please reply to this email and let us know.

Upload Custom Icon Sets

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You can now upload your own custom markers to use with point layers. You can even set which point in the marker should be placed directly above the location on the map.

And that’s not all, we’ve also added…

Cross Hatch Fills

Need to show two polygon layers that overlap at the same time? We’ve got you covered, with the new cross hatch fill style you can do just that.

Base Map Switching Tool

With this new tool enable your users can decide for themselves which base map they would like displayed under your data.

Colors Instead of Base Maps

Instead of using a base map you can use any color as the background for your map. This features is especially useful when used in conjunction with the new WMS feature as your users don’t need to download tiles that they are not going to view.

Query Results as a Spreadsheet

The query tool now allows you to download the query results as a CSV file which can be opened in any spreadsheet program.

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QGIS Video Tutorials

MangoMap makes it really easy to create and share web map applications, we often use QGIS the free an opensource desktop GIS program for preparing the data for our own maps.

Now we bringing to you a video tutorial course so you can also learn how to use this powerful and fascinating GIS program.

Here’s the first episode in the series, enjoy.

Go to qgis-tutorials.mangomap.com to watch the other episodes in the series.

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The MangoMap Report: Cool New Features and Improvements

You guys have been giving us some great feedback and we’ve been listening. In this release we’ve added a whole range of new features and improvements all of which are requests from you, our users.

GeoLocation Tool for Mobile

The GeoLocation tool allows your users to locate themselves on your map. Just a single click and the map will zoom to their position, draw a circle to show them the accuracy of their position and even track them when they move. The tool also works in the browser on your desktop or notebook.

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Measuring Tool

Many of you had asked for this tool and here it is. The measuring tool allows you to draw on the map and be told the distance of the line in miles, feet, kilometers or meters.

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Copyright Tool

This is a simple feature but an important one none the less. You can now add your own custom copyright text to the map. The text is displayed on the bottom right corner of the map next to the legend.

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More Algorithms to Define Class Breaks

We’ve now made it even easier to create graduated legends by adding additional algorithms. You can now choose from Quantile, Jenks, Heads/Tails and Equal Interval.

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Change Outline and Opacity of all Classes Simultaneously

In the last release we added support for raster which was the number one requested feature on our customer suggestion site. The ability to change outline and opacity for all classes simultaneously has been number two on that list for too long.

Now for category and quantity legends if you want to change the outline style or fill opacity you no longer need to update every class break, we now just have one setting that will apply the change to all classes.

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Change the Order of Category Class Breaks in the Legend

You can now drag and drop the different classes in your legend in order to display then in the exact way you would like.

We’ll be releasing another new version in the coming weeks that will add even more cool features and improvements. If you have and suggestions for features or improvements be sure to let us know!

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A Map of Irish (Gaellic) Speakers in Ireland

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3 Most Common Web Map Legend Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Being the founder of MangoMap I think it’s fair to say that I spend more time looking at web maps than is probably healthy. In the course of a day I see the whole spectrum, from beautiful maps with interesting data and a clear message right through to “Test Map” showing a few random points and also everything in between.

One of biggest areas for improvement for most maps is the legend. Here’s my list of the three most common mistakes.

1. Not Changing the Labels in the Legend

Thanks to Shapefiles only allowing column names to be ten characters long we in the GIS world have invented a new language over the years which allows us to express complex ideas in under ten characters, which is great. The problem is that people outside of the GIS community don’t speak that special language and have no idea what “popasian” or “langnoteng” mean.

Also the default name of a layer is the name of the file which you uploaded (if you didn’t choose another name on upload). Once again most users won’t have any idea what a layer called “us_tiger_cen_2011_v2” is.

When making a web map remember to give an alias name to your layers, classes and attributes, it will make you map much more user friendly and accessible.

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Not Good

2. Too Many Toggle Layers in the Legend

In a regular desktop GIS we can turn all layers on and off in the legend, we don’t have to worry too much about performance as the data is on our hard drive and being displayed as vectors by a program that has full use of our computers resources. A web map is quite different, it’s sending image tiles across the internet which are displayed in the confines of your web browser which only has access to limited resources.

To be able to switch items on and off in the legend in a web map we need to stack on tile layer on top of another to achieve the same effect.  Every new layer in the stack effectively doubles the number of tiles that need to be downloaded to render the map therefore doubling the load time.

At MangoMap we get around that by offering layer groups, a layer group can be turned on or off in the legend but can contain more than one layer, all the layers in a group are rendered and sent across the internet as a single image which is much more efficient.

Layer groups are a great addition to a web map, but remember to use them sparingly in order to ensure fast load time and good performance.

Two Layer Groups = Fast

Four Layer Groups  = Slow

3. Too Many Class Breaks

This isn’t a problem that’s unique to web mapping but in the low attention span world of the internet the problem certainly is compounded. Try to keep the number of classes in your legend to a minimum, that way there will be greater contrast between the colors and the visual impact will be increased.

As I discussed in my previous post ‘Think Like a Web Designer Not a Cartographer’ we sometimes have to make concessions in terms of traditional cartography in order to create a high impact map that instantly engages the user and prompts them to explore further.

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MangoMap Now Supports Raster Data!

We’re excited and pleased to announce that we have now added support for raster data!

It’s been the most requested feature on our user feedback site for a long time and it’s finally here. Raster support is available on our Silver Plan and above, if you haven’t yet upgraded you can get a free trial by clicking on the link below.

MangoMap

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How-To: Crowdsourcing Map Data with Amazon’s Mechanical Turk

So it’s Wednesday night and I’m feeling a little left out because I seem to be the only person in web mapping yet to map a map related to the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

So I bit the bullet and here’s what I made:

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Map Link

I thought I would put together a quick post about how I made this map as the data preparation part was pretty interesting.

I couldn’t find a Shapefile with the data already nicely prepared for me so I knew I would have to roll my own. I had already found a table containing the data on Wikipedia, and located a Shapefile of country bounds. The Shapefile already contained the three letter country codes so do get the medal data into the Shapefile I would need to create a spreadsheet of the medal data along with the country code then I could join the two datasets together using QGIS. I also wanted to show the flags for each country in the popup window on the web map so would also need to add a link to an image of the flag for each country.

Although preparing this data isn’t difficult it certainly is tedious and it’s also time consuming, so I decided to try letting someone else do it for me.

Enter Mechanical Turk

Mechanical Turk is a beta service from Amazon which is part of their Amazon Web Service suite of products which now powers half the internet. It allows you to create a web form with a series of questions and provide a spreadsheet (CSV) of items/features/places etc that you want the form completed for. Each form is know as a HIT (human intelligence task). Here’s the form that I created:

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The form was pretty easy to make, it involved some very simple HTML and a sample template was provided to copy from.

Once you’ve made the form you start a new “batch” a batch is spreadsheet of the records you want processing. For me the batch was a CSV containing the names of the 38 countries that are still around and have ever won a medal at the Winter Olympics. As the “requester” you can say how much you are willing to pay the “workers” for each HIT in the batch and how long you will allow for it to be completed.

First Attempt: Fail

For my first attempt I made a bid of 20c per HIT and gave a three hour time limit. Almost as soon as I’d submitted it I could see people going to work on the task and I could also see the results as they became available.

Straight away it became clear that some workers had misunderstood the task, they were putting in the medal tally for the combined total of the summer and winter Olympics. In the results I accepted the correct ones by pressing a button and rejected the incorrect ones, almost immediately I started getting messages from the Mechanical Turk system from workers who weren’t happy about the rejection as they said my HIT definition wasn’t clear enough.

It all started to look like a bit of a mess so I canceled the batch and wrote off the $10 I’d already paid.

Second Attempt: Success

Now knowing that the form needs to be extremely clear in order to get the best results I went back added bold font and capitals to the important parts and started the batch again this time raising the bid to 30c.This time the result was amazing, within 20 minutes the batch was complete and there were only a couple of tiny errors that I could easily clean up myself.

It was very impressive, not only was this system much cheaper in real terms ($11.40) than me doing it myself it was also much faster.

Tips

  • Make your instructions EXTREMELY clear
  • Raise your bid to get faster results
  • Check and recheck the form before you start the batch

Future Experimentation

This was really just a test to check out the capabilities of this service, next time I would like to try it with a much larger dataset to see whether these results scale. 

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Mapping and GIS for Absolute Beginners

At Mango I speak to several clients a week who want to produce a web map that visualises their data but are new to the world of mapping. They know what they want the finished web map to look like but aren’t sure how to get started and don’t know where to find the answers as they’re not familiar with the jargon required to put Google to work.

If this sounds familiar then you’re in the right place. The aim of this article is to give you a 10,000 feet overview of modern mapping, by the end you will be equipped with a basic understanding of how interactive maps work and you will have a basic understanding of the common jargon that you will need in order to self-study by getting the search engines to reveal their secrets.

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Geographic Information Systems (GIS)

Almost all digital maps are produced using a GIS. The term GIS is a catch all term for any system that can store, manipulate and display digital map data, they range from powerful desktop systems such as QGIS and Esri’s ArcGIS through to web based systems such as MangoMap.

GIS Data Formats

The two main types of data used in a GIS system are vector and raster. Vector data is the most common form of map data and is made up of points, lines and polygons that are drawn to represent physical features or locations. Rasters are images such satellite imagery or aerial photography and are much less common.

All maps begin with data, data can be stored in a range of formats such as Shapefile, KML, GeoJSON and many others. All vector map data formats share one thing in common, they contain spatial data and attribute data. The spatial data contains the geometry that explains where a feature is located on the earth and the attribute data tells us additional information about that feature for example it’s name, size or even the number of people it contains that have eaten a chicken curry in the last month.

The de facto standard for storing and exchanging map data in the GIS world is the Shapefile. Despite it’s name a Shapefile is usually made up of four files (although it can be more). It’s not important that you understand what each of those files does but if you wish to find out more you can checkout this Wikipedia entry.

If you are new to mapping you likely don’t have a Shapefile, it’s much more likely that you have a spreadsheet where each record contains an item that could be placed on a map such as an address, zip code or county name. A spreadsheet like this is effectively only attribute data it doesn’t contain any usable spatial data but if the spreadsheet contains a column with addresses or zip codes it can easily be converted to a Shapefile. Here some tutorials to help you do that:

How to Make a Web Map from a List of Addresses or Locations in a Spreadsheet

Making a Web Map from a Spreadsheet Containing Zip Codes, Counties or State Names

GIS is Data Driven

GIS maps are data driven, what this means is that to change the presentation of a map we make styling rules called “classes”. For example if we wanted to map a dataset that showed how people voted by state in the election we would make a class that would make states on the map red if they voted Republican and blue if they voted Democrat. Let’s say the way a state went changed on the final count and we needed to change the color, we wouldn’t edit the feature on the map, we would update the data the map is using and the map will update itself.

Legends & Symbology

The classes discussed in the previous section are commonly referred to as symbology and are displayed on the map as a legend, the legend lets the user of the map know what they are looking at. The three most common types of symbology used in a legend are single symbol, graduated colors (aka choropleth map) and category.

Single symbol will give each feature in a dataset the same styling. This might be used for rivers, roads, city locations or other feature sets where the difference between each features is not of interest.

Graduated colors are used when a column in the data contains numbers and we want to change the strength of the color based on the size of the value. An example of a graduated color legend could be a map that shows the poverty rate by county where light red indicates low poverty and dark red contains high poverty.

Categories allow us to give each feature a different color based on an attribute. An example might be a map showing the location of fast food restaurants in your town, whereby McDonalds is Yellow, KFC is red and Subway is green.

GIS Analysis

Often the purpose of a map is to answer a question through a visualisation. With maps it’s far easier to identify patterns and clusters than it would be using a spreadsheet or a database. Web mapping tools like Mango allow you to perform basic analyses such as finding features that match certain criteria.

For more heavy analysis that involve comparing and joining multiple datasets you will often have to prepare your data using a desktop GIS system such as QGIS before uploading your data to Mango. This type of analysis is beyond the scope of this post but please read this tutorial for an example of how using a spreadsheet containing U.S colleges and a Shapefile of U.S counties you could produce a heat map showing counties by the number of colleges they contain.

That’s it for this post, you should now be familiar with the core concepts and vocabulary of GIS. For more interesting tutorials please take a moment to explore this blog.

Learn More About MangoMap

If you would like to learn more about MangoMap your can watch the getting started video below.

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