Thursday, June 30, 2016

In Focus: OpenStreetMap Standard base map

Content, composition and timeliness of information make OpenStreetMap (OSM) the ultimate benchmark for all the online maps.

There is a whole range of base maps available for import into MapDeck apps. These maps can be used as the backdrop image for presentation of other spatially reference information. Selecting the right base map for this purpose may pose a challenge to the user due to the variety of options available so, in this series of “In Focus” posts, we are introducing the most popular alternatives to make your job easier.

OpenStreetMap Standard map is one of these alternatives. It contains information contributed by members of the public as well as official government data. The level of detail depicted on the map tends to be very high. The map covers the entire world and is continuously updated. 

OpenStreetMap Standard at medium zoom
Although data quality varies worldwide, it is fair to say that OSM surpasses content and timeliness of any other map. The cartographic presentation of the information is also very refined. This feature-rich base map is a default option on MapDeck.

OpenStreetMap Standard at close zoom

OSM Standard map is best for:
  • as a background for point or line data (e.g. routes) but it is generally too busy and too colourful for thematic content (e.g. choropleth maps);
  • showing small area details.

OSM is a precious public resource that underpins the operations of millions of organisations and businesses of all sizes, facilitating billions of dollars in economic activity throughout the world. We are writing about this map only in superlatives but the value of OpenStreetMap deserves to be fully acknowledged.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Help needed in cataloguing maps and web services!, in cooperation with, is embarking on the task of creating the largest public catalogue of ready-to-use, spatially referenced information. 

If you publish or know of any interesting web services with base maps, satellite/aerial imagery or thematic overlays you can be a part of this project by submitting a list of your favourite web services as a response to this post.

You can also help fund the initiative by signing up as a MapDeck user and creating catalogue entries yourself after purchasing the Map Layers Manager tool!

The objective is to create a human validated list of what is useful and working, and most importantly, that can be put to immediate use. That is, to catalogue spatial information that can be mixed and mashed to deliver personalised location intelligence for professionals as well as novice users.

The secondary objective is to validate and improve what is already known about the catalogued resources. Unfortunately, formal metadata for the majority of spatial information tend to be either non-existent or lacks any useful details. So, compiling complete and accurate details requires a group effort.

MapDeck platform can also be used to distribute pdf maps and data files, either directly or as part of value added online content. So, any links to potential sources of such information is also most welcome.

Please visit the front page to preview what has already been catalogued. And if you would like to create your own records in the catalogue, or start using the information yourself, please email your request for an invite code to

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Australian Postcodes Map 2016

Postcodes are by far the most popular location reference for business purposes. However, the definition of postcode boundaries tend to be ambiguous due to the various methodologies applied during creation and because there are many versions of the data in circulation at any particular point in time.

In order to address some of that ambiguity, MapDeck has recently released the 2016 version of Australian postcode boundaries generated from open source information according to the rules defined by the Australia Post (which, theoretically, the organisation itself follows in defining the postcodes but in practice, it may not always be the case). The dataset is available for free perusal with MapDeck apps or can be downloaded in GIS format for a small fee.

Now there is also a free interactive map provided by MapDeck that presents the latest 2016 postcode boundaries on a base map with detailed road network and topographic features (sourced from the Open Street Map data).  For reference, we have also included Postal Areas 2011 boundaries (postcodes equivalent from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, created for use with 2011 Census data) and a Victoria-only version of postcodes published by the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning in April 2016.

Click to initiate the map (login required to view - contact to register)

However, MapDeck is all about personalising maps and spatial analysis, so users are not limited only to this map to view and interact with postcode boundaries. In fact, anyone can “roll their own” map, according to individual preferences, using the free Thematic Mapper Basic app. The app allows you to create interactive maps with a myriad of base map layers as well as other contextual information catalogued in MapDeck and available for immediate use.

Users who have the full version of Thematic Mapper can save personal copies of the map. That is, either edit the original map by adding or changing the base map layers and other data, or create a new one from scratch, then save the version as their own copy. These maps can be shared with other users as well. 

All in all, the map presented today is just an appetizer to demonstrate our latest postcode boundaries in the context of other spatially referenced information but also to inspire you to explore MapDeck functionality and personalise available content to your individual requirements.

Contact our Australian support team on for an invite code to join MapDeck. 

Monday, June 6, 2016

Data viewing in MapDeck

There are two ways to view data on MapDeck: either in a preview mode, using Data Viewer app, or via one of the purpose-built applications, such as Thematic Mapper or Sales Area Management Tool.

MapDeck’s functionality is broader than that of a traditional web-mapping application. That is, MapDeck is a consolidated publishing, cataloguing and information visualisation platform all in one. It enables specialised apps and associated data to be put to immediate use, the user requiring nothing more than just a web browser. 

Spatial data (vector geometry and image layers), tabular data (attributes), graphic and other files, as well as apps, are all listed in the MapDeck catalogue independently of each other. It is up to the individual user to find and select the right content that is suited for a particular purpose.

So, for example, if the primary interest of the user is in graphic/pdf maps or spatial data in the original GIS format, these files can be downloaded to a user computer and then opened with the user's favourite desktop software.

Any other table, map layer or vector data published on MapDeck can be previewed on its own in a generic Data Viewer app (provided you have access to that data set - that is, you are the owner or it is either a public dataset or you have subscribed to it). In other words, Data Viewer is a default app which displays content of a table, map layer or vector data set when a user clicks on a particular product.

Functionality of Data Viewer is very basic. In particular, vector geometry will be rendered in a preview window with a default style only and it will be presented on its own, with no option to display other contextual information. However, the data can be interacted with. That is, users are able to zoom in and out, pan the map and click on individual features to view attribute information, and vector features will respond to mouse-over events. Switching from “Map View” to “Table View” allows previewing attribute information for a given vector geometry and downloading it as a .csv file.

Image map layers are displayed in Data Viewer as an interactive map with pan and zoom functions enabled. Complex map layers, that is those comprising two or more sub-layers, will display just the top-most layer in Data Viewer and there is no option to switch between the sub-layers in a preview mode.

Attribute data tables can be previewed in Data Viewer’s Table View window.

Another option to view private and public tables, map layers, vector geometry, as well as compiled information directly in a browser, is to load them into a relevant MapDeck app.

MapDeck apps are purpose built tools that enable performing one or more (but very specific) tasks, like creating an interactive map (Thematic Mapper), defining and managing franchise or sales territories (Sales Area Management Tool), generating map images for printing in large format (Map Image Capture Tools) or configuring external web map services as MapDeck image map layers (Map Layers Management Tool). More options are coming.  

Once the user selects and starts a particular app, relevant data can be added and visualised using a common process which comprises of two steps: searching for content via the in-bulit Finder function and then selecting the item to add to the app.

Thereafter, each app deals with imported data in a unique way. For example, Thematic Mapper allows adding multiple image map layers as well as vector geometry layers, which then can be styled according to user preferences. Sales Area Management Tool only allows swapping one-base image map layer with another but it allows applying unlimited number of styles to imported vector polygon geometry to highlight different sales or franchise territories. And Map Image Capture Tool displays only information preconfigured and saved as Thematic Mapper or Sales Area Management Tool infosets.

At first, viewing data and information on MapDeck may appear as complex and ambiguous process – after all, you have to find what you are looking for in a large catalogue and then you have to create your own compilation of information rather than being given “a ready-made map”.  However, once you are familiar with the process, it is a very simple and straightforward task.

Just remember, to preview the data – all you need to do is click on a start icon to launch it in Data Viewer. For everything else is a Mapdeck app - launch it first, then add the data you are interested in. As simple as that!