indiemapper

Axis Maps (Andy, Ben, Dave, Mark, and I) just released indiemapper, a sweet browser-based thematic and reference mapping application.

For some more indie maps, check out our gallery. To try it out, just head over to indiemapper.com: you can sign up for a free 30 day trial without entering a credit card; after your trial, indie is just $30/month ($20 academic). Oh, and I guess there’ll be a free version, but it’d be pretty embarrassing if you were caught using that.

A little history

Indiemapper took a long time coming. The seeds were planted in December 2007. I had just discovered Edwin van Rijkom’s AS3 SHP library, which lets you load and draw ESRI shapefiles at run-time in Flash. Using widely available formulae for simple projections like Mercator and Lambert conformal conic I began loading and projecting shapefiles in Flash at run-time pretty quickly. These were heady times, and this seemed pretty cool.

Andrew “Woody” Woodruff joined in and we set off to create a full-fledged thematic mapping tool in Flash. We designed the product for ourselves, honestly, and the cartographers we knew. We hoped it’d be useful to other map-makers, whether casual or professional, who may not need nor want to learn the extensive analytical capabilities of a modern GIS, but do want a multitude of symbology and design options for their geographical data.

We presented a super-early version of indiemapper to MACDAD on May 9, 2008.

As you can see, the basic workflow and trademark indie (#0099cc) blue were already in place.

We had some pretty gnarly styling panels, though; at this point we were just working in Flash and creating all the panels from scratch.

Of course things like getting Master’s degrees, real paying projects, moving, and having actual jobs (however briefly) got in the way, and development on indiemapper didn’t restart for another year or so. Axis Maps (where Andy became a partner in Summer 2008) took up development of indie while I went and did something else for a while. Axis Maps released indieprojector as a preview in May 2009, not realizing it’d be another 11 months before the full thing was ready. I joined the team later in 2009, and have been co-developer (with Andy) since.

Development

Mark and Ben are our static and interaction designers here, with Mark also providing the “learn more” content, drawing from his years of academic cartography experience. Dave is our project manager, marketing guru, and AJAX guy; he created the backend to our user management and sharing systems.

Andy and I both wrote AS3 code and MXML markup, but he was mostly focused on the former with me working more on the latter. This meant I programmed more of the framework and UI, while Andy was rocking the math-heavy projections work and all the exporting/imp/svg stuff.

When I joined the company, I immediately set to work refactoring the indiemapper code base to incorporate the MVC framework Mate. Mate, as they say, is “a tag-based, event-driven Flex framework”. I had to use Cairngorm for work a while back, and by comparison Mate is quite lightweight and unobtrusive. There’s much more to say here, but I’ll save that for later.

Though it’s old school what with FXG, I still really like Degrafa, and used it a fair amount for skinning. Aside from Mate, Degrafa, and a few open source Flex components, we pretty much wrote our own little AS3 GIS SDK.

This is just the beginning

Given our platform and development philosophy, we can quickly respond to our users’ needs in a thematic and reference mapping tool. Please let us know what you want.

I think our first goals are:

  • performance improvements so you can load larger geodata files faster
  • attribute editing and joining
  • more charting options for your data as an aid to classification and symbology selection
  • more symbologies, like chorodot and additional cartogram styles
  • custom choropleth color schemes and graduated symbol size schemes
  • line generalization

But let us know what else you’d like to see. We’ve already been able to respond to a few new feature requests and, oh, maybe one or two bugs in our first week.

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