View on GitHub

Visualizing Spatial Data Using Online Tools

Instructions and links to accompany the workshop, "Visualizing Spatial Data Using Online Tools,” at the January 2015 NE ASIST event.

Download this project as a .zip file Download this project as a tar.gz file

Jump to...


The data are stored on Google Drive. The link will be shared with you during the workshop.

Civil War Battles

Adult Obesity in the US

Tornadoes, 1950-present



To use TimeMapper, you need a Google account so that you can create a Google spreadsheet. Creating a TimeMapper account is optional, but it allows you to edit your maps later on.

To learn how to use it:

First, watch the 1 minute tutorial on the website.

Then look at the example Civil War spreadsheet and map.

General steps:

  1. Decide what you want to focus on. (All battles in a particular year? Only decisive battles? Battles in a particular area or involving particular commanders?)
  2. Create a new spreadsheet with the points of interest. Format the spreadsheet so that TimeMapper can read it.
  3. Find any additional media for each battles (an image or youtube video) and paste the link in the Media column of the spreadsheet. Fill in source information, descriptions, etc. This is the part where you can customize the message of the map!
  4. Publish the map according to the instructions on the TimeMapper website. Share the link to your map with others!

ArcGIS Online

You will be provided with temporary accounts during the workshop. The accounts will remain available to you until 1/21, after which all content will be deleted as these accounts will be used in other trainings.

Go to to log in for this workshop.

Get Started

Sign in and click MAP at the top of the page to open the map viewer.

Take the guided tour for a quick overview.

Add Data

File formats: CSV, Excel, ESRI Shapefiles (zipped), GPX files, KML/KMZ, and more

Search for Layers

Use this feature to find datasets posted in your organization, a group, on the web, or on ArcGIS Online.

Start by looking within the NEASIST Workshop 2015 Group. alt text

Click the Add link next to civilwar_battles to add the layer to your map.

Try finding others layers within ArcGIS Online.

Add Layer from File

Use this feature to add your own datasets. Shapefiles must be compressed in a zip archive (*.zip) before uploading. Browse for the file on your computer, then add it.

When a File Contains >1000 Features

You can't simply add upload it to your map. Instead, go to MY CONTENT and use the Add Item drop-down menu to upload the file from your computer. Once the file has been uploaded, return to your map and choose Add | Search for Layers, and look for the layer in My Content. Note that sometimes layers with >1000 features will render slowy, so you may want to filter them to show only a subset (see below for how!).

More details here.

Style Your Map

Click on the drop-down arrow next to a layer to see many options.

Perform Analysis

Use built-in tools to perform basic spatial analysis (buffers, calculate distances, combine datasets, etc.)

Read the help for a detailed description of each tool...or just give them a try!

Save & Share Your Map

Regularly save your map (there’s no auto-save). Click the Save menu at the top of the screen and give it a good name with at least one tag. It will be saved in My Content.

Use the Share button at the top of the screen to share your map.

Make a Story Map

Decide what story you want to tell first. For example, if you're working on the Civil War project do you want to focus on all battles in a particular year? Only decisive battles? Battles in a particular area or involving particular commanders?

Publish your map using one of the templates. This is a great way to make good-looking story maps with images and text.

  1. Click Share, share your map with the NEASIST group, then click the Make a Web Application button.
  2. For now, look under Configurable Apps. Hover over a template for details. Click Publish under a template, then either Preview or Publish it.
    • For something like a tour of Civil War sites, check out Story Map Journal or Story Map Tour.
    • The Time Aware template allows you to animate change over time, but it can be buggy.
  3. After publishing the map, change the settings and appearance of the app. Click the HELP button at the top for tips. To only show certain features, click the Organize button and then hide the features you don't want to show.
    • If you are creating a story map journal or tour, use the Change Media button over the image to choose which photo or video to show for each point.
  4. When you’re happy with your map, click the Share button and copy the link.
  5. For more details, check out the help


Go to the website to sign up for a free account. Chrome is the recommended browser for this tool.

Add Data

File formats: CSV, Excel, ESRI Shapefiles, and GPX files

  1. Go to your CartoDB dashboard ( and click New Table (the big plus sign in the right side of the screen).
  2. Now you have several ways to bring in datasets. Two common options:

Make a Map

View Your Data

alt text

Style Your Data

The map view allows you to change how the data look on a map; however, if you want to share your map with others, then you should create a visualization – click Visualize in the top-right corner of the screen.

Next, use the tools in the sidebar on the right side of the screen in Map View to change the appearance of the data in the map.

alt text Start with the Wizards tool to change the colors and size, or to make a chloropleth map. Within each way to style the data, you can change the appearance of it in the map. Try out the settings to see how they work, or check out the help for details.

alt text Next, change what shows up in the info windows by clicking on the tool and adjusting which fields are visible.

Add Map Elements

Click the Add Element button on the lefthand side of the screen. This allows you to add a legend, text box, annotation (linked to a particular location & zoom level), or image (e.g., a logo). Simply drag and drop to move them to the desired location, and click on an element to activate the formatting toolbar. Click here for more details.

alt text To add a legend, use the Legends tool in the right-hand side bar. This is particularly useful if the colors on the map are meaningful (i.e., more than simple symbology).

Add Another Layer to the Map

Click the blue plus sign at the top of the right-hand toolbar to Add layers and then find the layer you want. You can select an existing layer or upload a new one.

You can toggle between the layers in the right-hand toolbar to change how each is styled. More details

Animate the Map to Show Change over Time

Note that this only works for point data (not polygons or lines). The tool called Torque allows you to animate your data based on a numeric value.

In the Wizard tool, find Torque. It will be automatically enabled in the Visualization wizard if you are working with a point layer.

Share Your Map

Use the Share button in the top-right corner to share your map.

Learn more about CartoDB

Data Sources