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TileMill Puts Web GIS on the Map

Mar 12, 2011, 11:05 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Nathan Willis)

"If you're anything like me, you love a good map graphic, particularly one that brings what would otherwise be dull and boring data to life. The technical term for tools that render statistics into visual form with maps are geographic information systems (GIS). Open source has a wealth of top-notch GIS tools like GRASS and gvSIG, but their power comes with a learning curve. TileMill is a new tool that bucks the trend, letting complete newcomers to GIS build slick looking static or interactive maps with minimal fuss.

"TileMill technically runs as a Web app, but it is designed to be installed locally, on top of Apache and PostgreSQL, and accessed through Firefox. "Locally" specifically means that TileMill needs to access your locally-stored data files in order to paint them onto your map projects, and that (at present) the program has no concept of user accounts or authentication. The Web app interface stems from two of TileMill's open source underpinnings: the Mapnik map renderer (of OpenStreetMap fame), and the CSS-derived syntax used to mark up map elements."

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