I am looking for a good free existing tool which visualizes geographical data (let's say in the form of coordinates) by plotting them on a map.

It can be a library (see this question on StackOverflow, which suggests a Python library called basemap, which is interesting but not dynamic enough, namely it does not allow for interactivity) or a complete toolkit.

Existing things I found are oriented towards realizing web pages, which are not my ultimate goal (see Exhibit or Modest Maps). I'd like something to feed with data which spits out an interactive map where you can click on places and it displays the related data.

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    $\begingroup$ Take a look at software, referred to in this answer of mine. $\endgroup$ Commented May 10, 2015 at 2:02

2 Answers 2


Assuming you want your visualizations to be available on the internet, there are many options for this:

It really comes down to exactly what you want to do and how much control you want to have over the map. Additionally you should consider what sort of interactivity you need.

Google Maps is probably the most user friendly for very basic map functions but is somewhat limited in what you can do stylistically.

Mapbox and CartoDB are both user friendly and offer good options for styling and displaying different varieties of data. However, they also both tend to require subscription fees for anything other than small maps. Also, the last time I checked, CartoDB explicitly handles animation and time-series data where Mapbox does not.

D3 will probably give you the most control over display, animation, and interactivity but also has a long learning curve. Even if you don't want the map to be available on the internet, this is still a very good tool for making interactive visualizations that run in the browser.

If you don't care as much about the visualizations being online, you can get a lot of work done in open GIS software like QGIS or GrassGIS, though I don't know if user interactivity is really an option there.

As I said though, it really comes down to the specifics of exactly what you're trying to do and how comfortable you are with various aspects of mapping and coding.


Depending on your technical ability and what you're trying to do, Qlik Sense might be a good fit as it is fairly easy to use and yet powerful, and comes with mapping functionality. If it's a commercial project though you will need to pay for (expensive) licenses, otherwise it's a free download for personal non-commercial use.


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