Learning how to make maps

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Given a healthy obsession with data, there’s always a yearning for new ways to break it down. One of the best ways for data that includes location attributes is via GIS.

Though cartography and mapping have been around for ages, GIS is a relatively young field. The primary delivery of it these days is through computer applications.

Fortunately, even those with no real background in the subject can play around with it using great free software packages like QGIS. I picked it up about three years ago, and I’m still stumbling my way down the path. One thing is for sure, free + Google can mean lots of enlightenment for those patient enough to do some self-teaching.

It’s been a huge plus to my data analyses overall, though I do find myself with a bunch of unfinished projects. Mostly given the large amounts of data that can go in and the subsequent myriad ways to show it off.

I’d at least consider it press-buttons-till-you-get-something friendly, with a bit of a learning curve. Give it a go if at all interested. Paired with a program like QGIS, shapefiles from places such as the U.S. Census Bureau and Natural Earth can quickly get you on your way to creating something neat. Just add data from your favorite source — like SPC — and stir wildly.

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