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Map Maker Gratis: Free Map Editor

Map Maker Gratis is the free version of the professional $400 GIS and map editor Map Maker Pro. I’ve been meaning to try it out for a while, since even the free version has a very strong feature set. From the website:

  • Unlimited number of layers, raster and vector.
  • Colour, mono, and grey-scale bitmap backgrounds.
  • Large range of fill, line, and symbol styles
  • Translucent and semi-translucent fills.
  • Curved, stretched, and outline text.
  • Arrows, and dimensions.
  • Easy to create scale bars, north points, legends, text panels, inset images, etc.
  • Point-and-click to pop-up images, documents and internet links.
  • Print accurately scaled maps on any true Windows compatible printer.
  • Multi-sheet printing of large maps.
  • Create from new or import and edit.
  • Vector drawing and editing.
  • Intuitive cutting and joining of polygons.
  • Create polygons with islands.
  • Simple editing of common boundaries.
  • Numerous “snap-to” options.
  • Drag, stretch, rotate, duplicate groups of objects.
  • Create buffer zones.
  • Calibrate raster images.
  • Use data from DBF files to colour up a map or determine symbols.
  • Generate legends.
  • Measuring areas and lengths is simple.
  • Edit data sets.
  • Import vector data including ArcView SHP, MapInfo MIF, AutoCAD DXF, Idrisi VXP.
  • View BMP, TIF, Geo-Tiff,  and JPG raster data.
  • Export BMP, JPG, TIF.
  • Export DBF data to Microsoft Access, Excel, dBase etc.

The Pro version adds support for 3D, raster-to-vector, on-the-fly reprojection, export of vector features from the native .dra format to standard formats (shapefile, MapInfo, etc.),  and more; see the comparison chart for all the differences. And the install program lets you try out the Pro version for 30 days before it reverts to the free Gratis version. So it seemed worth a look on a simple map project I was doing for a friend as a favor.

Having struggled with the program for a few days, I can see that it does have many features; unfortunately, it also has a fairly steep learning curve, especially for those used to more conventional GIS programs. For example, modifying vector file display attributes isn’t done by modifying the layer properties, but rather by defining a “style”, a set of descriptions for things like symbol, line width, fill patterns and more, and figuring out how to do that effectively takes some work (and sometimes doesn’t work the way you expect). Getting labels to appear in the position I wanted was a chore, and some of the label controls didn’t seem to work. You can have multiple layers of vector data loaded, but it seems that you can only work with data in a single, “active” layer, i.e. you can’t edit or add points to layers other than the active layer.  There’s a large PDF manual that comes with the program, and at first glance it seemed to be comprehensive. But when I ran into problems and looked in the manual for answers, more often than not I couldn’t find them.

I suspect that if I worked long enough with the program, I would eventually figure out what it can and can’t do. There are some limited tutorials available for download at the site, along with links to tutorials by other users. Given the feature set, and the price point of $0 for the Gratis version, I can’t complain too much, and can see myself revisiting the program at some point in the future to give it a more complete review.

I should mention that the program authors generously offer free licenses for the Pro version to any non-profit organization, educational institution, or students in Africa. Also, there’s a world clock / sunlit area display program called Sun Clock available for a 30-day full-featured demo; at the end of 30 days, some features disappear (like views of the sky and stars), but the world clock /sunlit areas feature remains free.


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5 Responses to “Map Maker Gratis: Free Map Editor”

  1. 1 Nishant Singh


    Can files be opened in global co-ordinate system in Map Maker gratis version.

    It does no show this option in the list when we try to open a file.

    Nishant Singh

  2. 2 Gerhard


    I am happy, you ‘found’ Map Maker and gave it a positive review. It is tremendous, what a great variety of features are offered in this free/cheapware. It can compete in nearly every aspect with the conventional GIS packages – for a fraction of money and time.

    Having worked for so many years in GIS applications worldwide, there is the strong need for ready-to-use, affordable GIS software.

    This can not be covered by ‘established’, conventional, expensive GIS software. These might have been the only option some 10-20 years ago, but now over the top in every aspect – and not affordable for many GIS users.

    Also the now strongly growing field of open-source GIS platforms does not cover the needs of many actual GIS applications demands. They require too much resources: Time, developers, money.

    Therefore, a cheap, powerful GIS like Map Maker is the only answer, of course together with all your efforts on

    As you mentioned, the only bottleneck is the ‘fairly steep learning curve’, particularly at the beginning. It takes days even for professionals to appreciate all the plenty of functionalities in Map Maker. Also has a few minor software glitches.

    I am trying to assist Map Maker users, particularly in our land use planning project, with a specific-use-oriented manual at .

  3. 3 Leszek Pawlowicz

    MapMaker Gratis should be able to open files in geographic format. You will have to make sure that all data files are in the same projection, as MapMaker Gratis does not do on-the-fly re-projection.

  4. 4 Nick Hopton

    I agree with what Gerhard says above, it’s good to see Map Maker getting some attention.

    Styles in Map Maker can be a little confusing. I find the easiest way of dealing with styles is to think about the ones I’ll need for the points, lines and polygons at the very start of a project and then create them, before any objects are added to the map. Once this is done the styles can be applied to the objects as they are created, it’s so simple and it keeps everything (including one’s thoughts) on the straight and narrow.

    For me, one of the killer features of MM is the cutter tool. Using this makes slicing a large polygon into lots of smaller ones, all of them perfect (no overlaps or gaps here), so easy.

    The way that MM can handle simple survey data is very powerful and easy to understand.

  5. 5 Joe Thompson

    I regularly use MM Pro for making wetland delineation and habitat maps, and am fairly happy with it. Although it does not re-project on-the-fly, it can manually reproject vector data into any coordinate system. It also creates very nice looking maps without a very steep learning curve. In fact, I work in an office with a bunch of ArcMap users and I can make better looking maps at a fraction of the time they need. The problem I have with MM is that it chokes on very large aerials and complex vector data, even when using a hot-rod computer. It can do pretty much any routine GIS task if you take the time to learn the program, which includes carefully reading the manual. Once in a while I find it easier to use Global Mapper for things like batch reprojections, and just use MM for cartography, a task where it really shines.

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