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.