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First post, so be gentle.

Context - I'm doing some research into healthcare provision and I'd like to visualise the data. I'd like to be able to put these PCT boundaries enter image description here

as an overlay to google maps and change their colours and so on to show data... I'm running osx and I'm fairly IT friendly, but I've got no idea where to start on this and google is sending me in all manner of different diagrams with language I'm struggling to get my head around. So I'm looking for any information people can give me on:

  1. Recommendations of tools that run on OSX that might help
  2. A general outline of the workflow I'm going to be going though
  3. Places where I could put the finished files in an open-sourcy way so that other people might be able to make use of them?

Thanking you all kindly in advance...

EDIT - should point out that I'm happy to trace the lines with a tablet if that's what it takes - doesn't have to be postcode perfect just as long as it's recognizable...

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I don't have the time right now to provide a proper answer (others probably will), however you shouldn't need to trace the lines; boundaries of various types (including counties) are provided by the Ordnance Survey under their Open Data license here - ordnancesurvey.co.uk/opendatadownload/products.html –  GIS-Jonathan Apr 25 '12 at 10:54
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UKBORDERS might be another option for getting access to boundaries. –  radek Apr 25 '12 at 12:12

2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

There are quite a lot of options, so I'll present a few generic ones:

Full Stack

Probably the most effort with the steepest learning curve. Store your data in some sort of database (typically PostGIS, but possibly SpatiaLite), use a middleware mapping server (like GeoServer or MapServer) to serve out a WFS which can be overlaid with Google maps using the Google Maps API. From a technical perspective there's no technical reason you have to use Google Maps here - OpenStreetMaps or Bing or even OrdnanceSurvey OpenSpace could be used. The following resources may be helpful here:

I think pretty much all of the stack is operating system agnostic so should work on OSX.


KML

Convert your areas to KML, style them as desired, put them on a public web-server somewhere then use the Google Maps API (or whichever you go with) to show your data. I don't know much about KML creation/conversion but some searching should get you far.


Google Fusion Tables

Pretty much as the title suggests, use Google Fusion Tables. I don't know much about it so can only give a basic pointer, you may have to use this in combination with the KML one, but its designed for data visualisation and can come up with some very pretty stuff.

http://www.google.com/fusiontables/Home/

Note - If you are going to use Google Maps, they do cost money after a certain number of impressions.

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The link http://gis-techniques.blogspot.com/2011/05/choropleth-mapping-techniques-for-web20.html has nice comparison among different open source mapping tools and techniques as you want.

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