I am not a coder. However, I am familiar with a lot of the most basic concepts. My background is in the traditional GIS software/mapping industry but I have become a lot more interested in where the industry is going and I have realized I need to keep up. My issue is that the GIS community has become dominated by coding and web mapping, and this being the future, I realize I need to get good at this. They say the best way to teach yourself to code is a project, and I've got one, so here goes nothing.

I have undertaken a project that requires doing something like this. To do this, I need to learn how to use MapBox GL JS from the bottom up - from what I can tell, this means learning the basics for javascript essentially. I've already started doing that, using the IntelliJ IDE. What I don't understand is how to jump from the basics of the javascript language to using something like Mapbox GL JS. I'm not even sure what program/IDE (I think I'm on the right track with IDEA) I am supposed to edit something like this in, or how to make it work on our website beyond pasting that stuff into the HTML. I have all of the data and the style tiles made for the map I want to create, I just need to figure out how to code.

Now, I assume this probably represents a fairly big undertaking given how much of a novice I am, but can someone give me a roadmap for how to figure this out? I've got the time to do it. I also realize this is likely a stupid question to those who know what they are doing - hopefully some day I'm one of them!

  • Don't forget to take the Tour to learn about our focussed Q&A format. I recommend not thinking about GIS SE as being some sort of online GIS tutor. For your questions to be answered here they should as much as possible describe not just what you want to do, but precisely what you have tried and where you are stuck trying that.
    – PolyGeo
    Mar 9, 2018 at 1:33

1 Answer 1


You don't really need to know JavaScript, but to go forward you will. You'll run into problems and realize that you need to understand the code better. Unfortunately JavaScript is not the easiest of languages. Supposedly it was written in two weeks and it shows. I don't think you need an IDE. You can just edit in a text editor. That's like a word processor that can't do any formatting, but it can help by color coding and filling in blanks. Several free ones on both platforms for starters. This discussion group and StackOverload has helped me numerous times. Depending on where you live you might find a Maptime MeetUp group which can help you get started. I see lots of GIS professionals at MaptimeLA.

Many JavaScript classes and tutorials are either just JavaScript (much of which you don't need) or oriented towards building dynamic webpages. In other words you have to wade through stuff that you don't need.

Try the tutorials at Leaflet.js too. I can tell you a book not too get right away, "Eloquent JavaScript" by Haverbeke. It's for people who have a good computer background. I used McFarland's book in a evening class and worked through Delameter's book on my own. One confusing thing is that JavaScript is starting to change over to a later version (ECMAScript 6 (ES6) and later renamed to ECMAScript 2015 (ES2015)), v5 is what I still see more of.

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