I have a desktop application for a client that needs to map a main subject location and around 5 "comparable" locations, within a range of 1-2 miles (often even less), from an aerial view, and zoom in as much as possible given the range of the locations. We have an interface to supply the locations, and are looking for software to simply generate and print the map. No GUI needed, no fancy bells and whistles...

Can anyone recommend software to accomplish this? I've looked at similar questions in many different forums, but the software recommended in the answers are usually overkill to the job I need to get done.


EDIT: We've tried ArcGIS but it can't zoom as close as we'd like for aerial images, and doesn't print all areas correctly.

  • Expand on 'main subject location' please - Google Maps sounds your quickest and easiest solution. You can add your own data with KML from Google Earth. – Mapperz Mar 15 '11 at 16:20
  • Mapping software without GUI? – Mapperz Mar 15 '11 at 16:21
  • @Mapperz: 1. I need to use it offline; 2. I don't need to view the map before it's printed - it just has to be generated and printed. – dj18 Mar 15 '11 at 16:44
  • ad "can't zoom as close as we'd like": Do you have high-resolution imagery? – underdark Mar 15 '11 at 17:59
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    @dj18- Please explain the sources of data and imagery you are using and that will help you get a better answer. With ArcGIS (and most any desktop GIS software) you can zoom in as close as choose without limitations. Are you using a paid or free web service to deliver your imagery? Or have you downloaded the data from somewhere? The software itself should not limit how close you can zoom in, only the data or the service. The resolution of the imagery could also be a factor if it is very "grainy", you need higher res imagery. – RyanKDalton Mar 15 '11 at 20:13

As others have said in comments, apparent detail when Zooming In has little or nothing to do with the software and everything to do with the data.

Once you have the right data for your described purpose you can use just about anything to cut it up and print it. For imagery it doesn't even have to be "GIS" software, so long as it's an a standard format like GeoTiff or Jpeg2000. I've used Photoshop, Xnview, ImageMagick, Gimp, and other graphics programs to make quick and dirty raster maps when I didn't have my fully stocked GIS workstation at hand.

We use Arcgis, and other software such as QGIS, with sub-meter pixel accuracy imagery and have no problems resolving cars, sidewalks, decks & porches, and what have you. The screendump below is from Quickbird image with 25cm pixels viewed in ArcMap at 1:2,000 scale. The grey box is 50m to a side (~165ft), visible just underneath the scale box is a set of powerlines crossing the river (you'll need to click through to see the image at as-captured scale).25cm quickbird image with 50mx50m scale box

  • Thanks for the clear answer - I've never dealt with GIS software before (which is probably obvious from my question). We're looking into this possibility now, and if it is indeed the underlying maps giving the problem I'll mark your answer as correct. – dj18 Mar 17 '11 at 18:16

sounds like you have an application that would be ideally suited to a web mapping application. Google as mentioned above or esri solutions would work and allow a lot of customization. If you want to stay strictly desktop oriented rather than relying on a browser/internet I would check out ArcGIS Explorer Desktop which you can use for the mapping component and write code for in vb.net (though i have never personally used this). Heres the product page, and its free: http://www.esri.com/software/arcgis/explorer/common-questions.html

  • Thanks for the prompt, clear answer. We've tried ArcGIS but it won't zoom as close as we'd like for aerial images, certain areas don't print correctly, and was generally unreliable. Sorry I didn't include this in my question - I'll edit it. – dj18 Mar 15 '11 at 17:34
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    some clarification should be made. Arcgis desktop is the "not free", arcexplorer is free. they are completely different applications. There is a new release and "unreliable" does not describe arcexplorer. Also if you can't zoom "as close" as you'd like you may not be utilizing the sofware and data (base maps) correctly. – Brad Nesom Mar 15 '11 at 20:26

You can create maps from command line using QGIS. (But you have to prepare the project file first.)

C:\...>qgis --project myproject.qgs --snapshot image.png
       --width 1500 --height 1000 --extent xmin,ymin,xmax,ymax

There is a more detailed description on my blog.

  • You mention on your blog that this is a "(semi-)automatic" process: does this mean that a new project file has to be created for every map? Do the labels have to be added manually? – dj18 Mar 15 '11 at 19:08
  • You need only one project file. Labels can be done automatically or manually, your choice. – underdark Mar 15 '11 at 20:05

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