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Last updated: 19/05/2021 21:44:32

Mapping for Beginners

Your Guide to Getting Started With Azimap


If you have a set of data that you’d like to place on a map for beautiful visualisation or to help with decision-making, Azimap is for you. What’s more, you don’t need to be an expert to use our software!

We know how daunting Azimap can seem at first, so be sure to make your way through this guide before getting started with Azimap…



1.    Understanding your data and how to use it with Azimap

a.    Spatial (or location) data

b.    Address information

c.     A ‘live’ database

d.    No data yet

2.    Getting the basics right

a.    Creating a layer

b.    Use of layers

3.    Types of maps you can create, and when to use them

a.    Boundary map

b.    Choropleth map

c.     Heatmap

d.    Picture map

e.    Predominance map

f.      Route mapping

4.    Jargon-buster

a.    Attribute

b.    Buffer

c.     Dataset

d.    Digitise

e.    Feature type, i.e. line, point or polygon

f.      Geocode

g.    Layer

h.    Polygon

i.      Spatial

                                          i.    Spatial analysis

                                         ii.    Spatial data


1.    Understanding your data

Take a look at your dataset before you start – this will help you determine exactly the kind of map you can create and the best way to upload it.  Common datasets that our customers usually have include:

·         Spatial (or location) data – this could include coordinates or longitude and latitude.

·         Address information – this could be one or many of the following: first line of address, postcode, county/state, town, etc.

·         A ‘live’ database – a database where location data is updated in real-time and is typically hosted on a SQL server.

·         No data yet – if you have nothing yet but a big idea, then no problem.  Azimap will allow you to collect and input your data directly onto a map. 

Now, we’ll go into a bit more detail about each type of dataset, how Azimap deals with it and how to use it to create a successful map.

a)    Spatial (or location) data

Coordinate, or longitude and latitude data usually fall under this category.

This is the simplestr type of data to upload onto Azimap if you have it, as it requires the least work when uploading. It’s pretty easy to just upload your data and go, though it might need a bit of extra configuration.  Read this guide on importing your data to find out how.

The best part is, even with our free trial version, you can upload unlimited spatial data (so long as it falls within the other constraints of our trial version).


b)    Address information

Meaning you can map one or many of the following: first line of address, postcode, county/state, town, etc.

This is pretty self-explanatory.  If you have any kind of address information, it can be uploaded and mapped easily with Azimap. As with your spatial data, it requires very little work to upload.

To use this feature, you’d choose the GEOCODE ADDRESSES import option when creating your layer.

One handy hint is, before you upload your file, make sure that your primary field that you would like Azimap to base your map on, is named ‘Address’.  For example, if you want the postcodes in your database to be mapped, rename your postcode field to ‘Address’.

One drawback to the GEOCODE ADDRESSES option, is that on any plan, the max allowance is 5,000 addresses, depending on your plan.  You’ll need to upgrade for more or learn to digitise your addresses yourself . It’s unusual that our customers would reach this limit, but please bear this in mind and plan accordingly.

Read this guide on geocoding addresses to find out more.


c)    A ‘live’ database

This is a database where location data is updated in real-time and is typically hosted on a SQL server. (MS SQL or PostgreSQL)

This is a little more advanced and requires your data to be hooked up to a ‘live’ database through a SQL server.  Typically, this option is only used by customers who know a lot about what they’re doing! This option is available to professional and enterprise customers.

Read this guide on linking external data to find out more.


d)    No data yet

If you have nothing yet but a big idea, then no problem.  Azimap will allow you to collect your data directly onto a map. 

When creating a new layer, by selecting the ‘new layer’ option instead of one of the import options, you’ll create a new blank layer that you can work on. In this instance, all you’ll need is your idea and a plan for the data that you want to capture, i.e. the ‘attributes’.

Attributes are basically fields of data that you’ll be recording.  For example, let’s say you want to map a streetlamp inspection in your council area.  Your attributes might be:

·         Streetlamp reference/number

·         Inspector name

·         Light working? Y/N

·         Details of any damage

Read this guide on creating a new Azimap layer to find out more.


2.    Using layers – your first step

If you’ve never used the Azimap technology before, you’ll probably be wondering where on earth to start.  We’ve seen the same mistakes happening over and over with new users, so we’ve created this to help make getting started that little bit easier.

After reading section 1, you’ll know exactly what type of data you have, so now you need to put that data onto a layer.

NB. Don’t fall into the empty map trap!  It is possible to create an empty map first, but we strongly recommend starting by importing your data/creating a new layer (and add to a map later), as there’s very little you can do with an empty map.


1.    Creating a layer

When you log into Azimap, go to the DATASETS section on your main navigation bar.  Press the CREATE DATASET button to enter the wizard.

 you'll get stage 1 of the wizard:



Now, remember above when we learned about the different types of data we could import into Azimap? We’ll now show you how to import each type.

·         Spatial (or location) data – You’ll pick IMPORT LAYER

·         Address information – Choose GEOCODE ADDRESSES

·         A ‘live’ database – Pick the EXTERNAL DATA option

·         No data yet – Create a NEW LAYER 


We’ve created lots of guides to take you through the next steps for each of these options, but hopefully you’ll end up with a new layer that you can work with!  Hurrah!



2.    Using layers

Layers are really helpful to organise your data and can help show relationships between your data too.  Adding two or more layers together can help you visualise and analyse your data better, spot trends, etc.  Let’s look at some examples:


Use layers to separate different data categories


In this example, we can see that the editor has used Azimap to map out the key historical archaeological locations in NI. 

While they’re all key historical archaeological locations, the different types been separated out into different layers and given distinct keys.

All available layers can be seen in the top right-hand corner of the map.  We’ve selected the layers named ‘Defence Heritage Points’ and ‘Listed Buildings’.  You can turn any of these layers on or off at any point, allowing you to see, for example, just the listed buildings.



Use layers to map routes in relation to points or features


In this example, the editor has used Azimap to map out two running routes and added in the start and finish lines as features. Each running route is on a different layer and the features on another.  That’s 3 layers in total.  It’s easy to see how they all lie in relation to each other and the layers can be switched on or off.

Examples of other layers we could add to this map might be water points, toilet stops or first aid points (for a longer run).  We could also get road work or street lighting data from the local authority to help with route planning.



Boundaries in relation to features or points


In this example the user has created a sales territory map.  On one layer, there are boundaries showing the territory of each sales agent. On the other layer there are points showing each local council.  It’s easy to see which council falls under each territory.


You might also like to use layers on your map to compare the same set of data for different years.

The number of layers you have per map depends on the plan you have.  With the Azimap free trial, you can add up to 2 layers per map.


3.    Types of maps you can create, and when to use them


1.    Boundary map

A boundary map does exactly what it says on the tin – it marks boundary lines such as states, counties, countries, etc.

This type of map is particularly useful when you have data that you want to map within defined boundaries.

Here’s an example of a boundary map that we have designed.  This shows the 2017-2018 top google searched NFL playoff teams by us county.



2.    Choropleth map


Choropleth maps show linked data as colours. They are shaded in using one colour, where the darker shades represent high numbers and the lighter shades represent low numbers. A choropleth map needs a key to explain what the different shades mean.

It differs to a heatmap because with a choropleth map the shading occurs within geographic boundaries, whereas a heatmap doesn’t utilise boundary information.


According to AnyChart.com, choropleth maps are appropriate for indicating differences in land use, like the amount of recreational land or type of forest cover.

You can use a choropleth map when your data:

1) is attached to enumeration units (e.g., counties, provinces, countries)

2) standardized to show rates or ratios (never use choropleth with raw data/counts)

3) is something that can be measured anywhere in space (even 'zero' is a valid measurement).

Example datasets appropriate for choropleths:

·         world map of income tax rates in each country

·         number of deaths per 500,000 in 2015, reported by USA

·         map showing the percentage change in solved to unresolved cases from 1995 to 2015 in the UK

·         world map of the percentage of population over 90 years old, reported by Canada


Here’s an example of a choropleth map we designed.  Each colour represents the main industrial use for that pocket of land in the Kilcullen area.



3.    Heatmap


According to Wikipedia, a heat map (or heatmap) is a data visualization technique that shows magnitude of a phenomenon as colour in two dimensions.

The variation in colour may be by hue or intensity, giving obvious visual cues to the reader about how the phenomenon is clustered or varies over space.

A heatmap differs from a choropleth map because with a choropleth map the shading occurs within geographic boundaries, whereas a heatmap doesn’t utilise boundary information.

Here’s an example of a heatmap we’ve created, showing the concentration of nuclear reactors globally:


Other examples of when a heatmap might be useful include when you want to visualise densities of a certain feature, geographic points and useful for business analysis and demographics mapping.  For example:

·         Crime density

·         Bus lane camera density

·         Healthcare data

·         Natural disasters


4.    Picture map


Using Azimap you can create a picture map.  This is where you can attach photographs or images to a feature or point, and it will enhance your dataset. Photo maps are good to use when you have some nice images that you want to display, or when attaching a photo is easier than writing a description of the object.

The map will display a number of points, and the picture will display when you click on the point.

Picture maps would be useful anywhere you think images might enhance your dataset, for example:

·         Creating a map of tourist attractions in a given area

·         Property mapping

·         Maps of surveys or work done

·         Etc.


Here’s an example of a picture map we’ve created, showing pictures of the tourist attractions in Edinburgh:



5.    Predominance map


A predominance map will show you the predominant result from a set of data, within a given area (where each result is given a different colour).  Furthermore, the transparency of the colour provides an indication of how predominant the result was in relation to the others.


Predominance maps would be useful in any situation where you want to compare results of similar data on a map.  Arcgis suggests using a predominance map any time ‘you see multiple columns of data that share a common subject and unit of measurement’.  for example:

·         Election results

·         Dominant crops in an area

·         Mapping census data

·         Etc.


Here’s an example of a predominance map we’ve created, showing the UK election results in 2015:




6.    Route map

The Azimap route mapping tool allows you to quickly create optimised travel routes.

This type of map is useful when you need help to improve planning and reduce the time spent travelling between destinations.   For example, planning a delivery route or useful for a travelling salesperson to plan their day.


7.    Glossary of terms



Attributes are basically the fields of data that you’ll be recording.  If you were importing your data from an Excel spreadsheet, an attribute would be one of the fields in the spreadsheet.  For example, let’s say you want to map a streetlamp inspection in your council area.  Your attributes might be:

·         Streetlamp reference/number

·         Streetlamp location

·         Inspector name

·         Light working?

·         Details of any damage



According to Wikipedia, a buffer in GIS is a zone around a map feature measured in units of distance or time. A buffer is extremely useful for proximity analysis.

In Azimap, a buffer is an area outlined by a predetermined distance from a given point.



A dataset is defined as a collection of related sets of information that is composed of separate elements but can be manipulated as a unit by a computer.  In the context of Azimap, your dataset will be your file that you import, whether it’s Excel, Shape, CSV, TAB, KML or GeoTIFF files.



To digitise is to convert analogue data into digital form. If you’ve ever turned physical papers into electronic files, switched from cassette tapes to MP3s, or moved from old style camera film to digital photos, then you have digitised your data.  In the context of the Azimap DIGITISE function, it allows you to place your data onto the map manually, where you know the physical location/address.


Feature type, i.e. line, polygon and point

In Azimap, you can represent your data on your map with three different feature types:


a)    Points – A point is a small single feature that you can place on a map, such as an address/location, a small landmark (such as a building), a shop, etc. You can use points to map customers, locations.


b)    Lines - Represent the shape and location of geographic objects, such as street centerlines and streams, too narrow to depict as areas. Lines are also used to represent features that have length but no area, such as contour lines and boundaries. Use lines to represent data such as walking, running or driving routes; streams or rivers; roads, etc.


c)    Polygons – A polygon is a many-sided area feature that represents the shape and location of homogeneous feature types such as states/county borders, or land-use zones.  Polygons can also be used to map areas of larger buildings or landmarks like Grand Canyon or a museum building, for example.




According to Wikipedia, Geocoding is the process of taking input text, such as an address or the name of a place; and returning a latitude/longitude location on the Earth's surface for that place. In Azimap, the GEOCODING function allows you to input a file with no GIS location data (i.e. longitude/latitude or coordinates) and it’ll be placed directly onto the map.  It simply needs to have address information in the file, with your main field to be mapped as labelled as ‘Address’. 

NB. Note that there are only a limited number of addresses can be geocoded with each package, namely:

Starter – 1,000 geocodes

Standard – 2,000 geocodes

Professional – 5,000 geocodes

Enterprise – 5,000+ geocodes

With the Azimap free trial, you are trialing the Pro package, therefore you will get 5,000 geocodes to use for the month.



A map layer defines how a GIS dataset is symbolised and visualised in your map view. A layer represents geographic data, such as a particular theme of data.  Each map layer is used to display and work with a specific GIS dataset.

Layers are a really helpful way to organise your datasets and can help show relationships between your data too.  Adding two or more layers together can help you visualise and analyse your data better, spot trends, etc.  For example, you might use layers to:


·         Separate different data categories

·         Map routes in relation to points or features

·         Visualise boundaries in relation to features or points

·         Compare the same set of data for different years



A polygon is defined as a plane figure with at least three straight sides and angles, and typically five or more.

According to Wiki.gis.com, in GIS, a polygon is used to represent the shape and location of different types of data. For example, a lake, a city block, or a patch of vegetation, can all be represented by polygons on a map layer. When GIS software is used to draw the outline of a lake on a map, the resulting shape is known as a polygon. The term ‘area’ is also used sometimes, instead of polygon.

A polygon is one of three feature types – others are line and point – with which almost all spatial data is depicted in GIS. Polygons, lines, and points are invariably depicted as vector data, as opposed to raster data.



a)    Spatial analysis


Put simply, spatial analysis is fancy way of saying you’re analysing your data on a map. (Spatial referring to the space.)

Spatial analysis is a process of modelling, examining, and interpreting model results useful for evaluating suitability and capability, for estimating and predicting, and for interpreting and understanding.

For example, in this Azimap guide, we’ve used the SPATIAL ANALYSIS function to:


·         Locate any nuclear power stations that share any portion of space in two intersecting circles

·         Find any nuclear power stations within a given radius

·         Drill down into the specifics such as searching for any nuclear reactors that are gas-cooled within a given radius


Other analyses we could have run include:

·         Overlaps - Returns a result if the geometries share space, are of the same dimension, but are not completely contained by each other.

·         Within - Returns a result if the geometry A is completely inside geometry B.

·         Contains - Returns a result if and only if no points of B lie in the exterior of A, and at least one point of the interior of B lies in the interior of A.

·         Touches - Returns a result if the geometries have at least one point in common, but their interiors do not intersect.

·         Plus, many more advanced analyses.


Drive time analysis - Creating drive-time polygons could be useful for: choosing where to put new schools or other facilities; arranging meet up times, etc. Read more in this guide .


Proximity searching – Proximity search is an easy search to run and can be used for so many purposes, for example, planning purposes. It can tell you what lies beside a certain feature within a given radius. e.g. Certain roadworks or building projects mightn’t be allowed to take place within a certain distance from a school, electricity, sewer, road, etc.  Read more in this guide .



b)    Spatial data


Spatial data, or geospatial data, is defined by TechTarget.com as information about a physical object that can be represented by numerical values in a geographic coordinate system. Generally speaking, spatial data represents the location, size and shape of an object on planet Earth such as a building, lake, mountain or township.

In other words, spatial data is simply the name given to the type of data that you’ll be using when building a map.