One of the annoying things about open data is that you often need ninja skills to do anything with it. OpenStreetMap contains a wealth of geodata, but most tools make you jump through several steps involving the command line and all manner of data wrangling just to produce a custom map.
Maperitive tries to make it much easier to create nice looking maps. It has been in gestation since late 2007, and is now close to being easy to use.
It took me about half an hour of playing around to produce my first nice hiking map of Snowdon, although a problem with NASA’s elevation data led me on a frustrating journey to get Ordnance Survey open data in there to fill the gaps. I also had to work out Maperitive’s settings file for the way features are drawn to make the maps look a little neater and, well, British.
(Click on the images to see them on Flickr, where you can look at full sized versions).
Another hour messing around with the settings file and I had a nice map of an area my new father in law likes to go walking, the Long Mynd in the south of Shropshire. This time I aimed for something familiar to users of the Ordnance Survey walking maps.
The latest beta of Maperitive also allows you to export a 3 dimensional model using elevation data, and a flat image of the map. You can import these into a modelling tool, laying the map image over the 3d model, to produce nice graphics like this one of walking routes up Snowdon:
If the NASA elevation data works for you and you don’t want to change the style of the maps, it’s already a fantastic and fairly usable free-to-download tool. It’s a shame it isn’t free software with the code open sourced.
UPDATE: I completely forgot about this, you can download my Ordnance Survey-inspired stylesheet here.