Great cartography is at the heart of ArcGIS StoryMaps. One of the things we’ve heard from our community is the desire to quickly make focused, lightweight maps right inside the builder, and we’re pleased to announce a new feature—express maps—that make this wish a reality.
True to their name, express maps enable you to make simple reference, locator, and pushpin maps in as little as 60 seconds. The best part? You don’t need to have any GIS or cartographic experience under your belt to create a map that is both sleek and effective.
When an express map is the perfect choice
One of the wonders of StoryMaps is that they bring together two powerful forms of communication: spatial data and narrative. Sometimes the data takes center stage, and the narrative is built around it to lend context. But the reverse scenario is just as useful—many stories are made all the more engaging with the addition of some simple location information to help situate a reader. These are the stories that can come alive with express maps.
A drawn area and an annotation let you focus attention on a region of interest, like the site of a research expedition. Simple pins help you call out a specific country or a few cities and tie some important details to those places. Lines and arrows, meanwhile, enable you to depict a simple route and show the direction of movement as part your narrative. The basic drawing and annotation tools in express maps make all of these tasks a breeze, so you can focus more of your time and energy on crafting a story that resonates with your audience.
While express maps are intended to speed up your workflow for adding basic geographic information, you can of course still incorporate web maps and scenes from the Living Atlas and your organization into your story. If you need to use thematic cartography or communicate more sophisticated attribute information, express maps shouldn't be your first choice; this is when the web maps you know and love come into play.
Another thing to note is that express maps will only live inside the story in which they were created—you won’t find them as a separate item in My Stories or your ArcGIS content. If that’s a real issue for you please let us know, but our hunch is that, since they can be made so quickly, you won't need to reuse them across stories.
Express maps and themes
One of the big time-saving advantages to express maps is that their design is driven by the overall theme selected for your story. In other words, they automatically inherit the stylistic principles defined in your story’s design panel, from basemap, to accent color, to typography. Our intention here is to help streamline the creation process by eliminating the hassle of having to define these all individually.
That being said, we recognize that there will be cases where you’ll need a bit more control over things like basemaps and symbology. That’s a puzzle we’re currently in the process of solving, and a subject on which we’d greatly value your input. So, drop us a comment on GeoNet with your thoughts on balancing simple, expedient workflows with just-enough cartographic customization.
Making your first express map
Ok, enough about goals and principles, let’s get to the fun part of mapmaking, shall we? To add an express map to your story, click the button and select ‘Map,’ then choose ‘Create an express map’ to open the map designer.
On the left-hand side is your layers panel. This is where you can edit the names and descriptions of your drawn features. You can also toggle the map legend on and off in the settings panel; access it by clicking the little gear above the top right corner of the layers panel.
Along the top of the map you will find the drawing tools available to you, as well as the search field. Zoom to your area of interest (or find it quickly via search), select your tool of choice, and begin drawing on the map.
Drop pins by clicking where on the map you’d like them to be. When you’re finished you can go back to the select arrow to click around the map without adding more pins. You can also use this tool to move individual pins to new points, or use the group select tool to move multiple pins by drawing a rectangle around all those you’d like to relocate. Removing unwanted pins is easy, merely select them and either press ‘delete’ on your keyboard or drag them to the little trash bin that will appear at the bottom of your map.
You can draw lines and areas just as easily. Click on the map where you’d like your feature to start and keep adding additional points (or edges) along the path (or outline) of your choosing. Simply double-click as you place your last point to finish drawing.
There are a few ways you can modify a line once you’ve drawn it. First, you can add additional vertices to the line by clicking and dragging the handle in between two vertices. Second, you can turn your straight line into a curved one by holding ‘control’ on your keyboard and clicking and dragging a mid-vertices handle—if you change your mind, just move the handle back to its original position. To delete an unwanted vertex, simply click on it and press ‘delete.’ Clicking anywhere else on the line and pressing ‘delete’ will remove the whole line from your map, or you can always drag it to the trash, too.
Arrows work the same way as lines and areas, except you only need to set a start and end point. The tool will automatically switch back to the select arrow after you’ve placed the end point.
Finally, you can add annotations to your map if you think it needs more context. With the annotation tool selected, click anywhere on the map to create a new annotation box and add in your text.
Use the round handles on the left and right sides to adjust the width of the box, or click and hold from one of the diamond handles on the top or bottom to start drawing a leader line from the annotation. Release your click at the desired anchor point for your leader line. Now, even if you move the annotation around on the map, the line will automatically adjust so it stays fixed to that anchor point. Simply click and drag from the diamond again to reset the leader line or click the line and hit ‘delete’ to remove it from your annotation entirely.
As you add points, lines, and areas to the map, you’ll notice that they are also added to the map legend and layers panel. Use the ‘…’ menu for each type of layer to rename that category, and see the changes populate through to your legend.
Click on an individual feature to title it and add additional information in its pop-up. These changes will automatically be reflected on the map.
Once you’ve got everything formatted to your liking, you’re good to go! Just hit ‘Save map’ to insert it directly into your story, adjust its size, and see how it looks alongside the rest of your content. Quick and painless, right?
That’s pretty much all there is to it. So, go ahead and give express maps a try, then be sure to let us know what you think. Our goal is to perfectly align them to your storytelling needs, and we can’t do that without your feedback!