Modern Open Source Map Styling with CartoCSS/Mapnik

04-29-2014 11:00 AM
Status: Open
New Contributor III
This is a suggestion to modernize Esri's graphics rendering engine

The open source mapping community has been advancing via leaps and bounds towards a more modern, streamlined map rendering engine with a focus on web mapping.
I suggest that Esri leverage the Mapnik rendering engine and the CartoCSS styling language that runs it by integrating them into their desktop, mobile, and web map rendering architecture.

Here is why

Here are the 22 clicks it takes to symbolize a layer and add a label with a halo in ArcMap: (I'm a fast clicker)
Label steps in ArcMap

Contrast that to the 9 lines of simple, human readable code to do the same thing in CartoCSS: (I'm a slow typer)

Someone who hasn't been doing ArcMap for 7 years might not know where those settings are buried. CartoCSS is much more elegant and lightweight. The same thing could be easily copied and pasted for #county and #state, saving dozens of clicks in ArcMap.

To see how this is implemented in a desktop mapping program, take a look at the free software TileMill.

To see the depth of artistic expression possible with CartoCSS, see "Assemblage", WoodCut Streets, or this Pirate Themed Map

Mapmaking is increasingly focused on form rather than function. Data creation and collection is always going to be vital to GIS. For these tasks, Esri's tools are the best in the business. However Esri should not neglect the "ART" in "CARTOGRAPHY".
1 Comment
well that's a mouthful...