Free/low cost online mapping tool/map creator?

Hi everyone,

I’m wanting to create some basic observation location maps, for example bobcat sightings in the state of Nebraska. Of course iNat does this, but some of the data/observations I’d like to map wouldn’t qualify as iNat observations.

Is anyone familiar with a free or reasonably-priced online map creator platform that I could use for something like this. My tech/computer skill level is only moderate, so I wouldn’t want a complicated/sophisticated platform that would require advanced computer/programming skills.

Thanks for your help!

You can export all the location points of Bobcats in Nebraska from iNaturalist. Then you can probably export those coordinates to Google Earth Pro or QGIS.

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Google MyMaps is an easy-to-use option if you don’t want to install Google Earth or QGIS (which is pretty complicated if you’re not familiar with GIS software)


Google My Maps would be easiest, but Google Earth is is pretty easy and does offer some more customization/views, so I’d probably start there and see if it does what you want.

it depends on what you’re trying to do, but i tend to think that ArcGIS Online is probably the best tool for most basic users. you can sign up for a free account. it’s web-based.

if you’re trying to do something very complicated, there’s QGIS. it’s a free desktop application.

Microsoft Excel has a built-in “3D maps” tool that is relatively easy to use.

Google My Maps and Google Earth are fine, but i’m not convinced they are necessarily the best tools in most cases, unless you just prefer to work within the Google ecosystem.

You could also try

OK, lots of options for me to check out. I should have mentioned that I’d like a platform that has some geoprivacy/obscurity options, since that might be desirable with some of the species I’m considering mapping.

Can anyone explain how to import a collection of points into Google Earth? What sort of file would you use for the data?

This should help

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Who would you be obscuring them from? Are you sharing this with other people, and you want the points to be displayed away from where they actually are?

From what I can tell, ArcGIS Online has only a 21-day free trial. From there, it costs $$$$$$$

i don’t totally understand what you mean here. i don’t think this isn’t something that mapping tools typically handle. please describe a use case.

the public account is free. see

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Something close to the iNaturalist mapping would be ideal as far as privacy/obscurity options, and for many of the same reasons: vulnerable/sensitive species where you don’t want to reveal specific locations that might be used by hunters, collectors, etc. Let’s say elk in Nebraska. A road-collision elk in Nebraska (via media report) would be a useful observation/data point–particularly in an unusual location. But since it isn’t “my” observation, it wouldn’t be acceptable as even a “Casual” iNat observation. So what would be the next best thing in terms of a mapping platform for reports of this type? A platform where you could obscure the location or set a wide location “bubble” such that the specific location would be difficult to identify…but still specific enough that at a wider view, you would still have a useful geographic view of observations/sightings.

so you want to publish a map where when you look at it, you see the “true” locations but when others look at it, they see obfuscated locations? that’s not really how mapping tools work.

you could approximate what iNaturalist does by maintaining a set of observations where each observation has a “true” location and a location that is obfuscated based on your own algorithm. then you could create 2 maps – one based on the “true” locations that you make available only to yourself, and another based on the obfuscated locations that you share with others.

another possibility is to cluster observations (or visualize observations in a heatmap), limit the maximum zoom level of the map (so that folks can’t just zoom in to figure out a specific location), and prevent display of the true coordinates of the observations (ex. in a pop-up dialog). not every mapping platform will handle this kind of thing though. (i think ArcGIS Online can do it. in other mapping tools, you could generate a static map at a relatively low zoom level and publish that static map.)

another possibility is to aggregate observations into logical geographic subdivisions (ex. counties in Nebraska) and visualize the data as a choropleth map. this is easy to do in some mapping tools and less easy to do in others, depending on exactly how you choose to aggregate.

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Thanks so much for the detailed info/advice. I think I need to step back and consider what I really want to accomplish with this.

Follow this link and download the long-term (stable) version of QGIS 3.16, this software works wonders and really isn’t that intimidating to use

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