As our users know, Mapsdata allows you to create maps using data with a variety of location information. But it wasn’t always like this.

We started mapping with the basics, like latitude and longitude, but sometimes that’s not the most convenient. As a result we’ve progressively added support for more things, like US ZIP codes or UK postcodes. Mapsdata now accepts 9 different types of location information. The idea, of course, is to make it as effortless as possible for our users to create great data visualizations.

To this end, we recently added the ability to use data without “proper” geographic information, relying instead on much simpler and more user-friendly things, like place names for cities and towns.

How it works

So, say you want to create a bubble map showing the 50 most populated cities in the world. You could go to this Wikipedia page, and copy-paste the list into a spreadsheet. It would look something like this one on the right:

Before, you would then have had to look for the coordinates of each of these 50 cities and enter them into your spreadsheet to enable mapping.

This information wouldn’t have been very hard to find at all, but the whole process would have been time consuming — not to mention immensely boring!

Now we’ve done the hard work for you!

Thanks to a database of cities and towns based on the one over at GeoNames.org — which we have integrated into our app — you can go straight to visualization. Around 120,000 cities and towns throughout the world can be recognized and automatically plotted on the map.

All you need to do is make sure your data also includes the country for each entry. If American cities and towns are part of the list, you’ll need to add state information to avoid problems with very common names. (It may be the land of the free, but it sure isn’t the land of the imaginative town-name-chooser… cf. the 49 Greenvilles, etc.) Our list of 50 cities included New York, so we added a “US State” column, which we left blank for non-US entries.

All that’s left to do is upload your spreadsheet to Mapsdata, and it’s done!

You can have this interactive bubble map of the 50 most populated cities in the world embedded on your blog in less time than it would have taken to find the first few coordinates by hand!

Keep in touch

We’re continuously working to improve our users’ experience and to make mapping data even easier. Let us know what you think on Twitter @Mapsdata, or via email. If you have suggestions for the next types of geo-data we should add support for, we’d especially like to hear from you!

Thanks for your feedback. Now, what are you going to map next?