My love for maps began in the very early 90’s with the movie The Phantom Tollbooth. All those amazing places and regions sparked my 6 year old mind and gave me a lifelong love for abstractions of the landscape.
My mapping story started up again a few years back when I was put in charge of a compost logistics company. I had to plot 10 ever-changing pickup routes weekly. I tried a lot of different free mapping tools online and the best by far for my purposes was BatchGeo. It’s an extraordinarily powerful mapping application that turns an excel spreadsheet into a detailed map.
In this example, you can see that each region has its own color. In any given week, only a fraction (about 1/3) of each region actually gets a pickup. So a single day’s map looks like the following example. Each week I would manually mark the drop-off location with an X in MSpaint.
The only criticism I had of BatchGeo at the time (these maps were made in January 2012) is that the letter system only brought the total possible number of labeled markers in a given category up to 26. You can get around this by splitting a larger route in half, but that would have been very inconvenient for the pickup person. It would have been nice if the indexing system would have switched to numerals after 26. Fortunately for our unique purposes we very rarely needed more than 26 separate plots in any given map category.
Update: BatchGeo got in touch with me to inform me that my wish for a higher indexing was granted about a year ago! Now markers in a category can go all the way up to 99.
Over the 18 months of running this company, BatchGeo probably saved me over 100 hours of mapping time vs the old method the manager previous to me used, the gmaps app within google documents, now called “Google Drive.”
I don’t do as much mapping anymore, but I recently revisited BatchGeo to create this North Shore Thrift Store Tour map of all the thrift stores in North Vancouver. Annoyingly, all the roads are white, the same color as the background. As you can see it’s difficult to tell which road leads where, which is very important in the very chaotic mountainous, suburban road network of North Vancouver.
The only way to actually see the roads clearly is to use the “terrain” view, but this has the severe disadvantage of being much more wasteful on printer ink if you wanted to print this out. Which I always do with BatchGeo maps.
I’m sure this isn’t BatchGeo’s fault, as they simply use Google Map’s API to create their maps and probably have very little control over the styling. However I imagine they could quite easily add on another of Google Maps’ lesser known layers to make the map more revealing. Here is the same area using Google Maps’ ARCgis and OSM layer views, respectively. These maps are not default on Google Maps, but you can access them using TrailForks.com, an outstanding mountain biking trail mapping site. Both are incredible views, one even has outlines of every individual building.
ARCgis layer, Google Maps via Trailforks.com.
OSM layer, Google Maps via Trailforks.com.
Despite not meeting just a couple of my power-user wants and needs, for most situations I can comfortably recommend BatchGeo. I’ve never needed to use their paid service, as their free service has always met my needs perfectly.
Use BatchGeo for free at www.batchgeo.com.
Update: After seeing my review BatchGeo made a small change to their road styling to put some grey outlines on the smaller streets, making roads more visible. Here’s the Thrift Tour map again with the new road styling.