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You can view resources in the following subject areas:



Where to find shapefiles: Online resources for digital map data


GeoWise Limited provides the following links as a service to customers and persons evaluating InstantAtlas software. We do not endorse these and cannot be held responsible for inaccuracies in data or guarantee that they will work in our product. Nor are the comments below necessarily complete.


Important notice: Whilst many of these files are readily available on the internet and can often be used freely for non-commercial purposes, please check in each case on usage restrictions and citation requirements before publishing reports which include them.





A very good collection of Shapefiles for global maps with 2 administrative layers. Also raster layers in 3 scales available.


A mixed selection of shapefiles for different parts of the world of differing qualities.


Another good general source of geographical datasets.



Digital geographical datasets generated out of the 'Planet File' which is a snapshot of the OpenStreetMap database.


Shapefiles and data for different countries and different topics


Very easy to use tool to find latitude and longitude coordinates (based on Google). It also helps you to convert your coordinates into UTM.




This is a very nice page where you can download map files (shapes and other formats) for African countries on various administrative levels, satellite images, etc. Very easy to navigate.




These Canadian files can be used for non-commercial use, though the files are often very large. If data is to be used for the whole of Canada, the shapefiles are not suitable for InstantAtlas or would need to be made smaller by generalization using G.I.S software. Alternatively, the data can be extracted (e.g. by province) for a more useable file size. Geographical projection: GCS_North_American_1983 is not suitable for use with common web map services (WMS) or Google background mapping. InstantAtlas will be able to reproject these provided you do not include features from Nunavut and North-West Territories (which extend into the Pole) and cannot be transformed automatically within InstantAtlas.




Restrictions apply to use of these sample files. Generally the Kreis, Region, Land and National boundary files can be used for samples and non-commercial use. German government organizations may not be allowed to publish reports using this data source if they are obliged to obtain data from their respective Land Geo-Institutes. Copyright should be acknowledged.


Post code boundaries based on OpenStreetMap. Copyright should be acknowledged.




Restrictions apply. Italian Office of Statistics makes the following layers available: Italy Regions, Provinces and Communes – and a separate NUTS2 layer. There does not appear to be a copyright though the origin “ISTAT” should be acknowledged. Projection used: ED_1950_UTM zona 32 is not suitable for use with common web map services (WMS) or Google background mapping.


United Kingdom


Ordnance Survey provide some census boundaries e.g. output areas. Copyright should be acknowledged.


Office of National Statistics provide Ordnance Survey census boundaries downloads e.g. output areas. Copyright should be acknowledged.


United States


For the subdivisions by STATE, please use the “2010” tab.

This US Census boundary file portal is the main source for US boundary data* at different administrative levels. These include: Census block groups, divisions and regions ; census tracts ; congressional districts; county and county subdivisions; metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas; school districts; states; state legislative districts; voting districts; 3-Digit and 5-digit ZIP code tabulation areas** . These are all un-projected shapefiles and hence suitable for use with common web map services (WMS) or Google background mapping.


* Multi-part polygons: Some administrative units in some states include multiple polygons. Where these have not been correctly merged into a “multi-part polygon” with unique ID, results in InstantAtlas will be unpredictable. In such cases, these should be edited first in a G.I.S. application.



Other Countries






Web Map Services (WMS)


Demis Web Map Server in EPSG:4329 (WGS 84)


Blue Marble / Jet Propulsion Laboratory in EPSG:4329 (WGS 84)


Good practise in presenting quantitative data


An internationally acknowledged guru in this field with several publications on the subject - his web site has some very useful and interesting discussions.


Specialist UK consultancy for delivering statistics in an understandable form - valuable resources list too.


General paper on visualisation techniques for statistics - useful references.


A UK-based specialist, Ed Swires-Hennessy runs his own very useful web site with lots of valuable free information.


Michael Friendly's review of what's good and what's bad, Statistical Consulting Service and Psychology Department, York University.


Document about good practise in mapping from the Office for National Statistics


Professor Dan Carr, George Mason University.


Useful list of references for graphical visualisation techniques.


Advisory group on computer graphics.



Geography specific resources


Useful site to help you define suitable colour schemes for your mapping applications.


A general introduction article on choropleth maps.


An online reference source for ZIP codes in the USA.


An online reference source for country and admin ISO codes


A free online Shapefile generalising tool


A tool to view shapefiles. This is a good tool for non-GIS experts who don’t have or use ArcMap/QGIS. You just open the program (takes less than a second) and drag your shapefile into it.



Helpful tools for styling dynamic reports


Instant Eyedropper is a free software tool that will identify and automatically paste to the clipboard the HTML color code of any pixel on the screen with just a single mouse click.


This website provides a tool to check the contrast between your chosen foreground colour and background colour to see if they sufficiently meet accessibility requirements.



Metadata specific links


International guidelines for statistical metadata on the Internet.


International Dublin Core metadata standard.


International initiative for statistical data and metadata exchange.



In terms of book references we would recommend many of the publications by:


  • Edward Tufte
  • William S. Cleveland
  • Naomi Robbins


More specific publications include:


  • Plain Figures (Second Edition) by Myra Chapman and Cathy Wykes (UK HMSO)
  • The Grammar of Graphics (Hardcover) by Leland Wilkinson
  • Graphic Discovery: A Trout in the Milk and Other Visual Adventures by Howard Wainer
  • Elements of Graph Design by Stephen M. Kosslyn
  • Information Graphics : A Comprehensive Illustrated Reference by Robert L. Harris
  • Information Visualization, Second Edition : Perception for Design by Colin Ware
  • Performance Dashboards by Wayne W. Eckerson



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