Cartography in ArcGIS and QGIS

meghanToday I want to introduce you to another one of my students, Meghan Murphy.  Meghan is an outstanding student, and one of the top undergraduates I have ever worked with (I know, I say that a lot, but they just keep getting better and better).  Even as a Sophomore, Meghan was always helping other students out, even the Seniors – students would seem to wait for Meghan to organize everyone together to study for upcoming exams.

She also has an innate ability to work with GIS, and pick up new things: one day she has never programmed in Python, and the next day, she has a couple of hundred line Python script created and running in ArcGIS!  So, I was so happy when Meghan said she wanted to take a special course in Open Source GIS that I was offering this semester.  We covered QGIS, Postgres/PostGIS, GDAL, and Geoserver.  For her final project, Meghan decided she wanted to compare the cartography capabilities of ArcGIS and QGIS, and make a video about it (maybe she was inspired by my videos, or maybe she just figured after watching Lembo’s videos, how could I do worse!).

Whatever her reason, like everything else she does, this turned out great, especially since she had never done a live tutorial like this.  So, I encourage you to watch the side-by-side comparisons for creating a basic cartographic product in both ArcGIS and QGIS.  It’s about 40 minutes long, but worth every minute: I found that I learned some things I hadn’t known regarding some cartographic tools.  And, on that note, I’ll have more videos from my undergraduates shortly (some built web maps, others built an enterprise GIS with Postgres.

If you want to learn more about open source GIS, Python programming, Spatial SQL, or Spatial Statistics, check out my online courses at  

5 thoughts on “Cartography in ArcGIS and QGIS

  1. Great comparison video, love it!

    A couple of tips for Meghan which may help speed up your QGIS use:

    – in composer, look for the “move item content” toolbar item (it’s on the left, under the “select item” tool). That lets you drag around (and zoom in/out) the map content in a composer map item. No need to change the canvas view and resync!

    – a better way to show the bounding box for an overview map is to use the “overviews” section in the map item properties (just below the grids section), and link it to the other map. This will become a dynamic link, and will update if either map extent changes.

    – using “rule based labeling” should avoid the need to duplicate the map layer to match your desired labeling style.

    Hope those are useful!

  2. Pingback: Great work by my undergraduates, Again! | gisadvising

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