Use Ortelius to Show a Buffer Around Map Features

Buffers are new polygons that represent an area of specified distance around another object. Buffers can help map readers visualize what other features are near or far from another feature. For example, you can create a 1-mile buffer around a road, or a 20-kilometer buffer around a river.

In Ortelius, Buffers can be quickly created around paths or tracks. Buffers can also be created around point symbol features, yielding a circular path of the buffer radius. Select the feature to be buffered. Choose Edit > Buffer from the main menu. A dialog appears. Enter the distance for the buffer (note that buffer distance is related to the scale of the drawing) and click OK. Buffer distance units will be displayed based on the View > Display Units setting in the main menu (points, page units, or map units). A new buffer polygon is created as a new map feature added to the currently active layer.

Buffers Can Be Styled Like Other Objects


To change a buffer polygon’s appearance, select it and choose a new fill style from the Symbols Palette. Alternatively, use the Colors Palette to drag-and-drop a color onto the buffer area. Semi-transparent fill styles without outline strokes work best for stylizing buffers. You can also create and layer multiple buffers by selecting the path or track again and entering a new buffer distance.

Two New Screencasts Added

08.28.09 This week we’ve added two new screencasts: “Using Templates” and “Calibrating Scale.” Both can be viewed on the Ortelius Getting Started page.

Ortelius Earns Apple Staff Pick

08.25.09 In the wake of Ortelius’ recent release to the world, the software earns listing as an Apple Featured 3rd Party Download and Staff Pick. Ortelius is a vector-based drawing and cartographic design program made especially for map design and presentation. Through its drag-and-drop interface, Ortelius offers a creative solution for floor plans, landscape plans, scaled drawings, and a wide variety of high quality custom maps, as well as serves to address a lack of mapmaking software for the Mac OS X platform. Visit Getting Started for a video introduction to Ortelius.

Ortelius Aims to Unleash Both the Art and Science of Geography

08.24.09 Spatial Sustain Magazine/Vector1 Media editor, Matt Ball, posts this article tracing our journey to Ortelius:

A new cartographic design tool called Ortelius was launched last week by Mapdiva. This tool addresses a lack of mapmaking software for the Mac OS X environment, and aims to make map design easier to learn and implement. The two principals of Mapdiva are the lead developer Graham Cox of Australia, and Jill Saligoe-Simmel, a professional geographer who is the past executive director of the Indiana Geographic Information Council (IGIC), and represented the state of Indiana at the National States Geographic Information Council, and served on the board.

“I switched to a Mac a couple of years ago, and was really frustrated about the lack of mapping software that was available,” said Saligoe-Simmel. “I was also frustrated at IGIC at not being able to help people that didn’t have GIS skills use the Indiana Map . And finally, I was looking for more creativity in my mapping software, and wasn’t getting that out of the GIS programs that are available. I’ve really been focused on the technology and the policy, but I fell in love with geography for both the art and the science, and I’ve been missing the art.”

The software is designed for cartography with built in tools to make map design easier, with a shorter learning curve than graphics and illustration programs. The software simplifies the insertion of such elements as bridges, creates smooth curves, and automates the creation of  road junctions. The program also has a sophisticated labeling system that allows users to click on any feature and add a label using the attribute information of that feature. It can import JPG, PNG, GIF and TIFF files to build upon a base map, and can also output in these formats for publication or digital presentation.

“In my experience being a manager with GIS, I was seeing a lot of GIS people create maps for presentations in PowerPoint, because they just wanted to make a quick map, and make it look nice, but they didn’t want to create a database in order to do it,” continued Saligoe-Simmel. “I’ve talked to so many other professionals that have wanted to bring creativity back into their work. Now with the expansion of the technology, we’re ready to take on the cartography, the graphics, the art, and focus on how important presentation is for communication. And, that’s what we hope to accomplish with Ortelius, to provide a product that can let people unleash their creativity.”

Users have a broad choice of colors, fills and pen strokes to create their own map styles, with ColorBrewer palettes that are are designed for better map display. There are a large number of symbols included in the software, and easy tools to create your own. The software employs layers to keep map data organized and automatically creates layers from imported GIS map data.

Given the goal of making maps more accessible, there’s an emphasis on making the design process intuitive. The website contains a number of video tutorials to walk you through different aspects of the software, and there are plans to build on this educational resource base. There’s also the hope that this software might be incorporated into school curriculum to teach kids mapmaking skills.

“I’ve been involved in our geographic educator’s network in the state, and I understand the hurdles of trying to get geospatial technology into the classroom,” said Saligoe-Simmel. “I could never get my daughter who is in 7thgrade to sit down in front of GIS software to help her learn it, she just didn’t have the patience to get through the lengthy introduction to where you can start creating things. She’ll now sit down with Ortelius for hours making imaginary towns, and it’s rewarding to see that we have something that could take hold with middle and high school students.”

The standard edition of the software is available now for a single user license price of $79, and an education single user license price of $39. The company is in development on a professional edition with plans to include the ability to bring in GIS files in real-world coordinate space, as well as adding the ability to work with multiple layers and multiple projections. The professional edition will also include the ability to create choropleth maps.

“I hope that Ortelius can be a bridge,” asserted Saligoe-Simmel. “Professional GIS people are covered really well now with software, but when I have a graphic designer that comes to me and asks for a map, they don’t know what a Shapefile is, and there’s a steep learning curve. We hope to bring more people into the mapmaking fold.”

Mapdiva Launches Ortelius Map Illustration Software

Mapdiva, LLC announces the first release of Ortelius map illustration software for Mac OS X.  Ortelius is a powerful vector-based program allowing you to easily create floor plans, landscape plans, scaled drawings, and a wide variety of high quality custom maps.  Designed for ease-of-use, it allows you to draw directly with features such as roads, rivers, coastlines, buildings, symbols, and contours.

Read more

Ortelius Has Launched!

08.19.09 A big thank-you to all of our testers and reviewers – we’ve made it!  Check out our new web site for all the details on Ortelius, including a downloadable trial version.  We’ll continue to add tips & tricks and screencasts to our web site to maintain it not only as our product site, but also as a rich educational resource for map making.  To celebrate, we are offering an introductory special of $79 until September 30th.  Development continues and we’d love to hear from you.

These Labels Are Smart!

Drawing Coastlines

To create a coastal area map, the land area needs to be a filled-in shape (or polygon). Set up a “Source Map” layer and a “Land Area” layer to hold your drawing. You need a starting point, so copy and paste a source map onto the map area in preparation for tracing.

Trace the Coastline

Choose the Freehand Path tool and a basic line style from the Symbols Palette. Start by tracing the coastline. Don’t worry too much about getting your tracing perfect – you can come back later and adjust the points and curves as necessary.

Sticky Tools

HINT: For repeated use, tools can be made “sticky.” Click a tool once to “turn it on” and use it once. Afterward, you’ll default back to the direct Select tool. To use a tool repeatedly, for instance to place multiple symbols, ?double click the tool to make it “sticky.” All tools will be in the “sticky state” until you double-click again on any tool to release them.

Join Sections

If you’ve drawn the coastline in sections, select the paths to join them. Choose Edit > Paths & Tracks > Join from the main menu.

Complete the Land Polygon

After the coastline is traced, finish off the land area by completing the polygon.

Make the land area extend just a bit outside your map area so you can clip it later for a nice clean edge. First, go to the main menu and disable Layers > Clip objects to map area. Now objects that extend outside the map area are visible on the active layer.

Choose the Irregular Polygon tool and your basic line style from the Symbols palette. Draw the outside edge of the land area, extended just outside the map area.

Make sure end points are close together. Now join the line to complete the polygon.

Change Fill Styles

You now have a completed land area and can change fill styles. Select the land area polygon and choose a fill style from the Symbols Palette.

Return to the main menu and enable Layers > Clip objects to map area. The land area will now be visually “clipped” to the map area.

Add Background Water

Next, add a background-border element that represents the water. To do this, fill the entire map area with a water fill style. Click to make the Index Grid layer active and open the Symbols Library.

Choose the “Water” category and select a water fill style. Add the water fill be dragging the style from the style-well onto the map area. Make sure the Index Grid layer is “under” your Land Area layer in your layer stacking order.

Alternatively, add a new layer called “Water” and draw a rectangle that fills the map area using a water fill. Make sure the Water layer is under your Land Area in your layer stacking order.

Your land area is complete and ready for adding other map features such as roads and landmarks.

Drawing Map Features Overlapping the Map Margins

By default, Ortelius map layers draw within the map area margins and are visually “clipped” to its border. Map features, text, and other drawing objects can be drawn outside of the map area by changing the Layer settings.


For the active layer, deactivate (uncheck) Layers > Clip Objects to Map Area from the main menu.


Drawing Roads

Use Cartography Tools to Draw Roads


We’ve set up our drawing file with a source map to trace over, so let’s add a layer to hold our roads.

Choose the Freehand Track tool from the Drawing Tools and a road style from the Symbols Palette. Ortelius comes packed with road styles or you can create your own. We’ll use a yellow-cased road style.

Sticky Tools


HINT: For repeated use, tools can be made “sticky.” Click a tool once to “turn it on” and use it once. Afterward, you’ll default back to the direct Select tool. To use a tool repeatedly, for instance to place multiple symbols, ?double click the tool to make it “sticky.” All tools will be in the “sticky state” until you double-click again on any tool to release them.


For the minor road, we’ll use the Curved Track tool and a narrower line style. If you aren’t used to drawing with Bezier curves it may take a bit of practice. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll enjoy the smooth appearance and control these curves offer.

As we add roads to our network, the power of Ortelius’ cartography tools really shines. Notice how clean junctions are made, fully automatically. To change a style, just select the features and choose a new road style from the Symbols Palette.

If you don’t get your lines perfect the first time you can edit points and curve handles later as necessary.

Add Road Name


We’re almost done. First lets add some road names and a few highway shields. Using the Object Inspector, you can add multiple attributes as information behind your map features. This may be a new concept for some designers as attributes aren’t used in traditional graphics programs. Ortelius is smart about labels – if the feature has a NAME it will find it and use it for the label. We’ll also add a route number for this same road.


Now, lets highlight the road with the Linear Select tool and right-click to choose “New Label.” Notice how the road name pops right in, a great time-saving feature when adding lots of labels.

Free-text Road Name


An alternative way to add labels is with free-text. Highlight the road and choose “New Label.” No attribute information exists so it just reads “Label.” Double-click to edit the text. Just ignore the “Name” tag and start typing. Like tunnels, you can use the label handles for perfect positioning every time. When you move it, it will follow the path of the road.

Finished Road Network


Your road network is complete and ready to add points of interest and other finishing touches.