The best free mapping tools for your digital story

Stories travel through time and space and they can be found all over the world. Sometimes the location or time of the story is very important. That’s exactly why we love mapping tools. Like MediaShift said: “Customized online maps create new ways of delivering, analyzing, measuring and localizing journalism.” That’s why we selected our favorite mapping tools to map data, locations and time.


No time to customize your map? No worries. Mapbox is an excellent tool for mapping your story while handling deadline pressure. This tool offers you basic templates to start with. Just add your dataset and your interactive map is ready.  Look at these examples of De Zeit and De Berliner Morgenpost. Are you a more experiences cartographer? Mapbox also offers you a studio function where you can create a map custom style.


Want to use more other media, like video, photo, GIFs, audio, socials, and text in your map? Try Storymap. It’s made by Knight Lab, a Northwestern University community of designers, developers, students and educators working on experiments designed to push journalism into new spaces. This tool allows you to take your reader on a journey. Let them travel the world with your map to find information at every location. The Washington Post used Storymap to show how ISIS is carving out a whole new country. Don’t wanna take your user worldwide, but local? Also possible. Look at this example of what to do in a city.


This tool is similar to Storymap, but with a whole other design. The 360 degrees globe makes it possible to give you a better overview of your world map. Besides that, it’s a good tool to use when you work in a team. From a distance, people can work on the same project. Timescape also concentrates on adding events to your map, so it’s not the only location-based but also a time-based map. Take a look at this example of the World Wildlife Fund.


We really like the free Knight Lab tools for journalists. So here is another: Timeline. Take your audience on a journey, but this time not cross the world but through time. Time Magazine took people through the life of Nelson Mandela after his death. Make a timeline of your Google spreadsheet with a few clicks. Add photo’s, video’s, audio and hyperlinks to tell your time-related story.

These tools were selected by Hackastory. It’s a handpicked list of the best 85 tools in 17 categories to help journalists make their digital stories.

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