StoryMap JS


Name: StoryMap JS
$: Free
Example: Al-Raqqa Under Attack
Level: Beginners to Advanced depending on project complexity
Use For: Fast, rapid deployment; Visually representing research; Telling a story with a geographic component


StoryMap allows the user to design a map where the viewer is presented information about each location as they navigate through the map. The user can pick from a variety of basemaps, including OpenStreetMap, custom maps, and those designed by the user on Mapbox. The user then creates a title slide which shows the points from all the other slides. As the user creates slides they can choose the location the map zooms to and what kind of information they want attached to the slide. It is possible to add text, videos, including those from YouTube and Vine, photographs, including those from Flickr, tweets, excerpts from Wikipedia, and SoundCloud files.

When exploring the map the viewer can use the arrows on the side of the map to move from slide to slide in order or click on individual pins in the map to see the information associated with that location. The viewer can move around the map and can double click to zoom in on an area. It is not possible for the viewer to zoom out but they can move the map around.


Simple versions of StoryMap can be created by those without prior mapping experience. Basic story maps can be created through the StoryMap JS authoring tool, however certain features can only be achieved through coding. For example, to override the automatic zoom settings for each slide the user must have knowledge of JavaScript. StoryMap is free for anyone to use. The maps can be viewed on desktop computers as well as mobile devices. They can be shared through a link or embedded in a webpage. StoryMap saves maps to Google Drive.


Gigapixel is a part of StoryMap and allows the user to tell stories about large image files, such as photographs, artwork, or historical maps. To access Gigapixel the user creates a new StoryMap and chooses the Gigapixel option. The image that is exported and uploaded must be saved as tiles.


Google Earth Tourbuilder


Name: Google Earth Tourbuilder
$: Free
Examples: North Korean Prison Camps Exposed (featured image), The Syrian Refugee Crisis From Above
Level: Beginners
Use For: Telling a story with a geographic component


Google Earth Tourbuilder allows the user to tell a story by showing the viewer information associated with different locations and time periods on Google Earth. The user can control the style of the map by choosing whether to show borders and labels, roads, 3D buildings, and 3D trees. The user can also add a map that is in KML or GME format. The introduction slide summarizes the story and can outline the time frame if desired. The user can add locations to the map and rearrange them as desired. There are various options for connecting the points in the story on the map. For each location the user can choose the zoom and orientation of the map and what kind of icon is displayed. The user can also choose to display either a street view or historical imagery. The user can add a description of the location as well as dates and up to 25 photos and videos.


Google Earth Tourbuilder can be used by those without prior mapping experience and free for anyone to use. The tour can only be viewed on Windows and Mac OS X 10.6+. The viewer must install the Google Earth plugin before they can view the tour. The tour can be shared through a link. Google Earth Tourbuilder allows the viewer to zoom in and out exploring the area as they wish, this is not possible with StoryMap JS. However, it can be viewed on fewer devices and has high quality imagery which can be difficult to load without high speed internet.



Name: Snapmap
$: Free
Example: Amnesty International USA’s SnapMap
Level: Beginners
Use For: Fast, rapid deployment; protests, marches, activism


SnapMap allows the user to create a map of any public Instagram account’s 20 most recent geo-tagged photographs. The map walks the viewer through the photographs from the oldest to the newest. Below each photo is the caption, any hashtags, how many likes the photograph received and how long ago the photograph was posted. It is not possible to change the order of the pictures on SnapMap. The geo-tag of an Instagram photo is set during the photograph upload process and cannot be changed once the photograph is posted. It is possible to zoom in on the map by double clicking, but it is not possible to zoom out.The viewer can examine photos out of order by clicking on the individual photograph, instead of the arrows on the side of the page. SnapMap can be used to document an Instagram user’s photographs of a human rights event with a geographic component, such as a march or protest.

Snapmap Example

SnapMaps can be created by those without prior mapping experience. SnapMap is free for anyone to use and can be viewed on desktop computers as well as mobile devices. The map can be embedded in a website or a link to the map can be provided. SnapMaps continuously change as new geo-tagged photographs are added to Instagram. To preserve a SnapMap of specific photographs the Snapmap can be exported to StoryMap JS. Exporting the map to StoryMap JS also allows the user to change the type of map displayed, edit the text below the photographs, reorder photographs, change the photograph location, and delete photographs.