Frequently Asked Questions

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Getting Started

What is MapX?
MapX is an open-source, online web mapping platform which is managed by UNEP/GRID-Geneva. MapX acts as a trusted data broker to help people find spatial solutions to environmental and natural resource challenges. In addition to providing the best available spatial data, MapX aims to increase the engagement of citizens and stakeholders in the management of natural resources and the environment by powering customized geospatial applications and offering a simple toolkit for analysis, visualization and sharing.
Why do I need to log-in or create an account?
Creating an account with us gives you greater access to the data and analysis features, including the ability to download data, and potentially display views that are available with restricted access. 
How do I create an account?
Simply enter your email into the login icon, located second from the top left. A one-time password token will be sent to you by email to login. As MapX takes data security very seriously, we do not rely on user passwords that are vulnerable to hacking. Instead, unique password tokens will be generated and sent to your email each time you log in. Password tokens generated by MapX for each login offer more system security.
Is MapX open source?
The source code of MapX is entirely open source and can be viewed here. In terms of data, MapX attempts to publish all data with an open license, meaning that you are welcome to explore and share anything you find on the platform. However, if data providers have placed certain restrictions on their data sets, some of the functionality of MapX will be reduced for these specific layers. For instance, the views that are associated to source layers with restricted access might not be available for download nor available for display to specific users.
What browser works best with MapX?
MapX is optimized to work on the most recent version of Chrome but it is also functional with older versions of Chrome and Firefox. If you have any related issues that are not resolved, please don't hesitate to contact us at info@mapx.org 
How do I search and filter views?
MapX offers dedicated environments (projects) where users can find specific data (views) that can be shown on map. The selection of views that a user finds in each project depends on the topic or aim for which the project was created. Searching and filtering views are essential to help find what you are looking for. You can search through views available to your user category within each public project. When you open MapX, you will normally arrive in the "Home" project. You can click this title and search through other projects with public views. Once you arrive in a project, all the available views are listed in the left panel organized by themes. You can explore them by expanding the themes. Views can also be filtered by keyword, by typing the term in the search field beneath the title of the project, and by the “advanced filter” module, using view features and/or view types (such as vector, raster, story map, dashboard, time slider). Switching the “intersection vs union” element at the bottom of the “advanced filter” module allows to combine the filtering process in different ways. To learn more about searching and filtering datasets, see the offline user guide
Is MapX interoperable with other geospatial platforms?
Yes. The platform has the capacity to automatically extract and display data from geospatial datasets that are published in interoperable platforms using web services such as Web Map Service (WMS), Web Map Tile Service (WMTS) and Map Tile Service (MTS). MapX can also receive data from external platforms using specific APIs. Both methods enable datasets to be automatically updated in MapX as soon as they are updated in the platform from where the data is sourced by the data provider. Furthermore, MapX is able to serve its geospatial data to external platforms using the above mentioned webservices.
What are the user privileges?
User privileges determine who can see what data, what actions are available with certain datasets, who is in charge of the management of the content of each project and who determines which user has what privileges.
User privileges are defined by project. This mean that privileges are restricted to a project environment and do not apply in all other projects.
There are 4 user categories. You will only be able to view or interact with data that corresponds to your user category.
Public
: Unregistered users and users without a specific role into a project. Can only access public projects. Can only visualize content that was published without restrictions. Have access to basic functions (visualize, query map, basic overlap processes, basic area calculation, export maps, download geospatial layers and tables (need to be logged-in to receive the data), create new geometries client-side).
Members: Logged-in users that have the most basic privileges in a project. Can access the project even if this is private. Can visualize non-public views (that were published to “members”) within the project. Can be granted the right to edit specific views in the project.
Publishers: Members with “publisher” privileges. Can publish new source layers and views in the project. Can also edit views for which they have editing rights. Can get temporary access to the database to edit sources for which they have editing rights. Can perform GIS-like analytical processes (intersecting geometries) and publish the resulting layers.
Administrators
: Have “publisher” privileges and can also change the status of other accounts. If you are the owner of a MapX project, you have administrator privilege over your project. 

Tools and Functions

What is the difference between a view and a layer?
When data is uploaded to the MapX platform, it becomes a source layer. Views are created from source layers for display on the map. The reason for this is that source layers can contain multiple attributes that cannot be displayed on map all together, as maps generally displays one attribute at a time. A view is specifically associated to one specific attribute of the source layer. Views can be selected and displayed using MapX, with abstracts and metadata information originating from the source layer. However, views can be customized beyond the source to suit the project, including restricting views to certain users or countries, styling a legend, or adding a mask. 
What is the difference between spatial data and attribute data?
Usually spatial datasets contain both spatial and attribute data, for example geographic coordinates and information about what occurs at those coordinates. Attribute data is information attached to a specific coordinate that is not directly geospatial, for example the name of the structure or type of object. MapX displays spatial data with one attribute per view. 
What do the colours of the buttons beside the views mean?
The colour of the button denotes the type of data that created the view: green for vector data, purple for raster data, blue for story map, and red for custom code. Explanations follow below.  In addition to the aforementioned ones, orange views also exist in the specific case when new geometries are added on map by the user (data upload and drawing of new geometries). These views are not published into the MapX database and are therefore not available for the other users. They are instead stored in the memory of the browser of the user that produced them and will be available in the browser as long as the cookies aren’t cleared.
What is the difference between vector and raster data?
Vector and raster data are two fundamentally different ways of representing spatial data. Raster data is made up of pixels, and each pixel is associated with a value. It is continuous and used with data such as chemical concentrations or land cover. Vector data is composed of points, lines, and polygons, and is generally used to depict discrete boundaries such as country borders or locations of features. To learn more about the difference between vector and raster functionalities in MapX, see the offline user guide.
What is a custom code layer?
The red buttons denote a geospatial dataset that is stored in external repositories and directly streamed into the MapX using a specific API or a complex view that integrate a method to switch data on map within the same view. For example, the World Database on Protected Areas is the largest database of legally defined protected areas on the planet, which is updated every month. These updates are reflected immediately in MapX.
How do I view multiple data layers?
More than view at the time can be activated by clicking on its circle. Views can be ordered on map by changing the order of appearance of the view in the left panel by dragging the view to new positions. Use the “Filter Activated Views” button to clarify the order of your activated views.
Is there a limit to the number of views I can display?
There is no limit to the number of views that can be turned on and displayed on MapX simultaneously. However, as you load more views you may find it difficult to see all of them simultaneously and may need to adjust their coloration or transparency. For more information on this, see the offline user guide.
Can I perform an intersection or overlap between two datasets?
Yes, all users can perform a visual, temporary intersection between vector tiles views using the “Highlight vector features” tool (located in the menu bar in the top-right corner). Users can also enable overlap area estimation within the Toolbox environment. A more accurate method involving GIS-like data processing is available to “publishers” in Toolbox (button “Area intersection tool”). Publishers can intersect a maximum of 3 source layers within the UN administrative boundaries of a country and receive the area of overlap in m2 or the creation of a new source layer that identifies the intersecting geometries. For more information on how to perform an intersection analysis, see the offline user guide.

Story Maps

What is a story map?
A story map is a novel way to communicate spatial data by combining narrative content, interactive maps, photos, and videos. Story maps are a simple yet powerful way to inform, engage, and inspire your audience with any story you want to tell that can be referenced on a map. Story maps harness the power of maps by bringing data to life. 

GIS or programming skills are not required for creating story maps. Story maps can cover a wide variety of subjects and are easy to build.
Can I make a story map?
Only users with publisher and administrator rights in projects can create story maps. 
How can I make a story map?
To learn more about creating a storyboard for your story map before developing it on the platform, use the relevant documentation here. When you have completed the storyboard, use the guidance document on building your own story map.
How and where can I share my story map?
You can click the sharing icon, located in the menu bar in the top-right corner, to receive a customized link to embed the story map into your blog, website, or online content through an iFrame, or a link to share the story map through email or social media. Note that when sharing a story map, privacy rights still apply from the project which the story map is in.
Can I upload my own data to add to my story map?
Yes, see the guide to uploading data in the offline user guide. However, do remember that data that is uploaded to a private project will not be able to be seen outside of that project.

Projects

What is a project?
The project is a customizable, cloud-based private data workspace in which you can create, upload, and share data. It is kept in a secure area of the website managed by MapX data custodians to ensure that only users with the correct privileges can access it. Each project is managed by an administer who determines the access rights for all other users. The administrator also decides who can join the project and which data layers can be published to the project as well as publicly on MapX.
What are the functions of a project?
Beyond offering a secure cloud-based data workspace for you and your colleagues, having a project on the MapX platform also offers a suite of additional features. In terms of analysis, you will be able to upload your own data to your project and integrate it to current datasets hosted on the platform. You will be able to customize your project and save it for access from any computer, with any bandwidth. Communication tools offered through the project are story maps and customized embeddable links to your maps, which can be shared on websites and social media. 
What are the user privileges?
User privileges determine who can see what data, what actions are available with certain datasets, who is in charge of the management of the content of each project and who determines which user has what privileges.
User privileges are defined by project. This mean that privileges are restricted to a project environment and do not apply in all other projects.
There are 4 user categories. You will only be able to view or interact with data that corresponds to your user category.
Public
: Unregistered users and users without a specific role into a project. Can only access public projects. Can only visualize content that was published without restrictions. Have access to basic functions (visualize, query map, basic overlap processes, basic area calculation, export maps, download geospatial layers and tables (need to be logged-in to receive the data), create new geometries client-side).
Members: Logged-in users that have the most basic privileges in a project. Can access the project even if this is private. Can visualize non-public views (that were published to “members”) within the project. Can be granted the right to edit specific views in the project.
Publishers: Members with “publisher” privileges. Can publish new source layers and views in the project. Can also edit views for which they have editing rights. Can get temporary access to the database to edit sources for which they have editing rights. Can perform GIS-like analytical processes (intersecting geometries) and publish the resulting layers.
Administrators
: Have “publisher” privileges and can also change the status of other accounts. If you are the owner of a MapX project, you have administrator privilege over your project.
What's the difference between public and private projects?
There are several tiers of privacy that can be applied to a project. Projects can be publicly available to everybody, accessible from the drop-down project list and searchable by registered or unregistered users. Projects can appear on the drop-down list, but contain private views. Projects can also be entirely private, meaning they will not appear in the drop-down list and members can only be added by the administrator or via an invitation.

Private projects can only be seen and consulted by members of the project. A member of a project has specific rights over the content of the project that a public user doesn’t have. The administrator of the project is the only one in charge of accepting/denying the membership request of any user and to propose new members to be included in the project.
Who can join a project?
We suggest only joining a project if you are familiar with the administrators and work the project is trying to achieve. All project requests are reviewed by administrators – you will most likely not be accepted in a project if you are not known to the administrator. However, if the project is public you can still see the views and visualize the data.
How do I join a project?
To become a member of a project a user can also send a request to the administrator by selecting “Join” in the “List of projects” tab. When the administrator approves your request, you will receive a link from bot@mapx.org with a link. Click the link to confirm your membership. Refresh the page and your upgraded status should appear in the List of projects.
Why can't I see my project?
Make sure you are logged in to the platform with the same email you used to access your project for the first time. You can check by clicking the profile icon in the button that is second from the left corner in the map window. If you still can’t find your project, contact info@mapx.org
What if I am involved in multiple projects? How can I access each of them?
When you click on the current project to see the List of Projects, the projects that you are a member, publisher or administrator of will show up at the top of the list. You can select the title to enter the project.
Can I add additional users to my project?
Yes. You can invite others via email to join your project either as readers, publishers or administrators. You will need to consider the level of access that each user should be granted as this will determine their privileges to edit, create, and share whatever is in the project.
How do I share a view from my project?
To share a view from your project to someone who is not a member of the project click the sharing icon, located in the menu bar in the top-right corner, to receive a customized link. This will link directly to your view.

Using and Uploading Data

Can I upload my own datasets?
Only users that have publisher rights in a project workspace can upload their vector data and manipulate it for comparison against existing datasets on the platform. 
What data formats can I upload?
ESRI Shapefile, GeoJSON, GeoPackage, GPX, KML. The recommended format is GeoJSON. 
What if my data is in CSV or another format?
If your data is an a CSV or other format, you may need to use third party GIS software to convert it to geospatial formats such as SHP or GeoJSON. We recommend an open source solution such as QGIS.
What format should my coordinates and projection be in?
The MapX team recommends that your latitude and longitude coordinates be in decimal degrees, the “drag and drop” method only supporting WGS 84 (EPSG:4326) as Spatial Reference System (SRS).
Can my data be projected?
It will depend on the method you use to upload the data to MapX. The “drag and drop” method only allows to upload spatial datasets with a Spatial Reference System (SRS) equal to WGS 84 (EPSG:4326). For its part, the “Add a source layer” module offers a reprojection option which allows users to specify the SRS of their spatial dataset at upload time.
In which spatial reference is the cartographic data displayed in MapX?
By default, the cartographic data is projected in WGS 84/Pseudo-Mercator (EPSG:3857). Administrators have the ability to change the data projection at the project level. Currently, seven different projections have been implemented in MapX complemented by a 3D globle mode.
How do I upload data?
To learn how to do it step by step, please consult the offline user guide.
Is there a size limit for data?
Yes. Both upload methods have a 200 Mb size limit per file. Anything larger than this will have to be ingested by our support team - contact us at info@mapx.org
Can I add or create graphs with the datasets?
Yes, a dashboard can be associated with a view in MapX. It may contain graphics, images, text and/or other types of visualization. Dashboard development requires good knowledge of data visualization and web development. For more on information data consult the offline user guide.
Can I publish my data on MapX?
We are always looking for more environmental and sustainable development-related data for publication. If you are interested in publishing your data, please contact our support team at info@mapx.org
What formats can I export my data into?
DXF, ESRI Shapefile, GeoJSON, GeoPackage, KML, SQLite and CSV.
How do I upload raster data?
Vector and raster data can be streamed into MapX without being published directly into its database through WMS requests. Data is however directly rasterized during the process and cannot be queried once available in the web application. WMS requests are also the only way to include raster data in MapX, mostly in reason of their potentially very large dimension that might impose low fluidity to the platform. Read the guidance document to learn how to stream WMS data through MapX.

Exporting maps

How can I export a view that is visualized on my map?
You can create, customize and download maps on the platform through the “Map Composer” tool (located in the menu bar in the top-right corner). The Map Composer exports all views displayed on the screen as well as the legends, abstracts and titles in PNG format. The tool is interactive and allows you to define the map resolution and to edit both the map layout and content. For more information on making maps, consult the offline user guide.
What format can I export my map into?
PNG. 
Can I customize my map output?
Yes, map exports can be customized directly from the “Map Composer”. For more details consult the offline user guide
How should I cite my map?
We recommend this format:
MapX. Title [Format]. Data Date. Scale. Name of Person Who Generated Map. Name of Software. URL. (Date Accessed).

Example: MapX. Biodiversity Hotspots [PNG]. 2016. 1:25,000. Generated by John Doe. MapX. link to map. (19 June 2018).
If I am including a map I made in MapX in a formal report or publication, how do I ensure I meet mapping standards?
Maps included in reports should meet several different standards.
- Maps should be sufficiently high resolution (Pixels Per Centimeter/Inch - PPC/PPI) for them to be clearly visible.
- Maps should be clear and concise.
- Important text on maps should be clear and legible (e.g., cities, place names, legend items, etc.).
- The map should include basic mapping elements: legend (of relevant data layers), scale bar, and directional (North) arrow.
- The map should include basic metadata for all data presented. This should include:
  - Correct attribution for all the data sources used in creating the map.
  - The projection of the map.
  - The owner of the data and data access rights. This should include the rights, restrictions and ownership of any national level data from your government that you may be using.
  - The date the map was produced.

Metadata and Citations

Where can I find the metadata for each dataset?
MapX requires all datasets to include the name, source, license, and date. You can find this information by clicking the i symbol next to the title of each view. 
What metadata should I include when uploading data?
If you are planning on adding multiple datasets or sharing your data with others, we recommend filling it out to the best of your ability. Metadata makes the dataset easier to find by searching keywords, and it adds integrity to the dataset. Find out more about metadata here
How do I allow my dataset to be downloadable?
Whether a source can be downloadable will depend on the licensing of the data provider. Please check with your data provider whether data can be redistributed. For more information on licenses click here. To allow download of a data source, navigate to “Manage sources” in toolbox. Under “Services”, select “Allow this source to be downloaded”.
How do I cite MapX in a scientific paper?
Lacroix, P., Moser, F., Benvenuti, A., Piller, T., Jensen, D., Petersen, I., Planque M. & Ray, N. (2019). MapX: An open geospatial platform to manage, analyze and visualize data on natural resources and the environment. SoftwareX, 9, 77-84.

Data Policy and Integrity

Does MapX conform to OGC standards?
MapX offers users the option to publish their data to a dedicated GeoServer in formats compatible with OGC standards: WMS, WFS, WCS. The MapX team is also working to align the platform with the CSW standard, which will then complete the above list with a fourth format compatible with OGC standards.
What is the data policy?
MapX integrates and aggregates third party data but does not hold the property of these datasets, which are still owned by the original data providers.
Can I share my findings?
Yes - please do. MapX is open source. If you publish anything from MapX, we encourage you to make your full dataset and research publicly available to encourage openness in the academic community.
What data licenses do you offer?
If you wish to license your data, please note we will not act as a liaison between you and your licenser. We encourage the use of licenses developed by the Creative Commons Foundation and the Open Data Foundation, which has been developed for sharing databases.
What if my data is sensitive?
You can keep data in a personal project, which is secure. When uploading data, you will need to assign viewing rights to your data. These range from myself (only you), to everyone in the project, to public. These correspond to certain user privilege categories. As an administrator of a project you have complete control over who interacts with data within your project, which you can upload and control. However, you will not be able to publish data publicly beyond your project. For more details about User Privileges see the offline user guide.
What should I do if I believe a dataset is inaccurate?
We are always looking to improve our data. If you are experiencing issues with a dataset or believe it is outdated or inaccurate, please contact our support team at info@mapx.org

Troubleshooting

What should I do if I notice a bug?
Please send us feedback at info@mapx.org. Also consider formally reporting the bug in GitHub.
Is there a github repository or forum to ask questions or report bugs?
There is a github repository for the MapX backend which you can find here. Please keep questions and comments succinct and direct.
How can I suggest a new feature or function ?
Feature suggestions can be made on github. 
The application is running very slowly. What can I do?
- Try reducing the number of applications that are running on your computer or closing the number of tabs open in your browser.
- If you deactivated "hardware acceleration", try to reactivate it.
- Update your browser: MapX will not work well on browsers older than 2 years.
- Some browser extensions could interfere with MapX resources, try deactivate them.
MapX does not work
- If you deactivated "WebGL", try to reactivate it.
- Some browser extensions could interfere with MapX resources, try deactivate them.
- Clean your cache. If available : MapX > settings tab > clear cache button. Or in Chrome, after launching MapX, More > More tools > Developer Tools > Application > clear site data. Or More > More tools > Clear browsing data.
- If any problem persists, contact us (mapx@info.org) or write an issue in our issue tracker.
MapX always disconnect after the same amount of time
Speak with the person who manages your network : some old school configuration will cut any connection that remains active more than minutes. Often 20 or 40 minutes. MapX, like many sessions-based applications, uses permanent websocket connexion, very lightweight, and take care of closing it when the user quit the application.
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