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 access to a greater number of views that are accessible to members only. 
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 login. 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. In this case, those views can be viewed but not downloaded.
What browser works best with the MapX?
MapX is optimized to work on the most recent version of Chrome and Firefox browsers. If your browser is not up to date, you may receive an error message. Please download the newest version of either Chrome or Firefox and access the site again. If you have any related issues that are not resolved, please don't hesitate to contact us at 
How do I search and filter views?
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 "World" project. You can click this title and search through other projects with public views. Once you arrive in a project, you can choose to search by keyword, or order the views by title or date. Clicking the "Filter Views by Tag" tag, located at the bottom of the view list, will enable you to filter by type of view, such as vector, raster, story map, or dashboard; collection, which includes project themes such as pollution, risk, or ocean analysis; or classes, such as environment, stress, or development. 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 other available geospatial data sets that comply with the Web Map Service (WMS) standard. This will enable users to import various data sets, ranging from socioeconomic and conflict incidence data, to environmentally sensitive areas and occurrence of natural hazards. They will then be able to use these imported layers conduct further analysis and monitoring. MapX can also receive data through an API and is building the capacity to share data through a MapX API.
What are the user privileges?
MapX offers dedicated environments (projects) where users can find specific data (views) that can be shown on map. User privileges determine who can see what data, and also what actions are available with certain datasets. There are 4 user categories. You will only be able to view or interact data that corresponds to your user category.
Public: Unregistered users, who will have the most limited interaction with the platform. Public users are able to view “public” data only.
Users: Registered users can read views and source layers that are set for “public” and “users”. In addition, registered users can upload source layers and create views that will only be available privately or for “publishers”.
Publishers: Users with “publisher” privileges can publish source layers and views for all types of users and can edit those that are available for “public”, “user” and “publisher”.
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. Project administrators cannot publish publicly beyond their 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 or dashboard, and red for custom code. Explanations follow below. 
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. 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?
You can use the arrows at the far-left side of the view toolbar, located beneath the legend in each view, to layer certain activated views over one another. The arrows on the far-left side will move the view either to the top or the bottom of the current view legend. 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 two to five vector layers, one of which must be a polygon. Users can also enable overlap area estimation directly within the MapX platform. Publishers in projects can create views out of overlaps. 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. 

The MapX story map engine allows users and visitors of the platform to independently build story maps with limited GIS or programming skills. 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 view toolbar beneath the abstract of the story map, 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.


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?
MapX offers dedicated environments (projects) where users can find specific data (views) that can be shown on map. User privileges determine who can see what data, and also what actions are available with certain datasets. There are 4 user categories. You will only be able to view or interact data that corresponds to your user category.
○ Public: Unregistered users, who will have the most limited interaction with the platform. Public users are able to view “public” data only.
○ Users: Registered users can read views and source layers that are set for “public” and “users”. In addition, registered users can upload source layers and create views that will only be available privately or for “publishers”.
○ Publishers: Users with “publisher” privileges can publish source layers and views for all types of users and can edit those that are available for “public”, “user” and “publisher”.
○ 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. Project administrators cannot publish publicly beyond their 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 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
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, first, ensure that the view is set for public read access (under the configure views tab). Then, click the "Share" icon beneath the view and copy the link. This will link directly to your view.

Using and Uploading Data

Can I upload my own datasets?
Only users that have publisher rights 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, 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?
Your latitude and longitude coordinates should be in decimal degrees.
Can my data be projected?
No. MapX does not accept projected data. If you attempt to add projected data, you will receive a warning and the data will not upload. QGIS can be used to change the projection of your data.
What spatial reference does MapX use?
WGS 84 (EPSG: 4326).
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. The drag and drop uploading method has a 100 Mb size limit. The manual upload is 300 Mb per file. Anything larger than this will have to be ingested by our support team - contact us at
Can I add or create graphs with the datasets? What kind of spatial statistics are available?
Graphs and technical spatial statistics cannot be created in MapX. However, it is possible to download some datasets as a CSV, which you can then upload into a spreadsheet software such as Excel to create graphs. For more on downloading 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. Data must undergo a vetting process in order to receive a satisfactory integrity seal percentage. If you are interested in publishing your data, please upload your data to your project complete with metadata, and then to contact our support team at
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 geodatabase 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 click the print button, located in the top toolbar, to create a map. Make sure automatic downloads are enabled on your browser. An automatic download will start, one for each view currently activated. You will receive a zip file containing the legend, a scale, a title, a PNG picture of the map, all elements pre-arranged on a PDF, and the metadata for the view. Note that each automatic download will have all of the views activated on the map, however only one legend entry per PDF. For more information on making maps, consult the offline user guide.
What format can I export my map into?
PNG and PDF. 
Can I customize my map output?
When you export a map, the zip file will contain three PNG’s: the legend, the map, and the scale. You can customize the shape and size of your map to fit your presentation by resizing these elements. When resizing your map manually, you must realize the scale of your map as well, or inaccuracies will result. 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 [PDF]. 2016. 1:25,000. Generated by James Bond. MapX online GIS. 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 from MapX are exported at ~430 PPI in PDF format and ~72 PPI in PNG format, both of which are acceptable for inclusion in a report. If you use a program such as Powerpoint to redesign the maps, ensure you export your final maps at a high enough resolution.
- 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. This information can be found in the abstract of the view, by clicking on the information button in the view, or is exported in a JSON format when you download the map.
 - The projection of the map. In MapX this is WGS 84.
 - 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 beneath 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

What is the data integrity seal?
Data that meets the minimum integrity thresholds receives the data integrity seal. The integrity of each data layer is assessed using a standardized set of questions for each of the following four categories: (1) Reliability; (2) Technical Accessibility; (3) Openness; and (4) Sustainability. The level of compliance with each element of the data integrity standards is established in the course of the assessment. The results are contained within a database which is managed by MapX together with local stakeholder groups and data custodians. Following completion of the data integrity assessment, the results of the assessment are shared with the data custodians who are given the opportunity to take remedial actions to improve results prior to publication of the data sets and corresponding data integrity scores.
What is the data policy?
In development. 
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
Does the MapX conform to OGC standards?
All data published in MapX is published in 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 should I do if I notice a bug?
Please send us feedback at 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.
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