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Friday, November 16, 2018

Three Tools for Creating Custom Maps Without a Google Account

Google's My Maps is a great tool for designing custom maps. The problem with it is that students can only save their work if they have Google accounts. If your school uses G Suite for Education that's probably not a problem, but it is a problem for students who don't have G Suite accounts. If that's the case for your students, then try one of the following tools for making custom digital maps.

GmapGIS is a free digital mapping tool that lets you draw and type on top of base layer maps. You can select satellite, street, relief, or a hybrid map as your base layer. Once you've made that selection you can use freehand drawing tools, line tools, and shape drawing tools to mark-up the map. Right-clicking on any of the lines or shapes you draw will open a menu of labeling options. You can also add placemarking pins to your map. When you are finished drawing labeling you can share your map by sending the link that is automatically generated for your map. You can also save a KML file for your map and view it in Google Earth.

National Geographic's Mapmaker Interactive can be a good alternative to using Google Maps in your classroom. Mapmaker Interactive offers a number of features that students and teachers can utilize without the need to enter an email address or register to use the Mapmaker tools. Those tools include measuring distances, adding placemarks, layering information, and switching between base map layers. In the following video I provide an overview of the features in National Geographic's Mapmaker Interactive.


Scribble Maps is a free tool for creating custom, multimedia maps online. Since 2009 this has been my go-to alternative to Google's MyMaps and Maps Engine Lite tools. Scribble Maps provides a variety of base layer maps on which you can draw freehand, add placemarks, add image overlays, and type across the map. Compared to creating a custom map on Google Maps, Scribble Maps is much easier for students to learn how to use. Scribble Maps also provides far more default placemark icons than Google's My Maps tool. Scribble Maps will work in the web browser on your laptop, Chromebook, iPad, or Android tablet. In the following video I provide an overview of how to use Scribble Maps.