Many of our posts about maps focus on available data and what it means for your community health efforts. But that’s not all we offer. The Commons also has several tools that can enhance your maps and make them easier for your stakeholders to understand.
Did you know we have filtering options in our data engine? When browsing data, look to the left side of the data search window to find our “Data Geography” filter (as seen below). Here, you have the option to filter available data by the level of geography you want to see. For example, perhaps you are only interested in county-level data. You can click the check box next to “County” and our search engine will filter your data to show only those sets available at the county level.
Choosing Sub-county combines all the geographies that show data smaller than the county level, or you can choose +Show more to choose the sub-county geographies individually.
If you choose to search by keyword or topic first, you can still narrow your results by geography; the data geography filters will always appear on the left side of the data search window. Also, be sure to note that many data are available at multiple geographies, so data available at the county level might also be available at the state or tract level, too.
Once you have chosen data to put on a map, the map legend allows you to add reference maps. Some of these maps help with orientation, like county boundaries or highways, while others help define an area of interest, such as a school district or congressional district.
The reference maps that appear in the map room may differ based on the data chosen and how it was collected. Some of the reference maps have the option of labeling the defined area.
Some reference maps that may need an explanation are:
- Place Names are the census names for cities and towns.
- Tract boundaries are census tracts and are determined by population. Learn more
- ZCTA boundaries are Zip Code Tabulation Areas and are the census’ approximation of ZIP codes. Learn more
- Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) are identified as areas with a large urban core that have adjacent communities. Learn more
- USGS Topographic Maps are large-scale (meaning really zoomed in) high detail maps of areas. They include both land features and man-made features.
When looking at a maps, users have the ability to orient their view by clicking the home button, entering a specific location—such as a city or state—zooming the screen in and out, and now by using our More Locations button. This button opens the More Locations window that allows precise location choices and is interactive based on your choice of state.
The measure tools can be accessed in the tools tab at the top left of any map or in the tools bar below the map legend. You can get geographic coordinates, measure a specified path—such as a road or walking path—or measure the area of a defined location.