Frequently Asked Questions

Where can I find help?

  • Getting started video available here.
  • Tutorial for learning how to use WorldMap available here.

Should I Register?

You can explore WorldMap in many ways without registering but you won't be able to create your own map, upload your own data, or save changes you make. Registering is easy.

How do I register?
To register click “Sign In” on the front page, then click “Register”.  Fill out your username, email address, password, and if you are Harvard check that. If so you will be sent to a page to verify your Harvard ID.  (There is no difference in functionality between Harvard and non-Harvard.  We are starting to allow access control by group and Harvard is the first group we have enabled.)  You will then receive an email with a validation link that you must click to be registered.  Now you have an account and a profile and you can log in on the front page.

NOTE: Unregistered users can view all public content on the system and can make temporary changes to Maps created by others.  Registered users can create their own Maps, upload materials, change symbolization, and save changes.  In addition registered users can control access to layers they own and can access any private content that has been made accessible to them by others. 

What does BETA mean?

WorldMap is still in Beta. We are working to improve interface design, stability, and performance under load. There is much progress to be made on all fronts! We are also adding new functionality. Please send any comments or suggestions you might have to

WorldMap has been tested more thoroughly on Firefox and Chrome than on Internet Explorer, though it should work reasonably well with IE. There are known problems with Internet Explorer 6.

There are several areas of functionality that require you leave the main map page. When that happens, you will be asked whether you want to navigate away from the page. Click cancel, then save your map if desired, then proceed again. When you are away from the map page you have saved you can use the back button to get back to it.

Who is using the WorldMap system?

The system is currently open to anyone in the world to use and is hosted by Harvard on Amazon’s cloud infrastructure. We are allowing anyone to upload fairly large files to the system (up to 100 meg). The combination of open access and large file sizes means that the system could be slow at times though we are trying to avoid that.

Is WorldMap source code available?

Yes, the WorldMap platform is Open Source and can be deployed on Linux or Windows environments. WorldMap is currently being developed and deployed on Ubuntu Linux. Because it is Open Source, all code in the system can be examined and improved on by others. Source code for WorldMap is available at:

What is a “Layer” in WorldMap?

In WorldMap you can upload map data (currently Shapefiles or GeoTIFFs) to the system. Each data file you upload is called a “Layer” in WorldMap. You can control the way in which other people access to your layers by setting permissions for your layers.

What is a “Map” in WorldMap?

WorldMap allows you to organize your Layers and other people’s Layers together into collections, which you can configure and save. We call these collections of Layers that you manage “Maps”. You can control permissions at both the Layer and the Map level.

How do Permissions Work?
All Maps as well as the Layer that make them up are by default open to the world to view but are not open for editing.  You will find most of the materials in WorldMap to be viewable but not editable.  If you would like edit access to a Map or Layer, find out who created it by viewing the profile and contact them.

Permissions are defined in four levels: No access, View only, View and Edit, View and Edit and Manage.  Any Map you create or Layer you upload you will have full Manage permissions for. 

If you have Manage permissions for a Map, you will see a “Share Map” link at the upper right corner of the map.  Clicking that link will display something like the display below.

Share Map link brings up Map permission controls

What is a profile?
Profiles allow people to find out about other users of the system.  A user’s profile name is associated with any layer or map they create. Once you are logged in you can go into your profile and add information about yourself.  As you add materials to WorldMap, those materials will be listed here.  If you cannot access something, look at the profile for the layer or map you are interested in and aske the owner for permission to access it.

NOTE: The user profile contains at a minimum a contact form.  Other optional items include email address, organization, position, phone, fax, address, city, state, zip, country. 

What basemaps can I use behind my maps?
A number of preset basemap layers are available including Google Satellite, Hybrid, Roads, Physical, and Open Street Maps.  Other commercial and non commercial base maps will be added soon.  You can use any of your own Layers as basemaps too!  Just upload them and put the other layers on top of them.  (To reorder Layers just drag and drop Layers in the panel to the left of the map.  Layers that are above others in the list on the left will be displayed on top of the ones below.

How do I access Google Street View?
Yes, Select the Street View tool and then click on the map, preferably on a city street.  Google Street View will come up in a window.  This works for major cities in the United States and Europe.  Other cities around the world are being added rapidly so don’t assume street view is not available. 

How do I view Layers in Google Earth?
Select the Google Earth tool and the 2D map will be replaced with the Google Earth globe with your layer draped on top of it.  It may take a a few moments to load.  If you have not loaded the Google earth plugin you will be prompted to do so. 

Each time you pan you must wait a couple second for your layers to redraw as this implementation does not use precached tiles yet.  Transparency is not supported yet, so it will often be best to view your layers one at a time.   This is an abbreviated version of Google Earth without many of the features available in the full Google Earth application. 
However you can also view your data using the full power of the Google Earth application if you have Google Earth installed on your machine.  This approach involves downloading the Google Earth version of your layer. 

How do I zoom in or out on my map?
There are several ways you can zoom (change scales) in WorldMap:
•    Map navigation tools include the standard zoom bar and map drag. 
•    Roll your mouse wheel.
•    Choose a scale from the scale bar readout. 
•    Zoom and pan simultaneously by defining a box on the map (shift-drag box) which upon release zooms you to the area you defined with the box. 
•    You can right-click on a layer name and select “Zoom to Layer Extent” to zoom to that layer.

Most agree that the shift-drag box approach is the most powerful once one gets used to it.

Is there a Legend and Scale Bar?
WorldMap generates legends automatically based on the SLD (Styled Layer Descriptor) symbolization.  Legends for any vector layers being displayed are in the Legend tab next to the Data tab at the upper left.  The scale bar changes with zoom level and the exact scale ratio is displayed. 

How do I turn Layers on/off, control Layer order, control transparency?
You can turn layers on and off, move them around to control what is displaying on top of what in the map.  You can also change transparency of any layer by right clicking and going to Layer Properties.

Can I rename Layers and Categories?
You can rename layers by right-clicking a layer, selecting “Layer Properties”, then “About”.  You can rename a category by right-clicking it and selecting “Rename Category”.

Can I click on a Layer and return information about a feature?
Yes, first click on the “Identify” button in the tool bar at the upper left of the map.  Now you can click on the map and return attributes by “drilling” down through multiple layers and displaying the attributes on the right. 

WorldMap will return attributes for as many (vector) layers as you have turned on.  The layers will be listed at the upper right and the individual records will be listed in the panel below.  You can select records grouped by layer in the upper panel and see the record highlighted on the map and attributes displayed in the panel below.

This function works also works for web service (WMS) layers which reside on remote servers.  For more on WMS see…

How do I add a Layer to my Map?

First you must be registered and logged in.  Then you must have started your own map by clicking "Create a Map" on the front page at

If then you click “Add Layers”, notice there are three tabs for adding a layer: “WorldMap Data” (for Layers which are already in WorldMap), “External Data” (for Layers which can be accessed via a web service URL), and “Upload Layer” (for Layers you would like to upload from your own hard drive).

For example, select the “WorldMap Data” tab.  Now type “gaul” in the Search box and click “Search”.  

Select “GAUL Level 1” by toggling the check box next to it, then clicking “Add Selected Layers” at the bottom.

You can add Layers to any Map you have View access to, but to save your addition you must have permission to edit the Map and be logged in.  If you created the Map you will certainly have permission to save.

How do I control Layer order?
Layers which are above others in the layer panel display on the map on top of those which are below.  Display order can be changed by dragging and dropping layers up or down, and the names of folders and layers can be changed. 

The category, a required part of the metadata, provides the default category for a layer added to a map.

How do I create a Map?
Click “Creating a Map” link at the top of the page.  A blank map template displaying the Google Terrain base map appears.  Zoom to some part of the world and start to build your map.  Zoom using the shift-drag approach to Sierra Leone in West Africa, scale level 10, about 1:500,000 scale.

How do I save my Map?
Save the map.  Click “Save” and here we have several items we can define as we save the map.   
•    Name - This is the name as it will show up in the map search tool.  The name is also displayed on the header at the top of the page.
•    URL – You decide what is displayed at the end of the URL.  Example:
•    Abstract – A short description of the Map.  This and the title are used by map search.
•    Keywords – Words that are used to filter feeds Picasa, YouTube, and HGL.  Separate keywords with a space.  A space acts as an “or” operator to make your filter more general.
•    Splash page – Formatted text which appears in an introduction box when the site is first opened by a user.  This content also appears when you click on the “About” link at the upper left.
•    Banner (coming soon) - Soon it will be possible to upload a banner to further customize your Map.  Until then email us with your banner attached and the site you want it added to and we will add it.

How do I control permissions on my Map?
Once you have created and saved a map, you can control who else in the world can see it.  Click on “Share Map” link at the upper right and you can make your map private or share with just a couple people or open it to the world.  If you want, you can choose to only allow certain people to make changes to your map.

Overview of Map level permissions

NOTE: You can also control permissions on layers in your Map.  If you want, you can create a map which is public and includes some public and some private layers.

Once you have created a Map or loaded new data to WorldMap, a link to that material shows up in your profile where others can see what you have created.  If a map or layer is not public for viewing, the name of it will still show up here. 

How do I change the appearance (style) of my Layer?

NOTE: Users can modify the way a vector (point, line, or area) map is displayed, and control the color of lines or area fills as well as labels.  Users can also use rules to support complex symbolization schemes based on database and scale conditions. WorldMap uses an open format for symbolization called SLD (Styled Layer Descriptor).  SLDs created can be uploaded to WordMap and used to symbolize a given layer.

To define the cartographic appearance of a Layer, the user can create Styles for that layer.  Styles can be created for both raster (image) and vector (point/line polygon) data types, but the options are richer for vectors.  There are online tools for styling vector layer, but one can also create styles using desktop tools like ArcGIS and QGIS, then upload them together with the layer to be symbolized.  

To create a Style for a layer in WorldMap, (whether using online or desktop tools) one is creating a Styled Layer Descriptor(SLD) XML document which is stored in WorldMap.  The SLD is used to control how the layer is displayed.  It is possible to define more than one style for a given dataset.  One can then choose which style to use after the layer has been loaded to the map.  The layer will at first appear using the default style, but other styles are available to be chosen instead.

How do I use the online style creator?
One of the benefits of WorldMap is cartographic expressiveness.  The Style tool allows you to create SLDs or Styled Layer Descriptors which are XML documents that define the way a layer looks.  You don’t have to know anything about SLDs to control how your Layers look using the online WorldMap Style tool.

In addition to the online style tool, you can use desktop tools such as ArcGIS to more easily create complex styles, and this is discussed later.  Styles are created using one or more rules.  Each rule can have several parts, including a label, coloring, scale dependency, and one or more database conditions.

To get to the online Style tool, right click on a Layer you have edit permissions for.  Go to “Layer Properties, the click the “Style” tab.  To be able to change the style, this layer needs to reside on the WorldMap server and be a vector (point, line, or polygon) layer.

At the top of the online tool you can choose between existing styles for a given layer, copy an existing style, or edit an existing style, or create a new style from scratch.

Start by editing a rule.  Select the rule and click Edit.  There are three tabs containing options for defining the rule you are editing. Characteristics of a rule that you set in the various tabs are cumulative so for example you create a rule by setting the color in the Basic tab and then a database condition to control when that color is displayed in the Advanced tab.

In the Basic tab it is possible to:
•    change the name of the style
•    change its fill and outline color (if it is a polygon)
•    control opacity of line or fill
•    control line width and line style

In the Labels tab it is possible to:
•    Select a field to use as content for your labels
•    Choose a font type and size and style for the Label
•    Choose the color for the Label as well as the opacity
•    Choose a halo (background color) for the Label, including its color, size, and opacity

In the Advanced tab it is possible to:
•    Limit the display of whatever you have defined in Basic and Label tabs in terms of maximum display scale and minimum display scale.
•    Limit the display of whatever you have defined in Basic and Label in terms of one or more database conditions. It is also possible to set multiple groups of conditions.

Explore how:
•    Polygon styles can be changed.
•    To modify simple style in terms of fill, outline, opacity.
•    To set label and scale dependency (LandType)
•    To set a database condition for a rule and combine it with another database rule.  (Suitability > 50).
•    Show how to create a new style from scratch or duplicate one.

Are there desktop tools for creating styles?
WorldMap contains powerful online tools for styling your vector (shapefile) layers.  These tools are described in the previous Section.  For some situations however it can be very tedious to create styles using the online tools.  For example if you want to create a chloropleth map which uses census data to display income levels in 6 shades of blue and specified income ranges for each shade you will save time using ArcMap or QGIS approaches described below.  

There are a couple desktop software packages you can use to creating styles for your maps. This section summarizes two tools and highlighs the pros and cons for each technology.

First is a tool which runs in ArcGIS 9.3 and ArcGIS 10 called ArcMap2SLD. The second is a plugin which runs in QGIS, an open source software called Quantum GIS available for download for free.

Using ArcMap2SLD in ArcGIS 10
This approach allows you to take advantage of some of the symbolization power of ArcGIS and apply it to your WorldMap layer.  The latest version, ArcMap2SLD 1.3, which runs in ArcGIS 10 on the 32 bit version of Windows 7, is here:
The earlier version of ArcMap2SLD,, which runs on ArcGIS 9.3 and Windows XP is here:

To get started, open ArcGIS 10 and load the layers you want to symbolize and add to WorldMap to your MXD.  Once you have symbolized your layers, start ArcGIS2SLD.  (Currently this tool works best with capturing the colors of point, line, and polygons layers.)  

Define a path and name for the SLD file you want to create.


IMPORTANT:  Uncheck “Include Layer Names” under Extras.

If you would like to include only selected layers (this is not the same as turned-on layers) to be exported from your ArcGIS map to SLD, check “Selected Layers”.  If you have multiple layers in the map you are exporting, you will need to also check “In Separate Files”.   The tool will then create separate SLD files, one for each layer in your ArcGIS map.  To load these to WorldMap you will need one SLD for each corresponding shapefile you wish to symbolize.  Click the blue SLD button at the bottom left to create your SLD files. 

Note on Multiple SLDs for a Single Shape File
If you want to create multiple SLDs for a single shapefile layer, create the SLDs then contact us at  If you email us the SLDs and tell us which layer you would like them associated with we can make the association for you.  There is currently no way for end-users to upload multiple SLDs for a given shape file layer.

Pros & Cons for Using ArcMap2SLD in ArcGIS 10 method


  • ArcGIS 10 is the most commonly used commercial software package and many people are familiar with it.
  • One can create multiple SLDs at one time, great for large number of layers or for a single layer for which you want to style in multiple ways.
  • There are no additional changes in the SLD document required, just make sure to uncheck “Include Layer Names” option.


  • Arc2SLD tool does not run on 64 bit OS, even in compatibility mode (tested on various PCs), works fine on 32 bit.
  • Does not recognize <all other values> category/class in the layer properties -> symbology tab if you want to classify by “unique values” in ArcMap 10. Simple fix: add all unique categories, and then group the selected ones as “all other values”. For example, imagine you have 2 categories: “missing values” & “blank” that you want to assign one color as “missing data”. Grouping those 2 categories into one makes it work for SLDs.
  • Does not work with Layer Properties -> Definition Query in ArcMap 10. For example, if you want to display only selected records from the data, you should use the symbology tab instead, or alternatively create a new shapefile with the selected records only.
  • Does not work for layers grouped together. Simple fix: ungroup the layers when creating multiple SLDs.
  • Does not recognize Display -> Transparency in ArcMap 10. For example, if you set the transparency layer to 50%, the SLD will take it as 100% color. In other words, when you upload the layer to WorldMap you will not see it transparent, instead you will see it as a lighter shade of the solid color you chose.  This can be remedied in WorldMap by changing transparency at the Layer or Style Rule level.
  • Does not work with charts, such as pie chart or bar chart symbology.

Using “Save as SLD” plugin in QGIS 1.7
QGIS is an open source desktop GIS software application, available for free download at Use QGIS 1.7 desktop application to create your maps and symbolize your layers, and “Save as SLD” plugin to export them to SLD styles.

To install “Save as SLD” plugin in QGIS, go to Plugins -> Fetch Python Plugins -> Repositories tab.

IMPORTANT: Click on “Add 3rd party repositories” and click OK to the message prompt.

Then click on “Plugins” tab and filter for "SLD", select “Save as SLD” and install plugin.

“Save as SLD” should then appear under the Plugin dropdown menu.

After styling your layer, simply click on Save Style as SLD and specify the path for the layer style.

Pros & Cons for Using “Save as SLD” plugin in QGIS 1.7 method

  • QGIS is an open source desktop GIS application, available for free download.
  • QGIS is easy to use and learn.
  • Runs on various OS, including Windows 7 64 bit OS as well as Macs.
  • SLD plugin is easy to install.
  • No additional changes in the SLD style code are required.


  • No option to export multiple SLDs, export one layer at a time; hence, not good if you have large number of layers.
  • No option for styling with proportional symbols by size. For example, styling layers with point feature data to represent various sizes in points based on the quantity they represent is not an option in QGIS styles.
  • Does not work with charts, such as pie charts or bar charts.

Is it possible to use Styles to control the display of raster layers? (Advanced Topic)
Yes, but raster (GeoTIFF) images do not have the same styling options as vector (shapefile) layers do. However, you may still need to define transparency levels to selected areas in your image. For example, if you have an older scanned map that has been georeferenced (assume that the map has a white background), and you need to make the white areas transparent. In such case, you may find the next section helpful as it walks you through the steps for defining transparency to selected areas in your GeoTIFF.

Note: in order to follow the instructions below and upload your raster image to the WorldMap, you need to make sure that it is a GeoTIFF image.

Steps for adding transparency to selected areas in GeoTIFF:
1.    Find out where your GDAL utilities are located. If you have QGIS installed on your computer it is likely to be here:

C:\Program Files (x86)\Quantum GIS Wroclaw\bin

Note: GDAL is a powerful tool for working with raster images such as GeoTIFF. Hence, if you don’t have GDAL utilities installed, you can download it from

2.    Use gdalinfo utility to find out all the information about your raster data. First, in the Windows command line (cmd), change directory to your GDAL utility files directory by typing:

cd C:\path to your GDAL utility files

For example, in my case the path is the following:

cd C:\Program Files (x86)\Quantum GIS Wroclaw\bin

Then use gdalinfo to find out info about your raster data:

gdalinfo C:\path_to_your_raster\your_raster.tif

3.    Look into the results and find out what kind of raster data you have.

A.    If you have a 3 band raster file with 8 bit pixels, and you want to make all white pixels in the image transparent, you would create an alpha channel using gdalwarp:

To add alpha channel to a 3 band raster type in:

gdalwarp -srcnodata "255 255 255" -dstalpha C:\your_raster.tif C:\your_raster_alpha.tif

Note: "255 255 255" refers to the values in each R, G, B layer that is a no-data value (appears as white in the original tiff).  If the area that needed to be transparent was black, this would be "0 0 0" instead.

As a result you should see something like this:
Creating output file that is 3931P x 3762L. Processing input file C:\rasters\ming.tif.0...10...20...30...40...50...60...70...80...90...100 - done.

This will create the alpha channel (4th band) and add transparency to your raster image areas that are white; thus, your new raster_alpha.tif file is ready for upload to WorldMap.

Note: this method does not allow retaining legends for your map as there is no style SLD file attached to it. This makes sense for those types of images which don’t need data derived legends such as satellite imagery, and various types of scanned paper maps.

B.    If you have a single band grey scale raster with 8 bit pixels, your gdalinfo output with no color table should look like this:

Note:  ColorInterp = Grey and there is no color table

In this case you can simply import your raster image into the Atlas Styler and create the SLD style with transparency in the styles window. Follow the steps below:

  1. Open the AtlasStyler and import your raster
  2. Right click on your raster and go to “styles”
  3. Click on “add new” on the left hand side and chose either “Explicit color per value” or "Colors for Value Ranges" style option
  4. Select the color scheme and add all values/classes
  5. Change opacity of selected cell values to ‘0’ (e.g. in the image below white areas of the raster are defined to be 100% transparent)

You can also add labels for your legends here. After you finish defining the colors, opacity and labels, confirm your changes and save your file as an SLD style file. You can now upload your raster image and the SLD style file on the WorldMap.

Note: this method does allow retaining legends in the style SLD file attached to it; you are uploading raster image together with the style SLD file created with AtlasStyler to the WorldMap environment. However, once you upload it to the WorldMap, you cannot edit your styles and/or legends.  Not being able to edit raster legends is a bug.

C.    If you have a single band raster with a built in color map, your gdalinfo output window should look like this:
Note: ColorInterp = Palette and Color Table has RGB values defined

In this case, you can import your color map into the AtlasStyler and define opacity for the selected areas in your image by following the steps below:

  1. Open the AtlasStyler and import your raster
  2. Right click on your raster and go to “styles”
  3. In the styles window click on gdal button and copy paste the gdalinfo output including the color table with RGB values into this window, then click ok
  4. The color map classes will show up in the style window  where you can change the opacity for selected cell values to ‘0’ as well as define labels for your legends
  5. Confirm the changes and save your raster & SLD, then upload it to the WorldMap environment

Note: this method does allow retaining legends in the style SLD file attached to it; you are uploading the raster image together with the style SLD file created in the AtlasStyler to the WorldMap environment. However, once you upload it to the WorldMap, you cannot edit your styles and/or legends.  Not being able to edit raster styles is a bug.

D.    If you have a single band raster with 24 bit pixels, the steps described in sections 3a, 3b, 3c will not work. You will first need to convert your raster data into a 3 band 8 bit pixel image. You can do that using the open source gdal utility: your_original.tif your_new_3band.tif

Once you convert your raster image, you can follow the steps in section 3.a to add transparency to selected areas on your image. You can read more about gdal utilities at

Alternatively, you can use GIS software packages such as ArcGIS 10 to reformat your 3 band raster into a single band raster image. To convert your image into an 8 bit pixel single band raster in ArcGIS 10 simply copy or export your raster data with the following properties defined:

Important: make sure to check the “Use renderer” option for the pixel depth 8 bit to take place.

After you convert your image to single band 8 bit pixel raster file, first make sure that your new 8 bit raster is saved as GeoTIFF (use gdalinfo utility described in step2).  Then you can follow the steps described in section 3.b.

Note: if your image is saved as TIFF and NOT as GeoTIFF, you will first need to convert it to GeoTIFF in order to follow this tutorial. There are a number of commercial software packages available for this task, e.g. GlobalMapper or FME.

If you have problems with converting your raster file to GeoTIFF, please contact CGA at and one of our GIS professionals will be available to help you.

4.    Final step is to add your new raster file to the WorldMap and check it for transparency.

Summary notes:

  • It is important to understand the type of raster GeoTIFF image you have. Use gdalinfo utility described in step 2 and study the gdalinfo output results first.
  • If you have a 3 band raster image, you will need to create an alpha channel to add transparency to selected areas in your image (see section 3.a for details).
  • If you have a single band 8 bit pixel raster (with a grey scale), the easiest method is using Atlas Styler open source software package to add styles and transparency to your raster image (see section 3.b for grey scale details).
  • If you have a single band 8 bit pixel raster (with a built in color map), you can use Atlas Styler open source software package to import the color map styles and add transparency to selected areas in your raster image (see section 3.c for color map details).
  • If you have a single band 24 bit pixel raster, you will first need to convert your image to one of the formats mentioned above, and then add transparency (see section 3.d for details).

How to Use Multiple Styles
WorldMap supports the association of multiple styles with a single data layer. The user can choose the default style within the “Share Layer” page. After a layer is added to a map, the style can be changed from the default style to another one.  It is possible to load the same layer to a map several times and have it displayed each time with a different style.

Currently users can upload one style at a time along with a layer. There is no way yet for users to associate more than one style with a layer, however a WorldMap administrator can do that – contact us at worldmap@harvard,edu.

How do I add my own Shapefiles?

To upload a shapefile to WorldMap, click “Add Layer” and select “Upload Layer”. 

WARNING: Currently any uploaded layer which can be viewed by the public is also technically downloadable even though it may appear not to be.  There do exist custom layers in WorldMap which reside on a separate server and can be viewed but not downloaded, but the ability to make layers viewable but truly not downloadable is not yet enabled in the WorldMap interface.

Now choose the required parts of the shapefile starting with the “.shp” part and continuing with .dbf, .shx, and .prj parts.  You can optionally include an SLD for styling.  You can also optionally define the text encoding if you know what it is, though for this layer the default is appropriate, Latin 1.  For example, if you knew you had Japanese or Arabic characters in your file, you might choose UTF8 instead of Latin 1, or for Chinese you might choose GBK.  UTF8 is a sunset of the Unicode standard compatible with ASCII and can handle almost all symbols in all languages.

Items with an asterix (*) are required.

*Title:  Give your layer a title.

*Data:  Choose a Shapefile (.shp part) or zip compressed shapefile or GeoTIFF as your data to load.  If you use a zip compressed shapefile, be sure the zip file contains the .shp, dbf, shx, and prj parts of the shapefile. 

HINT: You will increase your chances of a successful upload by having your shapefile or GeoTIFF file be in the “plain vanilla” projection space, Geographic WGS 84, also known as EPSG:4326.  To know whether your shapefile is in this space, the contents of your .prj file will look like this in a text editor:


You may not have a .prj file for your GeoTIFF as it is not needed since the projection information for a GeoTIFF is stored in the header of the GeoTIFF.

If your .prj file does not look like this, the upload may still work fine.  If it doesn’t, the most likely culprit is the projection space.  The best way to fix that is to use an application like ArcGIS or QGIS and reproject your file to Geographic WGS 84.  This can be done for shapefiles or GeoTIFF files.  Check with us on how to do a reprojection if you need help.

SLD:  Optionally provide an SLD.  This is an XML document that you would have created using the ArcMap2SLD or QGIS tools (see Section 3.8 above).

*Abstract:  Provide a description of your data. More information is better.  At the very least when you add real data, please include a brief description of the data, who created it, for what purpose, and when.  Please also include source materials used to create the data layer.  This information is important both for you to remember what the data is about, and to allow someone else a chance to benefit from your work (assuming you want to make the data available for others to use at some point).

Permissions:  Default permissions are set such that the world can view it but only you can change it.  Add individual users to define who can edit (modify the style), or manage (delete layer, change permission settings). 

Overview of Layer permission settings

If you select a GeoTIFF file for the Data item above, the view will remain the same.  If you choose a shapefile, (the part of the shapefile with the “.shp” ending), the view will change to handle the additional parts of the shapefile as shown below as well as an optional encoding selection: 

*Data:  Choose the .shp portion of the shapefile
*DBF:  Choose the .dbf portion of the shapefile
*SHX:  Choose the .shx portion of the shapefile
*PRJ:  Choose the .prj portion of the shapefile
Encoding:  Choose an optional encoding.  The default is Latin1.

NOTE: A number of character encodings are supported including UTF8/Unicode, GBK, and Latin1/ISO-8859-1 to Latin15/ISO-8859-15, and in addition various Windows encodings.  Specific encodings can be set when a layer is being uploaded.  The default encoding is Latin1.

*Terms and Conditions:  You must read and agree to the Terms and Conditions.

Click “Upload” and once uploaded you will be presented with a metadata form (see below). Metadata
NOTE: Users uploading new layers are prompted to fill in both optional and required descriptive information about the layer.  Required items include: Title, Abstract, Keyword, thematic category (ISO 19115 format).  Eventually Author, Source, and Date will be included as options in the metadata editor.

Once the file has been uploaded, the only additional required items are Keyword and Category, though there are useful metadata fields here which we strongly encourage you to make use of.  Items with an asterix are required.

*Title  Provide a title for your dataset.  We recommend using the following naming convention:

<geography - continent, country, state, or city>_<what it is>_<date data represents>_<optional version>_<optional tmp if it is for testing purposes and can be removed after a week>


Date  This date is filled in automatically with the date of upload, but can be changed.

Date Type (creation/publication/revision) Choose type of date you want to describe. The default type is “creation”.

Edition  Use this field to describe the edition.

Abstract  Give an overview of the dataset. What does the data represent? Who created it and when? What sources were used?

Purpose  Describe briefly how the data can be used.

Maintenance Frequency  How often is the data updated?

*Keywords  Add keywords that will be useful handles others can use to find the dataset.  Separate keywords with a space.

Keywords Region (under construction) Select a major region of the world.  Other regions in addition to countries will be added.

Constraints Use  What are the rules governing the use of this data?  We encourage users to adopt an appropriate Creative Commons ( license to define the type of attribution they require. The license should specify whether the data can be used commercially and under what conditions modified versions can be redistributed.

For example if you would like to restrict use of your data to non-commercial uses and don’t mind others using as long as they provide proper attribution and don’t mind others modifying your work and redistributing modifications as long as this license is attached, we would suggest a non-commercial share alike license such as this one:  Or feel free to create your own license.  If you do, include the URL to the license here in the Constraints Use section.

List of common Creative Commons License schemes

Constraints Other  Include any additional constraints.

Spatial Representation Type
•    grid – raster dataset such as georeferenced satellite image or scanned georeferenced map in GeoTIFF format.
•    steroModel – currently not supported unless stored in a GeoTIFF or Shapefile format
•    textTable - currently not supported unless stored in a GeoTIFF or Shapefile format
•    tin - currently not supported unless stored in a GeoTIFF or Shapefile format
•    vector – point, line, or polygon dataset in ESRI Shapefile format.

Language  Please choose the language closest to the language used in the attribute table if the dataset is a Shapefile and for the language used on the map if the dataset is a GeoTIFF.

Temporal Extent Start Date  (Under construction) Use only a start date if a date range does not make sense for your data.  This date should describe the “temporal footprint” of the data.  What time period does it describe?  This is generally not the date the data was published.

Temporal Extent End  (Under construction) Use an end date if the data in your layer is best presented by a date range.

Geographic Bounding Box  This describes the theoretical box necessary to enclose the data geographically and is automatically calculated by the system.  It can also be modified here.  The projection system used to define the bounding box is also defined here.

Supplemental Information   Additional information about your data.

Distribution URL  This URL is calculated by the system.  This URL displays this data layer along with information about it and is a possible form of citation.

Distribution Description  (Under construction)

Data Quality Statement  Add any information you have describing data quality.

Point of Contact  Person who  should be contacted with questions about the data.

Metadata Author  Name of the person who created the metadata.

*Category  These are ISO 19115 categories and help make it possible for queries from other system to return meaningful results.

Attributes  For Shapefile datasets an attribute control table is automatically generated with the following columns.  These controls let the user control how attributes are displayed when using the Identify tool and clicking on a feature to return attributes in the right-hand panel:
•    Attribute   Lists the fields in the database. 
•    Display Title  Is used to control how the fields are displayed when a user clicks on the layer on the map and returns attribute information in the panel to the right. 
•    Display Order  This is the order in which the attribute information is listed when returned in the panel to the right after a click on a map.  NOTE:  The field which is displayed first is used in the summary table in the upper part of the panel to the right.  It is best to designate a field to be first which provides meaningful information at the record level.
•    Visible? This toggle determines whether a given field is displayed at all when one clicks on the map using the Identify tool.
•    Searchable?  This toggle determines whether the field will be searchable from the text search box to the lower left of the map. Troubleshooting Shapefile Uploading
If the layer does not upload there are several possible reasons why:
1)    The projection is not being read properly.  If the layer is not already in Geographic WGS 84 space, also known as EPSG 4326, project the shapefile to that space and try again.
2)    The SLD file is not correct.  Check and make sure that you have made the required changes to the file as defined above. 
3)    Check to see that the XML is valid: 
4)    Check to see that the SLD file was created for this shapefile and not another shapefile.  The fields described in the SLD should match the fields in the shapefile.

If all else fails, project your file to Geographic WGS 84 (we can help) and don’t include any SLD.

1.3.2 Upload GeoTIFF
Raster files are images and can be satellite imagery or scanned maps which have been georeferenced.  GeoTIFF files are rasters and have all the necessary information for display and georeferencing in one file.

Click “Add Layers” and “Upload Data”.  Now give it a title “elevation_BGL_7158”.  Choose the elevation.tif file to upload.   Provide abstract information and click “Upload”.  Fill in a keyword and category.  Notice that there are no fields for raster layers.  This means there will not be information returned when the layer is clicked on, unlike shapefiles which contain attributes.

Raster (GeoTIFF) images do not have the same type of styling options as vector (shapefile) layers do.

1.3.3 Permissions
Users can control whether others can see and/or modify the layers they load to their Map. Layer permissions are added using email addresses, as with a Google Doc.  Layer permissions can be set at the time of upload and can be modified as needed later.  Currently the only group authentication control is for Harvard and uses Pin authentication via an Isites page. 

WARNING: Currently any uploaded layer which can be viewed by the public is also technically downloadable even though it may appear not to be.  There do exist custom layers in WorldMap which reside on a separate server and can be viewed but not downloaded, but the ability to make layers viewable but truly not downloadable is not yet enabled in the WorldMap interface.

1.4    Uploading Images or Scanned Maps for Georeferencing (NEW)
To georeferenced your scanned maps online, go to Soon this feature will be available from within the “Add Layers” tool in WorldMap.
Create an account in WorldMap Georeferencer.  Eventually you will not need two accounts, but now you do.  Upload any scanned map you would like to georeference:  click “Upload Map” tab, then fill in metadata, then browse to the image file you want to upload, choose whether you want the map to be public or not, and click “Create”.
The map should now be displayed un georeferenced.  Click on “Rectify” to define corresponding points between your scanned map and the Open Street Maps global base map.  The link just below the map, called “Advanced Options” allows the user to choose the rectification method and the sampling method, should they choose to override the automatic settings.
Once the scanned map is georeferenced it can be exported in several ways including a way that can be easily brought into WorldMap. 
To do this, click on the “Export” tab. Right-click on “Tiles base URL” link and choose “Copy Link Location”.  Now go to your WorldMap map and go to “Add Layers”.  Then go to “External Data” tab.  Click “Add another server” then paste the URL you just copied from the Georeferencer.  Be sure it is set to “WMS”.  Click “Add Server”. 
You will now see a list which gives the name of your layer and the name of the server.  Click on the name of your layer and then click “Add Layers” at the bottom.  Now close the “Add Layers” window. 
At the bottom of your list of layers on the left in WorldMap you should see the layer you just georeferenced show up.  If your new layer is not visible, right click on the layer name of the new layer and select “Zoom to Layer Extent” to see your map.
Save your map so that when you come back to your map your new layer will remain visible in your map.

2.0 Getting information In and Out
2.1    Adding a Remote WMS Layer
WorldMap supports the addition of a layer to a map via a “web map service” or WMS.  Given a WMS URL to remote server X, WorldMap will then request a list of all the Layers on that remote server, and display the list in WorldMap to select from and add to the Map. 

Let’s look at how a remote WMS layer can be added. 

Copy the World Health Organization URL below:

Click “Add Layers and go to the “External Data” tab and click “Add WMS Server”. 

Paste the URL into the form and make sure there are no spaces at the end of the URL.  Click “Add Server”.

After a moment, WorldMap should display a list of Layers from the WHO server.

Click on Title list to sort.  Click on “Global Health Facilities” and at the bottom click “Add Layers”. Close the “Add Layers” window.
Save your map.

Now add another WMS server (this is a list of all layers on the original AfricaMap system):

Click on the Title list to sort.  Click on “Landscan” Layer and then “Add Layers”.
Save your map. 

Drag Landscan so that it is below “Ethnicity Felix” layer and displays underneath them.
Save your map again.

2.2    Bookmark and Embed Your Map in Another Web Page
In addition to being able to save changes to your map, it is also possible to save sub-views of your map using the “Link” button.  These views can take the form of a bookmark URL or the form of an embeddable code snippet.  The code snippet can be pasted into any web page to provide a live view of your map within a blog or any web page.

Create a view that you like and want to show to someone else.  Then click the “Link” button at the upper left.

Now you have a bookmark URL for the view as well as an embed tag that you can paste into a blog or an HTML page.

Open a blog or page if you have one.  If you don’t have one and would like to try this, go to and create a blog.

You can change the size of the embedded map by using the pulldown to change the height and width of the embedded map (measured in pixels), or by editing the height and width parameters in the code snippet manually.

2.3    Feeds
Find the little “More” box at the upper right. 

These items are feeds which are a form of map service similar to the WMS map services you loaded earlier through the “Add Layers” button..  These feeds need to be accompanied by a filter word which (currently) is stored in the form which appears when you click the “Save” button.

Click “Save” and type “Freetown” in the keywords section. 

Now turn on Picasa.  All of Picasa’s photos which are georeferenced and which have the keyword “Freetown” are displayed on the map. 

This also works for YouTube for videos and for maps stored in the Harvard Geospatial Library. 

For Picasa and YouTube, keep zooming in on an area of interest if you see some content there.  Generally more and more content will appear as you get closer to the ground.

NOTE: This approach means if you have image or video content you want to have show up on WorldMap, you can load it to Picasa or YouTube, provide locations using the Picasa or YouTube location tools or, if you have it, key in an accurate lat/long.  Then give your content one or more unique tags.  Now when you user these keywords as your filter you will only bring in content you have uploaded.

2.4    Jump Tool
WorldMap supports “Jumping” to remote web sites using the geographic extent displayed in the current map view to define the view for the site being jumped to.

Current Jump sites include Bing Maps (useful for its oblique aerial photography in many major cities), Yelp (useful for detailed information on businesses and ratings), and Social Explorer (current and historic census mapping). 

For example if one were looking at the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago in WorldMap and selected “Social Explorer” from the “Jump to” pulldown, a new tab will open displaying a Social Explorer interactive census map for the Englewood neighborhood.  Social Explorer now also works for China.

From Sierra Leone, try Bing Map.  Now let’s zoom to Chicago and see how this works for Social Explorer in the US. 

Maps may be downloaded in a number of file formats including: ESRI Shapefile, Google Earth KML, Adobe PDF, Microsoft Excel, CSV (comma delimited text), GML (geographic markup language), PNG (image), JPEG (image).  

To access downloads for a layer, right click on the layer name -> Layer Properties -> About -> Share Layer.  In the upper right hand corner of the page you will see download options.

2.6    View in Google Earth
Layers can be viewed in Google Earth.  Google Earth versions are in the downloads section. 

There are two ways to view a layer in Google earth.  Viewing it from the download page brings the layer into Google Earth assuming you have it installed on your computer.  If you don’t click here to download it

To access downloads for a layer, right click on the layer name -> Layer Properties -> About -> Share Layer.  In the upper right hand corner of the page you will see download options.

The other way to view a layer in Google Earth is available from the tool bar above the map.  Just click “Google Earth”.

2.7    Printing
Select the “Open Street Map” base layer and click on the “Print” button at the upper left.  Choose:
•    Portrait type
•    Resolution
•    Whether you want a legend
•    Pan your map in print view if necessary
•    Provide a title for your printout.

Click “Print” and generate a PDF which you can save, email, or print.

NOTE: Printing is supported at up to 300dpi and creates an Adobe PDF view of your map at 8.5” x 11” (216mm x 279mm) and 8.5” x 11” (216mm x 356mm) sizes.