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What software does one use to create a map that describes conditions over an arbitrary area ? The example I am thinking of would be a map of the US where states that voted one way or another would be red or blue. Obviously I can get a map of the US and use a graphics program to manually paint in the states, but I am figuring there should be some sort of software to do that in a somewhat automated fashion. Apart from a for-pay web app, I haven't been able to find anything. I am very new to the field so I'm not familiar with the available tools.

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You might be better off asking on . – onestop Jan 23 '11 at 10:38
2… – whuber Jan 23 '11 at 17:37
Thank you for the answers. I need to go out ans look at these various options. – chrisfs Jan 24 '11 at 3:17
up vote 13 down vote accepted

In addition to the package that @robin pointed too, you should look at the Spatial Task View on CRAN. What you are describing is known as a choropleth map, as illustrated here: Choropleth Maps of Presidential Voting, or U.S. Unemployment Data: Animated Choropleth Maps.

In R, they can be handled using

Other softwares that allow to deal with geographical maps include Mondrian, Quantum GIS (and I guess many other GIS programs), but data format may vary from one software to the other.

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+1 I also recommend Quantum GIS from the freely available, opensource softwares. – daroczig Jan 23 '11 at 10:20

You should try R software with package spdep. see the vignette here

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I've not tried CrackMaps but it looks very interesting. Only available for the Mac, I presume.

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(+1) Nice catch! It is limited to the US, isn't it? – chl Jan 23 '11 at 16:10

Self promotion: JMP (commercial desktop software) does choropleths of US states, US counties, world countries and regions of select other countries.

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