Free Background Mapping Services and InstantAtlas

This post is all about free background mapping services that you can use with InstantAtlas, including some important information about current services that may soon be disconnected.

The good news first then! Many of our customers use ESRI’s ArcGIS Server Online background mapping services to enhance their reports. For example, the Arizona Cancer Registry uses the World Street Map in Web Mercator Auxiliary Sphere (102100).

Those who have longed for an understated, elegant and neutral background against our colourful base geography imagery will be delighted to know that the new Light Gray Canvas Map service was recently announced by ESRI!

You can see a demo of the effect here, and anyone with map files projected to 102100 can use this service with InstantAtlas for free.*

Say you really like the Light Gray Canvas background map below, but you don’t have map data in 102100. If you have access to a geographic information system (GIS), you can ask to have your current map files re-projected to 102100.

Unfortunately, ESRI is unlikely to release the service in any other projection. The reason for this is actually pretty sound: 102100 matches Bing Maps and Google Maps, so it makes sense moving forward that they all match up nicely.

We are working hard on the next release of our software, which will contain the ability to project your base geography from a number of common projections into 102100. This will allow you to use the Light Gray Canvas background map without needing to reproject your map data manually before adding them to the InstantAtlas Publisher.

Now to the disconnection of ESRI’s free online mapping services: the Support Team is aware that ESRI’s 4326 services (also known as the unprojected or lat/long) are no longer updated, and will be retired soon.

The background mapping services commonly used in InstantAtlas that will be retired in the first quarter of 2012 are:




Two other services will also be retired at some point in the near future, but the dates are currently unknown. These are:



What does this mean for the InstantAtlas user community? Well, first of all, don’t panic. You can wait until the background services disconnect before doing anything. However, when the services are no longer available, you will have to republish your reports to see background maps in your reports again.

Before you get started republishing all those reports there are some key tips and tricks to upgrading that you will really want to know about. These will be covered in my next blog post. So stay tuned!

7 thoughts on “Free Background Mapping Services and InstantAtlas

  1. Hi Dorothy, how is the support of Google maps working out at the moment? I’m about to start building our website using IA Desktop for this years annual report dataset and previously used Google maps as backdrop mapping. Since the last time I did this we have had a couple of updates and I wondered if you were still supporting the G empire.

    • Hi Richard! Yes, you can still use Google Maps with our reports. We don’t plan to drop the ability to add Google Maps to our reports as it is a very popular background map option!

    • Hi Adam! You can get the information you need in the Help files of the Publisher or in the Desktop User Guide. If after reading the documentation and giving it a shot you still have questions, feel free to send the query directly to with details of what you’re trying to do (screenshots always help!) plus the map files you’re using.

  2. Pingback: News – Google Maps Flash API « Data presentation, visualization & analysis software for Data Professionals

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s