Taking the pain out of spatial databases with CartoDb

Brian Norman
Brian Norman
10 Oct 2014
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Continuing our series on our favorite tools here at Earthware we come to the excellent CartoDb. CartoDb is a hosted spatial database service and so much more that we have used now on a number of our client's mapping projects.

###What does it do? CartoDb is a hosted service built on top of a number of excellent open source tools including PostGreSQL, PostGis, Mapnik, LeafletJS and many others. CartoDb makes it easy for you to upload, edit and visualize your own spatial (geographic) data allowing to do focus on making brilliant maps rather than setting up and maintaining your own software and servers.

###How to I add my data You can upload data in a number of common formats including csv, xsl, kml, gpx, geojson, shp and also import data from Google Drive, Dropbox and now even import data from twitter! Data from Google Drive and Dropbox can be kept in sync with CartoDb as well which opens up some great collaborative options.

###What can I do with my data? Once you have your data imported you can start my visualizing it either as a spreadsheet style view:

Or on a map with a variety of map styles:

From both of these views you can edit, add and delete more rows to your data and start to filter the data your want to display using the simple built in filter functionality.

###What about advanced filtering? The built in filtering functionality is fine if you want to simply filter rows by their category or some numeric value in your data but if you want to do some more complete filtering then you cant start to interact with the full querying features of the underlying PostGreSQL database. That's right pretty much any query you can write (using the sql query language) for PostGreSQL and PostGIS can be run right here online in CartoDb using the SQL tab:

This means you can start to use the more advanced spatial query functionality available in PostGIS like finding overlapping areas, finding data that is within a specific distance of a point and many other advanced searches that really start to make your data work for you.

###That's nice and all but what do I do with it now? Once you have your data loaded, have filtered and queried it to you liking you probably want to tell the world about it. This is where CartoDb really starts to shine. Using its built in wizards you can create a number of different mapping visualizations allowing you to create some really powerful maps with a few clicks. You can also quickly add your own custom map popups showing data from your rows like this population density map of European countries:

Once you have your visualisation complete you can then export to a link or an iframe to embed on your own site like our recent map on the UK's most desirable postcodes:

###How do I get started? If you want to try out CartDb for yourselves let us know and we can set you up with a demo account. We are now officially CartoDb partners so can help and advise you on getting the most out of this brilliant tool.

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