TileMill for Windows

There has been a lot of buzz around TileMill lately.  With the new Windows versions recently released I’d figured I would give it a try.  I’ve seen demonstrations of the open source application before at WhereCamp Boston and I was excited to use the Windows version as I had never used the other OS versions before.

Before I started mapping I grabbed some point data from GeoNames, downloading the cities under 5000 table.  The table contains about 45,700 records representing cities around the world.  As you can see from a screenshot of the data loaded into Quantum the data are in Lat/Long already, making the data readily usable for web mapping.

After loading the GeoNames csv file into TileMill I followed the crash course and built this simple map:

As you can see I didn’t do much in terms of styling the map, but for testing purposes I played around with adding additional styles and worked with the built in features.  Once I was happy with my test map I exported a web-friendly png file to disk that came out like this:

What I liked:

  • I really, really, like Carto.  One of my biggest frustrations with traditional GIS software are the difficulties associated with quickly styling a map, or experimenting with the design on the fly.  I love how a user, with some experience, can quickly and effectively style a map.
  • The user interface, especially the projects window is well designed. I really appreciate the clean, fast, and intuitive feel of the program.  Sometimes simple is better.
  • There is an easily accessible manual from the main application.  I went back to it a couple times during my experimentation to use it.
  • Tutorial was easy to follow, even using my own data.
  • The tool was able to handle the 45k+ points easily.  I’d like to next try a complex polygon object.
  • The export tool allowed the user to set the pixel size, extent, and image format quickly and easily.

What I didn’t like:

  • The program crashed on me a couple times, probably due to me rushing and not reading instructions correctly.
  • Start-up on my machine (Windows 7, 64 bit, plenty of processing) was close to 30 seconds.
  • If you are unfamiliar with CSS, Carto might seem a little awkward at first, but with some practice it is pretty easy to understand.
  • The install package on their website would run on my machine but when I would start the program a cmd window would open and then close.  After reading through their forums I found that others had the same problem.  The folks at TileMill provided another install package that worked on my Windows 7 machine.

One final thing, a great addition would be to add an intellisense like feature to TileMill for Carto.

Overall, I thought it was a great tool, and I will use it again.  If you have some free time, or are looking for a new way to map you data, check it out.