4 Great reasons to switch to a vector basemap

August 14, 2020 Paul Heersink

Still using a raster basemap? The Community Map of Canada’s Paul Heersink shares 4 reasons why you should consider switching to a vector basemap today.

Vector basemaps have been around for a few years now and their popularity has steadily increased. If you are still using raster basemaps for your applications and webmaps, I’d encourage you to make the switch to vector. Why? Well, I can provide 4 great reasons to do so:

1. Vector basemaps are updated regularly and frequently 

Here in Canada our own Community Map of Canada vector basemap is updated twice per week with thousands of updates submitted by hundreds of authoritative contributors each day. This provides you with a reliable and up-to-date basemap for use across the ArcGIS platform.

2. Raster basemaps are moving to mature support 

In July 2019, Esri Inc. announced that all of its raster basemaps would be moving to mature support by 2021– that is, they will remain available but will no longer be updated. Check out this blog post for more details. In Canada, we stopped updating the raster basemaps in early 2019. This means that if you are still using a raster basemap (and many of you are), you’re using a basemap that’s probably already a year out-of-date.

3. Vector basemaps have more styles to choose from 

With raster basemaps, if you wanted a different map style you would have to generate a new cache for each style. With raster basemaps being processor intensive to produce (caching all of Canada would take weeks to do), there weren’t many map styles available to users. With vector basemaps you can have multiple styles based on the same cache. Because of that, there are so many more basemap styles to choose from. The Community Map of Canada has numerous different styles available. In fact, we’ve been producing a new map style each month. Check out the gallery to see what style suits you.

4. Vector basemaps are customizable 

Aside from the regular and frequent updates we make to the map, this is probably the best reason to move to a vector basemap. If you don’t like any of the styles we’ve provided, you can create your own! It’s easy to do with the vector tile style editor. Take an existing style and modify it to your needs. Any updates to the base data that occur will automatically be reflected in whatever unique style you create and use.

Still have questions about vector basemaps? The Community Map team can help! Contact us for more information on how to get the most out of a vector basemap.

This post was translated to French and can be viewed here

About the Author

Paul Heersink

Paul Heersink is a cartographer and Production Manager of Esri Canada’s Community Maps Program: an initiative that is aiming to build a seamless topographic basemap using contributor data. He has over 15 years of cartographic experience, working in both the public and private sectors. Paul has always been interested in mapping and drew his own atlas at the age of 10. He took a detour in his career through the fields of psychology and social work before returning to cartography.

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