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Tour Boston with the Map Viewer App

The Map Viewer app is an interactive tool for browsing map data. With it you can:

  • Assemble layers of vector and raster geodata and render them in 2-D

  • Import, reorder, symbolize, hide, and delete data layers

  • Identify coordinate locations

  • List data attributes

  • Display selected data attributes as data tips (signposts that identify attribute values, such as place names or route numbers)

The following example illustrates these capabilities.

Open the Map Viewer App

  1. Open the Map Viewer app. On the Apps tab, in the Image Processing and Computer Vision section, click Map Viewer . You can also start the Map Viewer using the mapview command. The Map Viewer opens with a blank canvas. (No data is present.)

    Note that The Map Viewer is designed primarily for working with data sets that refer to a projected map coordinate system (as opposed to a geographic, latitude-longitude system), so the coordinate axes are named X and Y.

  2. Import map data. In the Map Viewer, select the File menu and then choose Import From File. Navigate to the matlabroot/examples/map/data folder, where matlabroot represents your MATLAB® installation folder, and open the GeoTIFF file boston.tif.

    The file opens in the Map Viewer. The image is a visible red, green, and blue composite from a georeferenced IKONOS-2 panchromatic/multispectral product created by GeoEye™. Copyright © GeoEye, all rights reserved. For further information about the image, refer to the text files boston.txt and boston_metadata.txt. To open boston.txt, type the following at the command line:

    open 'boston.txt'
  3. Set the map scale in the Map Viewer. To do this, you must first set the map distance units. Click the Map units menu at the bottom center and select US Survey Feet.

  4. Set the map scale. Type 1:25000 in the Scale box, which is above the Map units menu, and press Enter. The Map Viewer now looks like this.

  5. Get the map coordinates for a location on the map, interactively. Place the cursor over a location on the map. The example puts the cursor over the bridge that goes over the pond in Boston Garden. The map coordinates for this location are shown at the lower left as 772,423.18 feet easting (X), 2,954,372.40 feet northing (Y), in Massachusetts State Plane coordinates.

  6. Import a vector data layer. For this example, import a line shapefile that contains data about the streets and highways in the central Boston area.

    boston_roads = shaperead('boston_roads.shp');

    The shaperead function returns the data as a geographic data structure.

  7. Convert the X and Y coordinate fields of boston_roads.shp from meters to U.S. survey feet. As is frequently the case when overlaying geodata, the coordinate system used by boston_roads.shp (in units of meters) does not completely agree with the one for the satellite image, boston.tif (in units of feet). If you were to ignore this, the two data sets would be out of registration by a large distance.

    surveyFeetPerMeter = unitsratio('survey feet','meter');
    for k = 1:numel(boston_roads)
        boston_roads(k).X = surveyFeetPerMeter * boston_roads(k).X;
        boston_roads(k).Y = surveyFeetPerMeter * boston_roads(k).Y;
    The unitsratio function computes conversion factors between a variety of units of length.

  8. In the Map Viewer File menu, select Import From Workspace > Vector Data > Geographic Data Structure.

    In the Import Vector Data dialog box, select the variable boston_roads as the data to import from the workspace, and click OK.

    You could clear the workspace now if you wanted, because all the data that the Map Viewer needs is now loaded into it.

  9. After the Map Viewer finishes importing the roads layer, it selects a random color and renders all the shapes with that color as solid lines. The view looks like this.

    Being random, the color you see for the road layer may differ.

  10. Explore the attributes of the vector layer. First, make the vector layer the active layer using the Active layer menu at the bottom right. Select boston_roads. You can designate any layer to be the active layer; it does not need to be the topmost layer. By default, the first layer imported is active. Changing the active layer has no visual effect on the map. Doing so allows you to query attributes of the layer you select. For example, once you make the vector layer the active layer, the Info tool button near the right end of the toolbar becomes enabled. Select the Info tool, the cursor changes to a cross-hairs shape. Click any location on the map to view attributes of the selected object.

    The selected road is Massachusetts Avenue (Route 2A). As the above figure shows, the boston_roads vectors have six attributes, including an implicit INDEX attribute added by the Map Viewer. Use this tool to explore other roads. Dismiss open Info windows by clicking their close boxes.

  11. Use a data tip to annotate the map with other attribute values. From the Layers menu, select boston_roads > Set Label Attribute.

    From the list in the Attribute Names dialog, select CLASS and click OK.

  12. From the Tools menu, select the Datatip tool. A dialog box appears to remind you how to change attributes. Click OK to dismiss the box.

    The cursor assumes a cross-hairs (+) shape. Click on a road segment in the map and the data tip tool puts a small marker on the road that contains a numeric identifier that indicates the administrative class. The class of the road crossing the Charles river we explored earlier is of class 3.

  13. You can change how the roads are rendered by identifying an attribute to which to key line symbology. Color roads according to their CLASS attribute, which takes on the values 1:6. Do this by creating a symbolspec in the workspace. A symbolspec is a cell array that associates attribute names and values to graphic properties for a specified geometric class ('Point', 'MultiPoint', 'Line', 'Polygon', or 'Patch'). To create a symbolspec for line objects (in this case roads) that have a CLASS attribute, type:

    roadcolors = makesymbolspec('Line', ...
    {'CLASS',1,'Color',[1 1 1]}, {'CLASS',2,'Color',[1 1 0]}, ...
    {'CLASS',3,'Color',[0 1 0]}, {'CLASS',4,'Color',[0 1 1]}, ...
    {'CLASS',5,'Color',[1 0 1]}, {'CLASS',6,'Color',[0 0 1]})

    The following output appears:

    roadcolors = 
        ShapeType: 'Line'
            Color: {6x3 cell}
  14. The Map Viewer recognizes and imports symbolspecs from the workspace. To apply the one you just created, from the Layers menu, select boston_roads > Set Symbol Spec. From the Layer Symbols dialog, select the roadcolors symbolspec you just created and click OK.

    After the Map Viewer has read and applied the symbolspec, the map looks like this.

  15. Remove the data tips before going on. To dismiss data tips, right-click one of them and select Delete all data tips from the menu that appears.

  16. Add another layer, a set of points that identifies 13 Boston landmarks. As you did with the boston_roads layer, import it from a shapefile:

    boston_placenames = shaperead('boston_placenames.shp');
  17. Convert the coordinates of these landmarks to units of survey feet before importing them into Map Viewer. The locations for these landmarks are given in meters.

    surveyFeetPerMeter = unitsratio('survey feet','meter');
    for k = 1:numel(boston_placenames)
        boston_placenames(k).X = ...
            surveyFeetPerMeter * boston_placenames(k).X;
        boston_placenames(k).Y = ...
            surveyFeetPerMeter * boston_placenames(k).Y;
  18. From the File menu, select Import From Workspace > Vector Data > Geographic Data Structure. Choose boston_placenames as the data to import from the workspace and click OK.

  19. The boston_placenames markers are symbolized as small x markers, but these markers do not show up over the orthophoto. To solve this problem, create a symbolspec for the markers to represent them as red filled circles. At the MATLAB command line, type:

    places = makesymbolspec('Point',{'Default','Marker','o', ...

    The Default keyword causes the specified symbol to be applied to all point objects in a given layer unless specifically overridden by an attribute-coded symbol in the same or a different symbolspec.

  20. To activate this symbolspec, pull down the Layers menu, select boston_placenames, slide right, and select Set Symbol Spec. In the Layer Symbols dialog that appears, highlight places and click OK. The Map Viewer reads the workspace variable places; the cross marks turn into red circles. Note that a layer need not be active in order for you to apply a symbolspec to it.

  21. To see the name of a Boston place name, make boston_placenames the currently active layer (using the Active layer menu, and then select Datatip from the Tools menu. The cursor changes to a cross-hair shape. Click any red circle and the tool places a data tip annotation on the map with the name of the location.

  22. Zoom in on Beacon Hill for a closer view of the Massachusetts State House and Boston Common. Select the Zoom in tool; move the (magnifier) cursor until the X readout is approximately 774,011 and the Y readout is roughly 2,955,615; and click once to enlarge the view. The scale changes to about 1:12,500 and the map appears as below.

  23. From the Tools menu, choose Select Annotations to change from the Datatip tool back to the original cursor. Right-click any of the data tips and select Delete all datatips from the pop-up context menu. This clears the place names you added to the map.

  24. Select an area of interest to save as an image file. Click the Select area tool, and then hold the mouse button down as you draw a selection rectangle. If you do not like the selection, repeat the operation until you are satisfied. If you know what ground coordinates you want, you can use the coordinate readouts to make a precise selection. The selected area appears as a red rectangle.


    The Select area tool is not supported in MATLAB Online™. To view a particular region on the map, use the Zoom in, Zoom out, and Pan tools instead.

  25. In order to be able to save a file in the next step, change your working folder to a writable folder.

  26. Save your selection as an image file. From the File menu, select Save As Raster Map > Selected Area to open an Export to File dialog.

    In the Export to File dialog, navigate to a folder where you want to save the map image, and save the selected area's image as a .tif file, calling it central_boston.tif. (PNG and JPG formats are also available.) A world file, central_boston.tfw, is created along with the TIF.

    Whenever you save a raster map in this manner, two files are created:

    • An image file (file.tif, file.png, or file.jpg)

    • An accompanying world file that georeferences the image (file.tfw, file.pgw, or file.jgw)

    The following steps show you how to read world files and display a georeferenced image outside of mapview.

  27. Read in the saved image and its colormap with the MATLAB function imread, create a reference object for it by reading in central_boston.tfw with worldfileread, and display the map with mapshow:

    [X,cmap] = imread('central_boston.tif');
    R = worldfileread('central_boston.tfw','planar',size(X));

    See the documentation for mapshow for another example of displaying a georeferenced image.

  28. Experiment with other tools and menu items. For example, you can annotate the map with lines, arrows, and text; fit the map to the window; draw a bounding box for any layer; and print the current view. You can also spawn a new Map Viewer using New View from the File menu. A new view can duplicate the current view, cover the active layer's extent, cover all layer extents, or include only the selected area, if any.

    When you are through with a viewing session, close the Map Viewer using the window's close box or select Close from the File menu. For more information about the Map Viewer, see the mapview reference page.