Putting your story on the map

Anyone who has ever been to a college lecture hall knows the pain of sitting through a boring, black and white Powerpoint talk. It is almost as though the professor intentionally made his slides bland and his voice monotonous in an effort to lull students into a drowsiness from which no learning could possibly take place. To the rescue comes ESRI Story Maps, an interactive way to tell a story. The free online platform contains six different story map layouts, including the spyglass format, which allows authors to zoom in on particular regions and the swipe format, which allows readers to swipe back and forth over a scene, changing the background information. Unlike ESRI’s more famous GIS software, which often requires purchasers to participate in multi-week training sessions, Story Maker is easy to use and completely free.


The online portal can be accessed at http://storymaps.arcgis.com/en/app-list/.


To begin, choose a Story Map App. Options include Map Tour, Map Journal, Map Series, Swipe, Spyglass, and Basic. The Map Tour is perfect for guiding audiences through a sequence of places with photos, such as highlighting specific points where volcanoes have erupted in the past twenty years. The Map Journal acts almost like a Powerpoint, with floating panels perfect for an in-depth description. The Map Series is similar to the Map Tour, but allows for more descriptive text, rather than simply a photo gallery. The Swipe allows readers to swipe back and forth to see a before and after, such as regions of rainforest lost to deforestation. The Spyglass feature allows readers to zoom in on particular regions of interest, such as Eastern Europe, and see overlying before and after maps. Finally, the Basic map allows for only one map, with simple text options that is perfect for an infographic or easy to understand maps. All formats use the same basic editing procedures.

initial choosing

Follow these links for some amazing examples of each style:

Map Tour:



Map Journal:



Map Series:









Basic: http://story.maps.arcgis.com/apps/StoryMapBasic/index.html?appid=0481a28bf0614473ba5770dc0a84d2ca



After choosing your format style, the Story Maker will prompt you to name your creation. Then it is time to add photos and content to make your presentation shine! From here on out, the descriptions are for the Map Journal, but the editing procedure is nearly the same for all Story Map types.


The editor page has two major sides, the Main Stage (or background) and Side Panel (or text box). There are two varieties of Side Panels you can choose from: Floating Panel or Side Panel. The Floating Panel is a semi-transparent black text box that resides in the right side of the screen. Photos added to the Main Stage in this setting may be partially hidden by the text Panel. The Side Panel is a white text box on the far left of the screen. It does not cover any images added to the background.


Step 1 is to add Main Stage Content. This can be a map, images, video, or a webpage. The maps come from ArcGIS database and are extremely high quality. Images can be imported from Flickr, Facebook, Picasa, or a website (URL). Make sure if you add photos from a website that they are available for reprint (Creative Commons) and that the web address ends in .jpg or .png. Video can be imported from YouTube or Vimeo. Finally, you can copy and paste over a webpage URL and the webpage will appear as your background.


main stage content



The images you choose can be modified to fit your background in several ways: fill (takes up the entire background), fit (stretches the image), center (will leave a lot of white around the image), or custom (dictate how many pixels you want the image to take up).


Finally, you can add text to the Side Panel or Floating Panel. The camera button allows you to add multimedia such as images, infographics, or even movie clips.

side panel

That’s all there is to it! You can add additional pages with the Add Section button at the bottom of the Side Panel and rearrange them with the Organize button.

If you need additional help, ArcGIS has a Support tab with FAQ’s, a User Forum, and Help and Support with Experts tab. They also offer training videos that you can watch before making your own Story Map.





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