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Help Articles in the Maps Topic



Frequently Asked Questions

Is there a complete list of all the data available to map in Community Commons?

Yes! Check out our complete mapping data list here.

You can also view our data updates here.

And view our complete list of report data here.

Are we missing something? Let us know.

How can I find out where a dataset comes from or how recent it is?

Clicking the Info buttons when browsing data layers will open up a window with the source and date for the data you are viewing. See something out of date? Let us know.

When browsing for data layers, what do the colored stars indicate?

The colored stars provide at-a-glance information about the source of the data layer so you can make the best decision about which data best fit your needs. There are three different data assurance levels:


Can I download the GIS data for use in desktop GIS?

At this time, no. We’re exploring ways to provide access to the geographic data. We’ll be sure to share any updates through our newsletter. Have you signed up?

What type of citation should I use when using Community Commons maps or reports outside the Commons?

While the website was established in 2012, we only ask you cite the date you pulled information from the Commons. If using our maps or reports, do not remove any logos that may be on them and please cite as follows:

“Courtesy: Community Commons, <>, date_retrieved”

APA format would look more like this:

<map or report title>. Community Commons (2012). Date Retrieved, Website URL


Map of Local Food Deserts, Location, USA. Community Commons (2012). Retrieved March 18, 2015, from

Additionally, you will find the metadata and citation information for the data sources themselves within the info area of the maps and in the footnotes of the report pages. This will be important for citing where the data came from. Keep in mind that the majority of the data in Community Commons maps and reports has been repackaged or re-analyzed based on our small area estimate methodology, so there is no need to cite the original source.


How can I use maps from the Commons in my presentations?

We make it easy to grab the map and legend images to drop into a presentation or document. Create a map and go to Export to save the map.

Then, select Map Image Only from the menu.mapimageonly

Notice you can also elect to save just the legend. These options provide you with two portable image files for maximum flexibility.


How can I learn more about specific areas on the map?

Click on any feature on the map to bring up an information box further describing the active layer. You can choose which layer is active by clicking on the layer name on the right side of the screen. You will see a red outline around the layer indicating it is active.


How can I label the items on the map?

Within the legend on the right side of the map you will see the button to label above the layer name.label


I have loaded several layers onto my map. How can I toggle between them to see just a few at one time?

Go to the legend on the right side of the page.


You can uncheck layers you’d like to turn off. If you want to re-order data layers simply left-click on the item in the list of map layers and hold down as you drag the item to the preferred order location. If you want to label an item click the “Label” box to see data values or names on the map.

How do I view data at a different geography? For example, switch from county-level data to tract-level?

In many cases we offer data at a number of different geographies. If that is the case you will see a menu in the legend area where you can toggle between the different options.


Can I save an image file of my map?

Yes. In full map view, click the “Print” button on the top right. Enter a title for your map and choose the file layout, format, and resolution. Click “Export Map” and your map image will appear in a pop-up window. Click the “Download” button on the bottom right to save your map to your desktop. Your map will be saved for use in future presentations.

Can I share a map I’ve made outside of the Commons?

You can easily share your map by altering the privacy settings when saving. Selecting “Public” allows anyone to view your map through the map gallery. Saving to a Hub allows you to share you map with members of specific Hubs. You can also email a link to your map or embed it in a website by selecting the “Share” option on the upper right hand side of your map.



How can I print a map?

In map view, click the “Export” button on the top right.


Enter a title for your map and choose the file layout, format, and resolution.


exportmapinterfaceClick “Export Map” and your map image will appear in a pop-up window. Click the “Download” button on the bottom right to save your map to your desktop. From there you can print your map.If you are using a pop-up blocker, turn it off or set it to allow pop-ups from this website.

The maps are loading slowly. What should I do?

The maps are interactive.  Each time you create or load a map, the most updated data is being loaded into the map. Try setting your map extent to a smaller geographic area. You can always zoom in and out or even hop to a specific address using the navigation tools within the map. Also, add just a few datasets to begin. Once your map opens, you can click the “Add Data” button to add additional layers.

If those changes don’t help and you think we are experiencing technical difficulties, let us know.


How do I add a Map or Report to my Hub?

You have several options for adding maps and reports to your Hub. When you save your map or report, you can choose to save to a specific Hub or several Hubs. If you did not save your map to your Hub at first, you can change the privacy settings by editing your maps or reports from your profile or from the map gallery. If you have not created a map or report yet, you can select the “Create a New Map” or “Create a New Report” options under your Hub’s Maps & Reports tab.

Check out a video about adding a map or a report to your group here:

How is Childhood Obesity GIS different than desktop GIS?

Childhood Obesity GIS, or COGIS is not designed to replace desktop GIS. COGIS allows those without access to desktop GIS to overlay data and use GIS analytic tools on the web. COGIS enables users to generate maps without downloading any software.

Grantees with desktop GIS will see a great benefit to COGIS. Many of the datasets that RWJF grantees have an interest in have already been added to COGIS as GIS data files. The data integration work can be distributed across a collaborative, rather than requiring the time of a GIS Professional.

The COGIS interface is user friendly and comes with many tutorial, videos, and tip sheets. The COGIS grantee portfolios are designed to allow multiple users from a community to collaborate with each other and with other communities around the country. The data integration features enable users to easily incorporate local data into maps using national data. Finally, the reports feature is an easy to use tool able to create presentation quality reports that can be edited and customized with additional text, pictures, and maps.

Still stuck? Contact us here