Digital Maps

Posted on 2004-11-19
Last Modified: 2008-03-17
Hi everybody,

   What are digital maps, are they digitized images or maps that are formed from layers like the ones that could be loaded into ArcView or MapInfo? I am aware that images could be loaded into these GIS softwares, but I need to know what people mean when they refer to digital maps.
I am also looking for Saudi Arabia maps, we have to install a vehicle tracking system for a company there but we're lacking the maps. I would appreciate if someone could point to map seller that has Saudi Arabia maps, and by the way I prefer to have the map made up of layers and not a digitized image.

   Thank you,

Question by:Mazen
    LVL 11

    Assisted Solution

    Just to clarify, there are two basic types of digital maps:

    Raster and Vector

    Raster:  Basically any image format falls into this category, anything with pixels.  A very simple and easy display format for GIS software.  Some examples are JPGs Tiffs MrSid etc.

    Vector:  Composed of lines, shapes, points or any combination of the three.  Its hard to explain in a simple sense, but think of vectors as stored coordinates that are used to redraw the graphics you see on screen every time you open them, zoom in or out.  Becasue they are not really graphics themselves but rather a mathematical definition on how to display graphics, they have no scale, or maximum or minimum display scale.  That is why you do not see pixelation when you zoom in real close like you would in a raster file.  Some examples of vector files are Shapefiles, AutoCAD dwg, Microstation dgn etc.

    Ill try to find some sources for maps for Saudi Arabia, or perhaps some other expert will step in with a link.


    Accepted Solution

    Hi Mazen,

    When someone speaks about digital maps, they mean a map that is in a digital (not paper) format. Most often people think of digital maps as in a computer and displayed by a computer. What that simply means is that we can manipulate maps through cartographic methods and spatial analysis using ArcView or MapInfo. You digitize analog maps (paper maps), thus creating a digital image.

    As BillPowell above suggested, there are two primary data formats that are in GIS, raster formats and vector formats. Raster format simple refers to a map made up of a grid of cells. By zooming into the map you see it is made of of many pixels or grid cells.  Vector format refers to points, lines, and polygons. By zooming into the map, you will see a point or a line or a polygon representing features on the earth (such as a polygon representing a lake, or a line representing a road, or a point representing a city).

    As far a Saudi Arabia layers, you can down load them inexpensively in the standard .E00 format (A compressed format developed by ESRI for ArcView - use the Import71 option in your Start>Programs>ArcView3.2 dropdown in Windows to import the .E00 files) from

    You will find numerous data layer for Saudi Arabia there.

    Best Regards, agtumulder17
    LVL 1

    Author Comment


       Thank you both for the explanation you provided, they were very helpfull.


        The maps you gave me are good, thank you. But I am looking for maps that have labels and that are accurate enough. I am willing to pay for the maps, but I can't find a seller that can sell Saudi Arabia maps. Names of the streets and landmarks on the map are very important to me.


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