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I would like to take images of maps -- videogame screenshots or exports, for example -- and put notes on them. I'd rather not use just Photoshop-style text boxes (although I might have to resort to that) but would prefer something more like POIs in a map application: something you can collapse, hide, and maybe move around.

I would of course prefer something free, but let's not say that's an absolute requirement.

Must-have features

  • Importing an image to use as the base
  • Adding collapsible, text notes to the map that are saved between sessions. Something like POIs that pop-up text when you click on them, for example.

Nice-to-have features

  • A simple, intuitive interface
  • Choosing different icons for note pins
  • Moving notes around
  • Handling large images, up to several thousand pixels in each dimension
  • Non-collapsed labels that are separate from notes. Maybe they could be a togglable layer.
  • Free

What I have tried so far

Google Maps: From what I can tell, I would have to set up a web server or at least some local Javascript to use their API to display a local image, which might be doable. But it doesn't support adding notes, so it's really a non-starter.

Mapbox Studio: This might do what I want, but I can't figure out how to get it to import an image. It supposedly supports adding a .tif as a layer, but it just gives me an error when I try that (Error: Invalid gdal source. Cannot call method 'toWKT' of null). I suppose it's expecting a GeoTIFF file. It also requires connecting to a Mapbox account, even if all the work is being done locally, which feels like a bad practice.

QGIS: This also might be able to do what I want, but it's hard to tell, because it's so powerful and complex that the interface is unintuitive. The image scaling algorithm seems to err on the side of fast and ugly. It feels like using this for my purposes would be like taking a jackhammer to a nail.

roll20.net: Images have a pretty low max size, and the interface isn't built for this sort of thing. You might be able to make do with it, for small maps. I imagine that most GM tools are going to be like this.

AutoREALM: This comes pretty close, in that it's pretty easy to add an image, then create, edit, and move pop-up text notes. However, the program feels pretty janky (is that a technical term?) and exhibits graphical glitches when trying to scroll or zoom, especially when using large images. In fact, it seems to think the image should be drawn far away from its selection rectangle.

Draw.io: Comes close. You can import an image full size and drop textual objects all over it, but you can't hide or collapse text in any way that I can find.

Lucidchart: Seems to massively downscale images to a rather small size. Otherwise does have most of the requested features. CORRECTION EDIT: Actually, you can enable "Display High Quality Images" in the view menu, which permits images up to "4 times 1024x1024" according to their support forum, which appears to mean 2048x2048. Still not perfect, but pretty good. This might have to be my winner.

Gliffy: Probably just as capable as Lucidchart, with a 1mb image size limit.

LibreOffice Draw: Very confusing to use. Doesn't seem to understand what "original size" means on an image, not that it tells you anywhere what resolution it's using. You can't add any kind of hidden notes to objects. You can add comments, but what's displayed when they're collapsed is just a number. Not useful for this use case.

Other things: The other programs I've looked at don't support importing images; they just use existing map data from their servers. I haven't looked at a lot of roleplaying cartography tools because they're generally not free.

I'm editing in more things here as I think of them and try them out.

  • In draw.io you do have the option to work in layers, and then show/hide different layers. Could possibly be a lot of layers if you have loads of notes, but maybe they could be naturally grouped? Non-collapsible labels could use a default layer. Hmmm... but you wouldn't get much of a hint on where there are notes, though... – holroy Jul 15 '15 at 12:55
  • @holroy You're right, draw.io does have layers. So it can be made to work. You have to host large images externally and link to them from within it. I think Inkscape (of all things) functions about the same. Unfortunately, neither of them are really built for this use, so making "points of interest" is quite cumbersome at best. – Corrodias Jul 20 '15 at 15:59

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