Pros: Easy to use, powerful geocoding engine, mixes well with other google spreadsheets, includes lots of other visualizations beyond mapping
Cons: Limited to Google basemap, more difficult to make beautiful maps. Does not work with Haverapps. You will need to use a different Google account.
Pros: Tied to very rich data visualization features, connections to time are fairly easy
Cons: Requires software download, small learning curve, free version means everything is public. PC only
Pros: Default maps are beautiful, very powerful
Cons: Free maps must be public, more limited free storage, mostly relies on a basic knowledge of sql and css
Pros: Easy to symbolize using the data, can view data and map side-by-side, nice user controls for sharing
Cons: You don't have control over labels, nor over the contents of the info windows, interface takes some getting used to
Pros: Familiar interface if you're used to ESRI products, links to lots of public data
Cons: Clunky in some of the same ways as other ESRI products
Photoshop (or other Image Editing tools) -- In Photoshop, you're map will not be tied to the earth, and you will not be able to take advantage of geography for any of the analysis or visualization that the other tools afford. However, if you want to design a single map for a print publication, and you are beginning from a scanned map, this is often (usually) a great option. Here's a tutorial done by one of the Haverford Digital Scholarship students.
Omeka with Neatline -- For more serious narrative projects, Omeka with Neatline is a platform for creating spatial narratives. It has more overhead to set up and use than the other tools above, but is designed for historic and other narrative ways of looking at geography and other sources.
Making an attractive map starts with the data. Before starting, think about what type of map you want to make and what types of data you will need. for example, to make a heat map requires numerical data for intensity and geographic data for location. Now look at the data you have and think about how to fulfill these requirements. Maybe you're data already is
A note on geographic data:
Geographic data can come in many forms: longitude and latitude pairs, city names, state names, country names, and more. Some of these mapping tools can be picky when it comes to which the form of geographic data. For example, Tableau Public sometimes has trouble locating small towns by name. It may be easiest to simplify your data via geocoding, which will give you geographical coordinates.
Here's one option for geocoding your data. If necessary, try poking around to find one that better fits your purpose.
.csv is a file type, standing for Comma Separated Values. It is an easy way of a saving a table or spreadsheet. Each value is separated by a symbol, most often a comma or semi-colon. Here is an example of a few lines of csv data:
State, Year, Number
WA, 1999, 50
PA, 1999, 73
NY, 2000, 96