Working Through Our Boundary Issues, with MapBusinessOnline

Some people, you know who they are, spend most of their lives learning about boundaries. It’s a challenge for many of us. But personal boundaries aside, I thought reviewing business mapping boundary line options in MapBusinessOnline might be a valuable discussion.

Who knows? Perhaps the very beginning of mankind’s need for map visualization took place due to violations of personal, if not territorial, boundaries. Picture several clans of cave-dwelling hunter-gatherers arguing over control of a blueberry barren. ‘Grog stepped all over my berries, which hurt my feelings!’

Eventually, the two groups had to establish clear boundaries and create a map that informed the various clan members where they could gather berries and where they could not. Maps beat open warfare every time – especially when fighting over berries.

Fast forward to MapBusinessOnline, which provides business mapping software with an assortment of boundary options. The possibilities for boundary representation in modern mapping are many. I will list the boundaries used in the business map below for your edification. Most of the boundaries presented below, standard fare in business mapping software, are associated with Map Layers – such as ZIP codes or counties.

A Business Map with Many Boundaries in MapBusinessOnline.

  • County Layer – There are 3,221 counties across the United States. A county is a government jurisdiction and may or may not have elected officials representing authority in the area. (Counties are checked off in the above map)
  • ZIP Code Layer – ZIP codes are delivery zones initially established to facilitate U.S. postal service delivery systems. Today there are 33,426 ZIP codes with boundaries (subject to change), which are used in mapping for many business and government purposes, including territory assignments, Census demographic categorization, delivery systems, and even Credit Card security checks. Read more about ZIP codes here.
  • State Layer – State boundaries provide map viewers with familiar lines of demarcation. The map viewer thinks, ‘Ah yes, that’s the boundary for Pennsylvania. I know where I am now.’
  • City Limits – Boundaries for city limits down to small towns define municipal areas. City limit areas are excellent units for business and market analysis.
  • Also Included in MapBusinessOnline – ZIP3 codes, Census tracts, Metropolitan Statistical Areas, and School Districts.
  • Sales Territory Boundaries – Sales territories are often created by MapBusinessOnline users. Map Layer and Boundary controls apply to these user-defined areas in the same fashion as States or ZIP codes.

The map included above presents interesting state boundaries.  I noticed the arc at the boundary between Pennsylvania and Delaware. I suspected a story behind it. So, I did what any half-decent map geek would do when confronted with a map oddity – I Googled it. Lo and behold, there’s a whole multi-century debate about this border. Read more about the issue here on Wikipedia.

The long and the short of the Penn/Delaware 12-mile arc is that boundaries matter. Whether you are creating boundaries for the 13 Colonies or outlining sales territories for a traveling salesforce, boundaries matter for a variety of reasons:

  • Boundaries serve as jurisdiction lines defining physical and legal limitations.
  • Boundaries define ownership and accountability.
  • As Robert Frost questions in The Mending Wall, ‘Walls (stonewalls) make good neighbors.’

In business mapping, boundaries abound. Here at MapBusinessOnline, we find boundaries of serious concern to many industries.

  • Franchise businesses rely on boundaries to identify franchise territory areas. Franchise boundaries define active territories – they define the business to be invested in.
  • Insurance company policies and financial regulations change from state to state. State boundaries are essential for resolving issues.
  • Manufacturing facilities also must comply with state-based rules covering the environment and labor issues.

Defined areas of operation are essential for businesses and governments. Jurisdiction boundaries not only define where business can occur but also regulate the area of operation, which helps accurately estimate required resources, system costs, and potential income and liabilities.

Boundary Options in MapBusinessOnline

Business mapping software provides map creators with an array of boundary visualization tools. Each map layer includes user controls over boundary look and feel, layer fill color, and transparency.

These map layer boundary controls are tucked neatly into Map & Data.

  1. Go to Map & Data.
  2. Hover over a subject map layer, such as ZIP codes, and click the Edit Map Layer Properties button.
  3. In the Editing Panel, under General, you can adjust the map layer outline’s thickness and color. You can also change the fill color and transparencies here or turn off the fill altogether, keeping in mind that no fill means the map user cannot select the object (ZIP, State, or County) for territory creation.
  4. exit out, and changes are saved.

Boundary controls work the same for territories, regions, and divisions.

Adjust Boundary options using MapBusinessOnline.

Boundaries Abound in MapBusinessOnline

MapBusinessOnline draw tools allow free-form, circle, polygon, or drive time object creation, including boundary editing features. So, one could develop a business map that showed:

  • A general area-of-interest polygon bounded by a thick red line to get the map viewer’s attention.
  • A group of state boundaries is highlighted.
  • All relevant ZIP codes, county, city limits, or Census Tract boundaries are highlighted.
  • Click the Map Layers button on the Master Toolbar to access more map layers.

All in all, this would be a lot of boundaries for a map viewer to consider. Remember to keep maps as uncomplicated as possible. I would suggest boundaries be included only for those map layers that impact the map’s objective.

Do Boundaries Change?

MapBusinessOnline includes eight formal Map Layers in our online business mapping software. These boundaries are layered into the application as web services from leading geographic data providers like Esri, Pitney Bowes, and others.

Many of the map layer boundaries are subject to change. ZIP codes are updated twice a year. ZIP code updates include changes to boundaries, which are rare but do occur. The Census Bureau updates for Census Tracts arise much less often but can be significant, so be aware of that.

States, in my experience, do not change. Boundaries for states are pretty locked in. However, a boundary update would be required if Puerto Rico became a state. The last time a state boundary was changed was in 1961, when the border shifted between Minnesota and North Dakota.

Here in Maine, we’ve seen our share of boundary disputes. In 1839 the ‘Aroostook War’ threatened to break out between Canada and the USA over Maine’s northern boundary. The dispute led to a negotiated settlement before it came to blows. But it is why Maine has such a large land area north of Bangor. Read more here.

So, keep these issues in mind as you work out your boundary issues. Consider bringing a laptop to marriage counseling sessions so you can consult MapBusinessOnline before you let your spouse walk all over your boundaries. Or sign up for a Team Subscription and work things out through role-play! Business mapping to the rescue!


Discover why over 25,000 business users log into for their business mapping software and advanced sales territory mapping solution. The best replacement for Microsoft MapPoint happens to be the most affordable.

To access MapBusinessOnline, please register and download the Map App from the website –

After installing the Map App, the MapBusinessOnline launch button will be in the Windows Start Menu or Mac Application folder. Find the MapBusinessOnline folder in the Start Menu scrollbar. Click the folder’s dropdown arrow and choose the MapBusinessOnline option.

The Map App includes the Map Viewer app for free non-subscriber map sharing.

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Contact: Geoffrey Ives at or Jason Henderson at

About Geoffrey Ives

Geoffrey Ives lives and works in southwestern Maine. He grew up in Rockport, MA and graduated from Colby College. Located in Maine since 1986, Geoff joined DeLorme Publishing in the late 1990's and has since logged twenty-five years in the geospatial software industry. In addition to business mapping, he enjoys playing classical & jazz piano, gardening, and taking walks in the Maine mountains with his Yorkshire Terrier named Skye.
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