Frequently asked questions about the SWISS WORLD ATLAS and the SWISS WORLD ATLAS interactive

Does the interactive version replace the printed atlas?

No. The printed atlas will also be updated in the future and remains in its form. The interactive version offers an optimal complement to the static printed maps.

How can the SWISS WORLD ATLAS interactive be utilized in school lessons?

Teachers can use the interactive atlas for the preparation of their lessons, for example by printing customized map sections or copying those maps to their own worksheets and complement them with more information (e.g. texts, pictures). In addition there is a possibility to save selected atlas maps to a single file folder (e.g. thematic or spatial selection) and therefore lessons could be prepared efficiently. During the lessons the interactive maps can be projected onto a wall (replacement for wall maps). Pupils can use the interactive atlas for concrete orders from the teacher or for their own research – either on a school computer or at home for completing homework.

How to start the interactive atlas?

The atlas can be started from the website www.swissworldatlas.ch in any web browser. With a mouse click on the start button the atlas will open as a standalone Java application.

Why should the start of the atlas always be done via the atlas website?

The atlas should be started via the start button on the homepage www.swissworldatlas.ch to ensure the usage of the latest atlas version. Normally the interactive atlas will be opened directly with Java™ Web Start Launcher. If this is not the case and a link of the atlas will be saved on your computer we recommend conducting the following Java adjustments: Control Panel > Java > Advanced > JNLP File/MIME Association > Always allow.

What happens during the atlas start? Why does the first launch of the atlas take a bit longer?

At the start of the atlas, the required program modules are stored on your PC. On a restart the atlas will access to the locally stored modules, which speeds up the boot process and also reduces the data traffic over the Internet.

The Swiss World Atlas interactive doesn’t launch with Mac OS X 10.8 or higher. An error message pops up, that the developer of the software is not verified?

In case the Swiss World Atlas interactive should not start, the following setting needs to be changed: Go to ‘System Preferences’, open ‘Security & Privacy’, choose tab ‘General’ and change ‘Allow apps downloaded from’ to ‘Anywhere’. The atlas will now start as before.
If you use Safari as your browser, Java Web Start will no longer start automatically. In order to run the atlas, the downloaded document ‘SWA_1_0_12_en.jnlp’ has to be double-clicked manually.

Is there also a French and Italian version of the interactive atlas available?

The interactive atlas is available in four languages (German, French, Italian and English). The desired version can be selected by setting the relevant language of the atlas-website. Direct access to the desired language version is available via the following web addresses:


The user interface of the first version is available in all four languages. The map content is currently only in German but the translation for the other languages is in progress.

Which maps are available in the interactive atlas?

The interactive atlas is based on the content of the printed version. Of course, these maps are not adopted as they are in the printed version but optimised for screen display and added with interactive functionality (panning, zooming, layer visibility, display of extra information, etc.).
In the first version of the SWISS WORLD ATLAS interactive only a selection of maps from the printed atlas is available (the titles of these maps appear in black colour in the table of contents). All greyed out maps will be integrated step by step. Since the atlas is web based, you will get the new maps immediately during the next atlas launch. Medium to long-term is planned to add also new maps besides the content from the printed version.
However, contents of the interactive atlas are not limited to common interactive 2D maps. Selected large-scale maps with a distinct geomorphology can be viewed in a 3D block diagram. Global maps can also be displayed on a virtual globe.

Why are diverse checkboxes in the legend not clickable respectively or greyed out?

The legend of the web atlas is based on the Smart-Legend-Concept. In other words, only these elements that are represented in the current map are visible in the legend. Greyed out checkboxes with check marks symbolize map levels which are visible at greater zoom. Greyed out checkboxes without check marks – deactivated checkboxes – mean that these elements in the currently selected view are not available.

What are the system requirements for using atlas usage?

The Java-based web atlas is platform-independent and can be used on Mac, Windows and Linux computers. The only requirements are an Internet connection and a current version of Java (Java in version 6, update 10). On most computers Java is installed by default. A possible download is free. A graphics card with OpenGL version 2.0 is required for displaying the 3D graphics.

Can the atlas also be used on tablet PCs and smart phones?

With the current software architecture the atlas usage on tablets or smart phones is not possible. A future atlas version will be working on these devices.

How can the Java-version be updated?

Apple computers with operating systems 10.6 and 10.7 have usually installed Java version 6 or higher. From operating system 10.8 onwards Java is not installed by default anymore and need to be downloaded via http://www.java.com. If your computer is still running with 10.5, it could may occur that Java 6 is installed but not activated by default. If an older operating system is installed, upgrade your system to the newest version.
Windows users (Windows XP, Vista, 7) can download the newest Java version via http://www.java.com for free. After the update, a reboot of the computer is required. Information about updating your graphic card drivers can be found on the website of your computer or graphic card manufacturer.

Why does the SWISS WORLD ATLAS interactive requires OpenGL 2.0 for the 3D mode whereas for Google Earth OpenGL 1.4 is sufficient?

The SWISS WORLD ATLAS interactive is based on another software than Google Earth. Besides the map and the globe view, the SWISS WORLD ATLAS interactive provides additional 3D views like block diagrams or dynamic animations. A better graphical quality, higher speed of execution and benefits in programming led to presuppose OpenGL 2.0.

Why does the SWISS WORLD ATLAS interactive opens in a separate Java application window and not in a window in my web browser?

Web browsers currently provide unsatisfactory support for interactive atlases. A browser-based world atlas has to abandon virtual globes, block diagrams and other 3D applications. In addition, a Java program communicates better with other programs and shows the same appearance on all platforms.

How can the world atlas completely removed from the computer?

The SWISS WORLD ATLAS interactive saves program modules and used map tiles on your hard disk. To remove the atlas completely, you need to clear the atlas cache via “Settings” and after completion of the atlas you have to delete the “SWISS WOLRD ATLAS” in the system preferences under “Java” (Windows) or via service program “Java-settings” (Mac).

What does it cost?

The use of the program is free of charge. As soon as all atlas maps are available in four languages and additional information are integrated, the use of the atlas is expected to cost something. But a free – content reduced – version will remain freely accessible.

What must be considered concerning copyrights for further use of the maps of the SWISS WORLD ATLAS interactive?

Maps and map sections of the SWISS WORLD ATLAS interactive can be used free of charge by using the “copy”, “export” or “print” function.
The following copyright notice must be declared: © SWISS WORLD ATLAS interactive 2010 – 2015