Mapnik is a Free Toolkit for developing mapping applications. It’s written in C++ and there are Python bindings to facilitate fast-paced agile development. It can comfortably be used for both desktop and web development, which was something I wanted from the beginning.
Mapnik is about making beautiful maps. It uses the AGG library and offers world class anti-aliasing rendering with subpixel accuracy for geographic data. It is written from scratch in modern C++ and doesn’t suffer from design decisions made a decade ago. When it comes to handling common software tasks such as memory management, filesystem access, regular expressions, parsing and so on, Mapnik doesn’t re-invent the wheel, but utilizes best of breed industry standard libraries from boost.org
Mapnik is a cross platform toolkit that runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux (Since release 0.4). Users commonly run Mapnik on Mac >=10.4.x (both intel and PPC), as well as Debian/Ubuntu, Fedora, Centos, OpenSuse, and FreeBSD. If you run Mapnik on another Linux platform please add to the list on the Trac Wiki
Mapnik uses a plugin architecture to read different datasources. Current plugins can read ESRI shapefiles, PostGIS, TIFF raster, OSM xml, Kismet, as well as all OGR/GDAL formats. More data access plug-ins will be available in the future. If you cannot wait and/or like coding in C++, why not write your own data access plug-in?