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Mapnik can be used in a variety of ways. The most widely used options are using XML config files, using the Python bindings or using the API directly in C++.

General Concepts

Getting started

Mapnik is written in C++, but many users use its bindings to higher-level languages, including Python or Javascript. If you've got an application that wraps Mapnik entirely, you might only need to concern yourself with the XML stylesheets that describe Mapnik's map styles.

To get first results, choose your weapon: XML, Python, C++, node.js, Ruby, Java (last two are less complete)

Further Resources:

How to Style your Maps

How to combine Map styles and Layers

How to read in data

How to use the Mapnik Python Bindings

Advanced Topics

Generating Contours - Using Mapnik with GDAL to build contours of the world.

ManagingLargeXmlFiles -- Do things once and only once using XML entities.

Hooking up Mapnik to PostGIS

MapnikReferences -- Various other resources related to Mapnik and Mapping

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