Geographic Information Systems Tools Computer Science Essay

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A Geographic Information System is use to capture, store, analyze, manage, and present data that are linked to a location integrated to hardware, software and data. It is merging of cartography, statistical analysis, and database technology.

It is used to collect to analyze geographically referenced information, which creates models that associated attribute data with specific aspects of physical spaces. It allows users to manipulate data hecne they can address geographic problems by summarizing data, calculating spatial statistics or processing queries, among other things.

As most of the people are not aware of it, GIS plays an important role in understanding the influence of geography on everyday life. It can be found in domains such as Transport, Medicine, Marketing, Criminology, Sociology, and Pure and Applied Sciences.

In 1962, saw the development of the world's first GIS in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. It was the "Canada Geographic Information System" (CGIS).CGIS supported a national coordinate system that spanned the continent, coded lines as "arcs" having a true embedded topology. And it stored the attribute and location information in separate files. As a result of this, Tomlinson has become known as the "father of GIS," particularly for his use of overlays in promoting the spatial analysis of convergent geographic data. It was developed in a mainframe based system in support of federal and provincial resource planning and management.

In 1980s, M&S Computing (later Intergraph), Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI), CARIS (Computer Aided Resource Information System) and ERDAS emerged as commercial vendors of GIS software, successfully incorporating many of the CGIS features, combining the first generation approach to separation of spatial and attribute information with a second generation approach to organizing attribute data into database structures.

After 1980s and 1990s industry growth use of GIS on Unix workstations and the personal computer. By end of the 20th century, the rapid growth in various systems had been consolidated and users were beginning to export the concept of viewing GIS data over the Internet, requiring data format and transfer standards.

Techniques and technology of GIS

Modern GIS technologies use digital information, for which various digitized data creation methods are used. The most common method of data creation is digitization, where a hard copy map or survey plan is transferred into a digital medium through the use of a computer-aided design (CAD) program, and geo-referencing capabilities.

Relating information from different sources

Location may be annotated by x, y, and z coordinates of longitude, latitude, and elevation, or by other geo-code systems like ZIP codes or by highway mile markers. Any variable that can be located spatially can be fed into a GIS.

Data representation

GIS data represents real objects (such as roads, land use, elevation, trees, waterways, etc.) with digital data determining the mix. Real objects can be divided into two abstractions: discrete objects (e.g., a house) and continuous fields (such as rainfall amount, or elevations). Traditionally, there are two methods used to store data in a GIS for both kinds of abstractions mapping references: raster images and vector.


A raster data type is any type of digital image represented by reducible and enlargeable grids. This is consists of rows and columns of cells, with each cell storing a single value. And also it can be images with each pixel containing a colour value.


Figure 2.3.1-Digital elevation model, map (image), Figure 2.3.2 - A simple vector map, using each of the vector

and vector data elements.


In a GIS, geographical features are expressed as vectors. Points, Lines and polygons are different geographical features expressed by different kinds of geometry.

Data capture

There are different types of methods used to enter data into GIS, where it should stored in a digital formats. Existing paper or PET film maps layers can be digitized or scanned to digital data. A digitizer gives vector data as an operator traces points, lines, and polygon boundaries from a layered picture/ Map. Scanning of a map results in raster data and it could be processed to get vector data.

And Field data can be directly entered to a GIS from digital data collection systems on survey instruments using a technique called Coordinate Geometry (COGO). Positions via a Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) as Global Positioning System (GPS), another survey tool, can be directly entered to a GIS.

GIS Tools

GIS software is en counted a broad range of applications, which involved use of some combination of digital maps and geo-referenced data. GIS software can be divided into different categories.

Open source/ Free GIS software

The open source GIS software development has a long tradition with the appearance of a first system in 1978. The following Tables shows the List of such system identified from various sources.

Table: 3.2.1 -Listing of Open soft/ Free GIS Software


Software name


Desktop GIS


Developed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, open source. This is a complete GIS


Support Automated Geo-scientific Analyses and a hybrid GIS software. It has an Application Programming Interface (API) and a fast growing set of geo-scientific methods, bundled in exchangeable Module Libraries.

Quantum GIS

QGIS is a GIS that runs on Linux, Unix, Mac OS X, and Windows

Map Window

Desktop application, with programming component.


ILWIS (Integrated Land and Water Information System). It integrates image, vector and thematic data


This is written in Java


Java Unified Mapping Platform (the desktop GIS OpenJUMP, SkyJUMP, deeJUMP and Kosmo link to JUMP)

Whitebox GAT

Open source and transparent GIS software


(Java, GML3) and focuses on numerical simulations for water management


Desktop handles vector and raster data stored in a relational/ geo-relational database.


Fast C++ 3D GIS Framework with a multiple plug in architecture for graphical analysis and visualisation.


This is a mapping system developed by the Georgia Tech Research Institute for Windows family of operating systems. Commercial version is also available.


This is a Java desktop application to developed multilingual, interactive Maps.

Classified GIS tools

WebMap Server


Developed in C++/Python library for reddening.


Server written in Java- allows users to share geospatial data


Web-based mapping server.


Web-based mapping server,

Spatial Database Management Systems


Spatial extensions of PostgreSQL database, allowing geospatial queries

MySQL Spatial


is a spatial DBMS and also provides advanced functions for GIS analysis



This is written in Java, with Open Geospatial Consortium specifications.


(Geospatial Data Abstraction Library) is a library for reading and writing raster data formats, and is released under an X/MIT style

Figure 3.2.1- GRASS GIS 6.4 Figure 3.2.2- SAGA-GIS v. 2.0.3


Figure 3.2.3-Whitebox GAT 1.0.2 Figure 3.2.3- gvSIG 1.0

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Commercial or proprietary GIS software

The following Table shows the Commercial category of GIS Software.

Table 3.3.1- Commercial GIS products




Software with High Market

Map 3D, Topobase, MapGuide

Autodesk company has produced these products that interface with flagship AutoCAD software.

Bentley Map, Bentley PowerMap

Bentley Systems, the company produces these products and other products that interface with flagship Micro Station software.

ArcView 3.x, ArcGIS, ArcSDE, ArcIMS, ArcWeb

ESRI Products include these services which are most popular in the world.


This product developed by Clark Labs, a department of Clark University. This is economical but capable and also it is used for operations and education.

GeoMedia, GeoMedi, Professional, GeoMedia WebMap

Intergraph Produces and add-on products for industry sectors, and for photogrammetric.

MapInfo, MapXtreme

The company Pitney Bowes has developed these Products integrates to GIS software, data and services


This is developed in Cambridge, England (Smallworld, Inc.) and used primarily for public utilities.

Software with Minor but Notable Market

Urban GIS & Rural GIS

LIS- Land Information Systems

The leading company Albireo Telematics is providing solutions and services for the Geospatial & GIS, Defense and Homeland Security and Engineering sectors.

Cadcorp SIS, GeognoSIS, mSIS

Cadcorp-Products is the company developed these products and developer kits

Maptitude, TransModeler and TransCAD

These are Caliper Products


This is utilized for image analysis, exploitation, and hyper spatial analysis

Manifold System

Package of GIS software


Ulusal CAD ve GIS Çözümleri A.Åž. is developed as Desktop and web based GIS products.


spatialNET, spatialWEB, spatialOFFLINE, BILLINGsync, ADDRESSmanager, MAPupdater, and spatialWEBSERVICES. Are products in this package of software


This Remote sensing software with less GIS capabilities

Everest GIS

Simple GIS application use for surface mapping


ArcGIs is most popular complete integrated system which covers;

Asset/data management including systems integration, claims/case management, service/territory area management, and constituent/customer management

Planning and analysis such as forecasting and risk analysis

Business operations such as call center/dispatching; monitoring and tracking; field data collection; inspections, maintenance and operations; and routing

Situational awareness including decision support and customer/public access

It has series of products depend on the environment where it uses. They are;

Desktop GIS

Server GIS

Mobile GIS

On Line GIS

Developer Tools


Desktop GIS

This performs advanced spatial analysis, model operational processes, and visualizes results on professional-quality maps.

And It has ArcInfo, ArcEditor, ArcView and Extensions for ArcInfo, ArcEditor, and ArcView products for the Desktop GIS. Other than above it has freeware such as ArcGIS Explorer, ArcReader.


Figure 3.4.1: Product hierarchy

Table - ArcGIS Products and its' Features/Functionalities - ("source Site")



Features/ Functionality


ArcInfo includes the functionality of ArcEditor and ArcView and additionally advanced spatial analysis, extensive data manipulation, and high-end cartography tools.

Perform advanced GIS data analysis and modeling. Take advantage of tools designed for overlay analysis, proximity analysis, surface analysis, and raster processing and conversion. Publish and convert data in many formats. Create and manage personal geodatabases, multiuser geodatabases, and feature datasets. Use high-end cartography tools to generate professional-quality, publication-ready maps. Design customized symbols and place sophisticated annotation and labels on your maps.


ArcEditor is a powerful GIS desktop system for editing and managing geographic data. It includes all the functionality of ArcView along with additional advanced editing tools to ensure the quality of your data. ArcEditor supports single-user and multiuser editing, allowing you to disconnect from the database and edit in the field.

Allow multiple users to simultaneously modify and edit data. Build and maintain spatial relationships between features using topology rules and a process called validation. Support multiple workflows, manage work order processing, and implement QA procedures for validating edits. Monitor the database over time and evaluate what-if scenarios. Perform raster-to-vector conversion and create data from scanned maps.


ArcView is geographic information system (GIS) software for visualizing, managing, creating, and analyzing geographic data. Using ArcView, you can understand the geographic context of your data, allowing you to see relationships and identify patterns in new ways

Author maps and interact with your data by generating reports and charts and printing and embedding your maps in other documents and applications. Save time using map templates to create consistent style in your maps. Build process models, scripts, and workflows to visualize and analyze your data. Read, import, and manage more than 70 different data types and formats including demographics, facilities, CAD drawings, imagery, Web services, multimedia, and metadata. Communicate more efficiently by printing, publishing, and sharing your GIS data and dynamic content with others. Use tools such as Find, Identify, Measure, and Hyperlink to discover information not available when working with static paper maps. Make better decisions and solve problems faster

Extension for ArcInfo, ArcVeiw.


Extension products let you add more capabilities to ArcGIS Desktop. These specialized tools allow you to perform extended tasks such as raster geoprocessing, three-dimensional analysis, and map publishing

Analyze your data in a realistic perspective. Use advanced statistical tools to investigate your data. Perform sophisticated routing, closest facility, and service area analysis. Represent and understand your networks to shorten decision cycles. Derive answers from your data using advanced spatial analysis. Centrally locate, process, and manage your survey and cadastral data. Reveal and analyze time-based patterns and trends in your data. Directly access demographic reports and data from Business Analyst Online (BAO) for trade areas and sites created in the desktop.

ArcGIS Explorer

ArcGIS Explorer is a free, downloadable GIS viewer that gives you an easy way to explore, visualize, and share GIS information. ArcGIS Explorer adds value to any GIS because it helps you deliver your authoritative data to a broad audience.

Access ready-to-use ArcGIS Online base maps and layers. Fuse your local data with map services to create custom maps. Add photos, reports, videos, and other information to your maps. Perform spatial analysis (e.g., visibility, modeling, proximity search).


ArcReader is a free, easy-to-use desktop mapping application that allows users to view, explore, and print maps and globes. Anyone with ArcReader can view high-quality interactive maps authored by a high-level ArcGIS Desktop product and published with the ArcGIS Publisher extension.

View, navigate, and print published ArcGIS maps using ArcReader (.pmf files). Deploy your GIS data to novices and professionals alike. Zoom, pan, and switch between map and page layout views. Communicate more efficiently with the ability to graphically mark up maps. Print published map and globe documents including all layer symbology and cartographic map elements on any supported printer. Create custom ArcReader applications and embed ArcReader capabilities into existing applications.

"source- Web site"

Server GIS

Distribute maps, models, and tools to others can be shared by using Server GIS than the ArcGIS Desktop version. It has following products for multiple features such as ArcGIS Server, ArcGIS Server Extensions, ArcGIS for AutoCAD, and ArcGIS Mapping for AgarePoint.

The following table summarized the each product descriptions and features;

Table Server GIS Products Features/Functionalities



Features/ Functionality

ArcGIS Server

ArcGIS Server software gives you the ability to create, manage, and distribute GIS services over the Web to support desktop, mobile and Web mapping applications.

provides you with a full range of GIS server capabilities that allow you to transform the maps, imagery, data, and GIS tools that you commonly use in ArcGIS Desktop into fast, reliable Web services that you can use anywhere. You can use these services to support a wide variety of mapping applications, either on the Web or your local network.

ArcGIS Server Extensions

add more capabilities, including advanced geoprocessing and imagery management, with ArcGIS Server Extensions. ArcGIS Server's top analytical extensions are included with ArcGIS Server Advanced

3D Extension, geo statistical Extension, Network Extension, Schematics Extension, Spatial Extension, etc..

ArcGIS for AutoCAD

ArcGIS for AutoCAD is a free, downloadable tool that provides AutoCAD and ArcGIS interoperability. Within the AutoCAD environment, you gain easy access to enterprise GIS basemaps published by ArcGIS Server.

In addition, ArcGIS for AutoCAD gives you the ability to prepare CAD data for use with the ArcGIS platform while leveraging your existing CAD standards

Streamline information sharing between GIS and CAD groups. View live GIS maps and display GIS symbology of underlying GIS data inside AutoCAD.

Include the results of GIS analysis in AutoCAD designs. Create, manipulate, and define how CAD data is organized and attributed as GIS content so it can be used in ArcGIS Desktop or AutoCAD.

ArcGIS Mapping for SharePoint

ArcGIS Mapping for SharePoint enables you to visualize and analyze your business data through maps in SharePoint. Mapped information reveals patterns and trends easily missed in spreadsheets and tables, providing insight into your business operations and growth opportunities.

No programming required with simple to use configuration tools. Map data from Microsoft SQL Server, Excel, and SharePoint lists. Analyze information through heat maps, clustered data, and more

"Source- Web Site"

Online GIS

Online GIS provides a common platform for ArcGIS users to discover, share, and build GIS applications, services, and content. The following table gives the summary of the Products under Online GIS form ESRI.

Table:- Products and the features of online GIS



Features/ Functionality

ArcGIS Inline

ArcGIS Online provides a common platform to find, share, and organize geographic content and to build GIS applications. Through, the Web interface for ArcGIS Online, you can access maps, apps, and tools published by Esri and other GIS users, and share your own content with a broad community of users.

Access free, high-quality and ready-to-use basemaps for your GIS projects.

Create and join groups to contribute your content and collaborate on specific projects.

Develop Web applications quickly with ArcGIS Web Mapping APIs and ready-to-use ArcGIS Online content.

Save time and money because you don't have to invest in additional infrastructure or staffing. ArcGIS Online is hosted by Esri and powered by ArcGIS Server and ArcGIS Data Appliance and new content is added and updated continually

ArcGIS Online Map Services

ArcGIS Online standard map services are available at no cost for internal (personal or within an organization) and noncommercial, external use

ArcGIS Online Task Services

ArcGIS Online task services are geoprocessing services that ArcGIS users can access dynamically over the Web.

ArcGIS Online standard task services are available at no cost to ArcGIS users for internal use (personal or within an organization) and noncommercial, external use.

ArcGIS Web Mapping

Leverage ArcGIS Web Mapping to build and deploy applications that include GIS functionality and Web services from ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS Server. Use ArcGIS Web Mapping for Flex, JavaScript or Microsoft Silverlight to build rich, lightweight Internet applications that you can embed in Web pages or launch as stand-alone Web applications. Use Flex and Adobe Air or Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) to build desktop applications.

Community Maps Program

Through Esri's Community Maps Program your organization can contribute its geographic data to become part of a community map that Esri publishes and hosts online. Your data is integrated with data from other providers and then published through ArcGIS Online as a map service.

"Source - ESRI.Com Web site"

Mobile GIS

This is useful for field staff who can capture, update, and analyze geographic data for quick decision making. It has ArcGIS Mobile , ArcPad, Apps for iOS

Table - Products and its features



Features/ Functionality

ArcGIS Mobile

ArcGIS Mobile helps organizations deliver GIS capabilities and data from centralized servers to a range of mobile devices. You can use ArcGIS Mobile to deploy intuitive and productive mobile GIS applications to increase the accuracy and improve the currency of GIS data across your organization.

Easy-to-use ArcGIS Mobile applications enable field staff who do not necessarily have any GIS experience to do Mapping, Spatial query, Sketching, GPS integration, GIS editing

View and navigate mobile maps to direct field resources effectively and monitor the location of assets.

Collect, edit, and update GIS data in real time and share information with colleagues immediately.

Search and manage a list of GIS features to perform tasks or plan future work.

Rapidly deploy mobile GIS without needing to develop your own solution.


ArcPad is designed for GIS professionals who require GIS capabilities in the field. It gives field-based personnel the ability to capture, edit, analyze, and display geographic information easily and efficiently.

Perform reliable, accurate, and validated field data collection. Integrate GPS, range finders, and digital cameras into a GIS data collection. Share enterprise data with field-workers for updating and decision making. Improve the productivity of a GIS data collection. Improve the accuracy of the GIS database and make it more up-to-date.

For iOS

The following applications are available for download from the Apple App Store. ArcGIS for iOS-Navigate maps, collect and report data, and perform GIS analysis. An API currently in public beta lets you make your own applications. BAO for iOS-Perform site screening in the field with demographic and market information.

"source- Web site"

Developer Tools

These tools provide APIs, software, and resources for the desktop, mobile device, server, and Web. Some of the tool available in this categories are ArcGIS Web Mapping-Flex, JavaScript, and Silverlight , Mobile API-ArcGIS for iOS, Tools for Java, Tools for .NET, Esri Developer Network (EDN), ArcGIS Engine


This literature Survey covers the GIS tools. Brief introduction on the GIS and its tools and applications were identified. It was discussed some requirement specifications for the implementation of such system