The Performances Of GIS Computer Science Essay

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Main objective of the report was to identify the available Geographic Information System tools. Other objectives are to identify the difference between Open source software tools and the Commercial software tools, the features offered by those, required technological infrastructure and the strengths and weaknesses of the available software tools.

In this report first of all I have introduced the meaning of the Geographic Information System, and then the performances of it, why is it important to people and the strengths and weaknesses of GIS. At the end of this introduction we can gain a good knowledge about the Geographic Information System.

When we take a look into the body of the report, I first have described the Geographic Information System tools. According to the survey on this, I have found that GIS tools can be divided into two main categories as Open source GIS software tools and Commercial GIS software tools. After giving a brief introduction on both categories I have listed important features of some of the available GIS tool for both open source and commercial software tools. Apart from that there are detailed introductions on two very important GIS software tool which can be stated as GMT (Generic Mapping Tool) which is an open source software tool and MapInfo which is a commercial software tool.

Since there are uncountable number of Geographic Information System tools developed by various companies and people, we can't talk about all of those tools at once in a single report. Because of that I have attached two lists of few of the available Open source and Commercial GIS software tools in the appendix. Even that lists doesn't cover the every software tool available.

Content page no:

Abstract i

Table of contents ii


1.1 What is GIS? 1

1.2 Performances of GIS 1

1.3 Benefits of GIS 2

1.4 The way GIS related to us 2

1.5 Fields in which GIS can be applied 2

Geographic Information System tools

What is a GIS tool? 3

Open source GIS software tools

Details about few open source software tools 4

Generic Mapping Tool(GMT) 6

Commercial GIS tools

Details about few commercial software tools 7

MapInfo 9

Conclusion 10

References 11


5.1 List of Open source GIS software tools 12

5.2 List of Commercial GIS software tools 13

1. Introduction to Geographic Information System (GIS)

1.1 What is GIS?

A brief description about the Geographic Information System (GIS) would really be valuable in the manner that we are going to discuss about the application tools of it, in the repot here onwards.

GIS is a useful tool for nearly every field of knowledge from archaeology to zoology. A geographic information system (GIS) is a tool for organizing and analyzing data that can be referenced spatially; that is, it is data that can be tied to physical locations and it's a technological tool for comprehending geography and making intelligent decisions. GIS organizes geographic data so that a person reading a map can select data necessary for a specific project or task. In a more simple way, we can say that a Geographic Information System (GIS) is a computer system of mapping tools and resources that are collectively capable of managing, analyzing, and displaying geographic information.

Many types of data have a spatial aspect, including demographics, marketing surveys and customer addresses. A GIS helps us analyze our data in the context of their location. For example, if we need to evaluate population data for census tracts, we could view the information in tabular format. GIS software enables us to do more than simply view our data in their spatial context. It also enables us to interact with the data by selecting features and performing actions that are based on those selections. GIS software enables us to access, manage, analyze, and present our data easily.

The basic problems behind spatial analysis will always be present and must be accommodated by careful thought and planning. And a good GIS program is able to process geographic data from a variety of sources and integrate it into a map project. It gives people the geographic advantage to become more productive, more aware, and more responsive citizens.

1.2 Performances of GIS

When information, in digital form, is geographically referenced (meaning that the information is linked to specific places on the earth) it can then be used as a map layer in GIS. Each map layer, or theme, thus consists of geographic, or spatial, data linked to descriptive, or tabular, information. GIS uses known earth coordinates (such as Latitude/Longitude) to make sure each layer lines up correctly with the others. The strength of GIS lies in its ability to create and organize these distinct map layers for different types of information, and then to overlay and combine layers as necessary to create maps and perform analyses.

Furthermore, GIS is used to support decision making processes in public and private institutions around the world and can contribute significantly to the design of administrative and management procedures that are more efficient, transparent and customer-friendly.

So we can summarize the performances of GIS as,

Assemble, Organize and Manage Geographic Data

Perform Queries & Analyses using Geographic Data as Layers or Themes

Create New Data and Information to Assist Decision Making

Allow for the Visualization of Data

Generate Maps and Export Tabular Data

1.3 Few of the benefits of GIS:

High-quality decision making with new possibilities of data analysis

Faster insight into data

Better communication between departments/institutions

Handling of large data volumes

Increased transparency and efficiency in public procedures

Better resource allocation

Needs-oriented regional and municipal planning

More efficient land tax collection

Easy identification of appropriate sites for investments and conservation areas

1.4 How does GIS relates to us?

We are all GIS, since we use and make decisions based on spatial data all the time. For example, the locations of our work place, school, nearby stores, banks, and local landmarks are all included in our personal spatial database and are normally what we would think of when asked about spatial data. Perhaps the most common is route planning.

The point is that a GIS is a tool we use to help us to store and manipulate large datasets and to perform complex operations that would take a human a long time (with plenty of opportunity for errors) to do. However, the algorithms and storage techniques that it uses are usually analogous to human thought processes.

1.5 The fields in which, GIS can be applied

Project Monitoring

Land use planning

Environmental Monitoring

Climate change mapping

Municipal and Regional planning

Transportation planning


Common GIS software packages contain a wide range of general functions applicable for any thematic field.

2. Geographic Information System (GIS) tools

2.1 What is a geographic information system tool?

GIS software encompasses a broad range of applications, all of which involve the use of some combination of digital maps and geo referenced data. GIS software tools can be sorted into different categories. Main two categories are Commercial software tools and Open source software tools.

GIS tools

Open source Commercial

GRASS, Mapserver, QGIS MapInfo, Idris, CATS,

Goeserver, GMT, Mapnik AjentSheets, ENVI, GeoExpress

OSSIM, Deegree, MapWindow GenaMap, Geomedia, Manifold, Maptitude

Open Layers, gvSIG, MapFish MapViewer, Smallworld, Software Listing

SAGA, Mapbender, Whitebox GAT TatukGIS, WINGIS, Arc2Earth, R2V

PostGIS, JOSM, Geo base ArcGIS, CadCrop SIS,

These are really few examples of the GIS software tools. There are hundreds of more available tools such as, uDig, ILWIS, gv, Batik, BuddySpace, CAVOR, DCMMS, ElectricArc, FREEDraft, GEO, AccessionGIS, Boundaryseer, CATS, Diger, EMME ect. which helps us to perform large amount of important tasks.

Now we'll take a look at both commercial and open source GIS tools separately into more details.

2.2 Open Source software Tools

Open source means that the source code is available to the general public for use, distribution, and modification from its original design, free of charge (among a long list of other requirements). These are developed by the governments and they distribute the developed software for general purposes. The development of open source GIS software has - in terms of software history - a long tradition with the appearance of a first system in 1978. Numerous systems are nowadays available which cover all sectors of geospatial data handling.

Table no: 2.2.1- Details about few open source software tools



Technological Infrastructure

Strengths & Weaknesses


-Mapping software which can be used to design maps of castles, cities and more.

- Generally used by role playing game practicants, who enjoy doing their own maps.

-Developed with Delphi Personal Edition and based on the simple and natural "TurboPascal" language.

-This could be coded as well with "Kylix" open Edition to run on LINUX platforms.


-Easy to use.

-It has enough features that it can do a pretty good job.


-It has evolved rather than having had a clean design from the beginning.


(Better Assessment Science Integrating point & Non-point Sources)

-Multi-purpose environmental analysis system that integrates a geographical information system (GIS), national watershed data, and state-of-the-art environmental assessment and modeling tools into one convenient package.

-Can be installed and operated on a standalone, internet connected Windows compatible 32 bit personal computers equipped with the software, RAM, virtual memory, and hard disk.


-Can used for several purposes rather than being centered to one.


(Geographic Resource Analysis Support System )

-Used for geospatial data management and analysis, image processing, graphics/maps production, spatial modeling, and visualization.

-Written in C, C++, Python, Tcl.

-Operating system is "cross platform".


-Capable of visualizing 3D vector graphics.

-Less maintain high quality.


-Extra work has to be done for data maintenance.


(System for Automated Geoscientific Analysis )

-Import/Export to different file formats.

-Re-projection/Re-sampling of data.

-Manipulation of vector data.

-Manipulation of point clouds from lidar data.

-Raster data.

-Available for Windows & Linux.

-Coded in the widespread and powerful C++ programming language.

-Has an object oriented system design.


-Fast learning curve.

-Contains graphical layouts.


-Image processing is not good.


(Quantum Geographic Information System)

-Desktop GIS viewer.

-Provides data viewing, editing, and analysis capabilities.

-Multy platform.

-Written in C++.

-Run on Linux, Unix, Mac OSX, Windows.


-User friendly.

-Light weight.


-User can't develop their own applications.


-Rendering spatial data.

-Developed environment for spatially enabled internet applications.

-CGI mapserv (Linux) and mapserv.exe (windows).

-Available for Python, PHP, Perl, C and Java


-Ease of setup & extensible.

-Data delivery is fast.

-Contains very robot and useful client applications.


-Handles orthophotos in few formats and needs conversion and separate disk space.

-Can natively connect only to SHP data.

-Can connect ORACAL but the performance is poor.


- Useful for both desktop and server based map rendering

-Used for Urban mapping.

- One of its many users is the Open Street Map project (OSM) which uses it in combination with an Apache Web Server module to make up the 'Slippy Map' Layer.

-Written in C++.

-Cross platform tool kit that runs on Windows, Mac and Linux.

- Uses a plug-in architecture to read different data sources.




-Will require quite a bit of disk space if we want to load the entire world.

-Expressions are needed for dynamic, data driving symbolizes.

2.2.2 Generic Mapping Tools (GMT)

GMT is used all over the world which was developed by Paul Wessel (UH) and Walter H. F. Smith (NOAA). It is an open source collection of nearly 60 tools for manipulating geographic and Cartesian data sets (including filtering, trend fitting, gridding, projecting, etc.) and producing Encapsulated PostScript File (EPS) illustrations ranging from simple x-y plots through contour maps to artificially illuminated surfaces and 3-D perspective views.

It is platform independent and it does data processing and PostScript visualization. GMT supports nearly 30 map projections and transformations and comes with support data such as GSHHS coastlines, rivers, and political boundaries.

If we move to the design philosophy of GMT, it contains small modules focused on specific tasks. Those modules can be combined in a variety of ways to achieve complex results.

Technical infrastructure

UNIX- type workstation:


Windows workstation:

-Dual boot windows and Linux

-SFU or Cygwin under windows

-VMWare and virtual Linux

-MS-DOS commands in windows.


Data processing and manipulating

-Relies on UNIX tools for basic tasks.

-Combine tool for complex processing.

PostScript plot generation

-Make regular or encapsulated PostSript.

-Make thumbnail plots or huge posters.

-Other tools can convert to PostScript to raster images.

Allows custom symbols

All GMT tools work together


Easy to install and run in all platforms.

Low technical threshold for using it.

Architecture independent open file formats.

Very flexible and extensible.

Portable and easy to maintain.

2.3 Commercial software tools

Commercial software tools are the other category of GIS tools. It defers from open source tools because it is not developed by the governments. It's something which is developed by several non-governmental companies for the performances of special activities. That is, let's say that a private company wants' to perform a special survey and there is no open source GIS software tools for that. Then within that company, they develop software to fulfill their requirements and they release it to the public, but not for free of charge. So there are thousands of commercial software tools available which were developed by thousands of non-governmental organizations. Really few of them are discussed below.

Table no: 2.3.1- Details about few commercial software tools



Technological Infrastructure

Strengths & Weaknesses


(Installation Data & Registry Image Sentinel)

-It's an image processing and modeling software.

-Query and explore raster data.

- Derivative mapping with mathematical and relational modeling.

- Surface analysis tools including interpolation and hydrological modeling routines.

-Exclusive tools for multi-criteria and multi-objective decision making and land suitability analysis and evaluation.

-Operating system is Microsoft Windows.


-Easy to use

-Inexpensive - exceptionally wide functionality for such low-cost software.

-Good geographical analysis features.

-Minimal hard disk requirements.


-Poor printing capability.


- Generally used to create interactive games.

-Animate agents

-Play sounds and MIDI instruments

-Speak text

-React to mouse and keyboard events

-Visualize values as colors and plots

-Query web pages, control web browsers

-Platform is Mac OS X 10.1 or later.

-Implemented on Macintosh computers using Macintosh common lisp and on SPARC stations using Allegro Common Lisp and the Garnet tool kit.


-Users can interact through multiple modalities such as mouse and keyboard input, speech recognition etc.

-Enable user to deliver content on cell phones.


- Simulations Can Be Difficult to Design & expensive.

-Can be technically challenging to distribute.


(Computer Aided Transcription System)

-Powerful analysis system for Natural and Technological disasters.

- includes hazard prediction, data creation, data management and analysis models for data fusion analysis that supports disaster and other emergency management.

User interface is based on the Microsoft Windows platform.


-Can be used in a mobile environment.

-Can be deployed as a web-based system.



- Used for urban planning, land use planning, geo design, transportation planning and resource management applications.

-It supports analyzing, 3D visualization and growth modeling.

Required software:

- ESRI ArcMap 9.2, 9.3, or 10

-Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows 7.

-Microsoft .Net Framework 2.0.

-DirectX 9.0c.


-Faster performances.

- Automatically export to Google Earth and create scenes using SketchUp models.

- Provides options for 3D visualization.

-Real time analysis.


-Lack of data.

-Technological discomfort.


-Used for image handling.

- Includes tools for re-projection, advanced color balancing and area of interest encoding.

-Ideal for organizations that rely on aerial and satellite imagery for critical decisions.

-Build combined models.

Can be used in all platforms which contains,


-DVD-ROM Drive

-200 MB free hard disk space, plus room for imagery.


-Efficient & Fast viewing techniques are included.

-Contains a wide variety of encoding options.


-Can only delineate a single region for different compression ratios.

2.3.2 MapInfo

MapInfo software was developed by the Mapinfo co-operation as the first desktop GIS in 1986. Originally, the intention was to create an easy-to-use software package that did not require exceedingly large amounts of computing power.

This software could be customized by using the MapCode development environment which was a C-like programming language. The DOS product was eventually discontinued and replaced by MapInfo for Windows. In 1990 MapInfo was redesigned with an easier-to-use graphical user interface and was made available for the Microsoft Windows, UNIX and Macintosh platforms. The MapCode development environment was replaced with a new language MapBasic. Version 4 of the product, released in 1995 , so the product renamed "MapInfo Professional".

It is General purpose, vector focused with raster support. MapInfo Professional is a powerful Microsoft Windows-based mapping application that enables business analysts and GIS professionals to easily visualize the relationships between data and geography. Cross

Industry /Marketing; HotSpot Detective for crime analysis. Tools provided include basic operations (e.g. buffering, distance and area computations etc); re-districting tools, a range of surface operations (e.g. interpolation, TIN operations, view shed analysis etc.).

Uses for MapInfo can be listed as:

Thematic maps & Graphing

Vector mapping & Raster Mapping


Creation of new points and regions

Data integration

Structured Query Language selection of data

Layouts for professional output

Visualization of previously hidden patterns


Will link to data in software such as Excel, Access and SPSS

Excellent output

Ability to embed images to Word Document


Very difficult to learn.

Very poor documentation

Inability to complete certain complex tasks

High system requirements and greedy for disk space

Software and data are very expensive

Inconsistent treatment of objects

Poor handling of free text data

Limited spatial analysis tools

Limited implementation of geo relational data model.

3. Conclusion

Geographic Information System tools are a collection of very useful software tools which are capable of performing numerous tasks. By using GIS tools we can minimizes the time taken to perform several operations such as surveying, graphing, mapping, data analyzing, modeling etc.

There are open source software which were developed by the governments and those are free for the public as well as software developed by non-governmental organizations for specific tasks which are not free. We can use both of these tools for different tasks which are related to the geographic information simply by installing the software. To install and operate these software, there are only very few requirements which have to full fill by the computer and that is not a difficult task. So all-in-all these are really manageable kind of software packages that anyone can use it.

We can't just state a list of software tools which are available in GIS since there are uncountable number tools, specially the commercial software tools. If we want to perfume a different task and if we don't have specific software for that, we also can develop one for us. GIS tools are flexible like that.

4. References

Babette Wehrmann in cooperation with Jelena Glavina, Geographic Information System- The spatial dimention to development co-operation, Federal ministry of economic cooperation and development, 2009

Paul Wessel & Walter H.F. Smith, GMT: The Generic Mapping Tools.

Michael Gerlek, Karsten Vennemann, Aaron Racicot & Dane Springmeyer, Introduction to Open source GIS.

Arthur Getis, distinguished professor of geography emeritus at San Diego State University inCalifornia.

J. B. "Jack" Owens, What Historians Want from GIS?

Harold Reynolds, December 18, 1997. An Introduction to Geographical Information System.

Nathan Daun-Barnett & Britany Affolter-Caine. 2005. Utilizing Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to Influence State Policy: A new descriptive, diagnostic, and analytical tool for higher education research.

ESRI, 2008. Introduction to Geographic Information Systems.

Gene 2009. Federation of Earth science Information Partners, Making data matter.

School of ocean & earth science & technology, University of Hawaii.

GIS Lounge, Caitlin Dempsey