Desktop GIS (T3)

A GIS is a Geographic Information System.  If you are wondering ‘What is GIS?’ – GIS.com provides a nice answer here.  Desktop GIS consist of software packages enabling users to make their own maps from scratch using their own data as well as data created by others.  Desktop GIS solutions are expensive and require training to use.

If you are interested in mapping your data and feel your needs are beyond the capabilities of the functionality available in Tier 1 and Tier 2 mapping applications, it is the recommendation of the RJI mapping team that you contact us as we have GIS experts on our team.  Even if you are proficient at desktop GIS and simply have a RJI-relevant question or a comment on the site – we always enjoy talking about spatial thinking, problem solving, troubleshooting, hearing how it enables your success, etc – again, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Desktop GIS users most likely have their own data – attribute and/or spatial – and are interested in mapping and spatially analyzing this data.  Desktop GIS provides the ultimate level of map-making flexibility but also responsibility.  Gathering data might include connecting to or downloading existing data sets from data repositories or the creation of new data from scratch.  For new attribute data, this could be any kind of data that can be spatially organized; for new spatial data, this might include GPS coordinates, service area boundaries or agency, program or participant locations.  Desktop systems can often accommodate information from other programs – for example, tables from Microsoft Excel can be uploaded into an attribute table, and .kml and .kmz files from Google Earth can be uploaded into a map document.  Maps can be exported as PDF files so they can be shared with others who do not have the desktop software.

In addition to knowing the software, some knowledge of geographic principles (different projections and what they mean, etc.) is helpful.  However, with a desktop software package, the user has the most control over what geography and data is included in the map, how this data is symbolized, what other information is included and produced, and how the ultimate product looks.  Desktop systems also often offer tools for analysis of maps and data, such as spatial statistics.  This allows the user to analyze their data and produce new information within the program.

The desktop GIS recommended by the RJI mapping team is ArcGIS from ESRI, Inc.  See our ArcGIS page for more on that application.  Team members also have experience working with Manifold GIS.

ArcGIS sample screencapture

Screencapture showing ArcGIS.  (Click on the image for a larger version.)


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