What is GIS?

Introducing geographic information systems, and how you can learn more about GIS techniques and technology

A geographic information system (GIS) is a computer system capable of assembling, storing, manipulating, and displaying geographically referenced information (i.e. spatial data). This system should include:

  • hardware (computers, printers, plotters, scanners, GPS units, etc.)
  • software (programs like ArcGIS, QGIS, MapInfo, Maptitude, AutoCad Map 3D, GeoMedia, etc.)
  • data (files that represent real-world features (such as roads, town boundaries, parcels, aerial photographs, etc.) may be loaded into the software programs)
  • staff (analysts, technicians, etc.)

Geographic information systems belong to a family of mapping and drafting programs that includes computer-aided design (CAD) and automated mapping and facilities management (AM/FM). GIS is distinguished from CAD and AM/FM by including database information about mapped features and its capacity to perform complicated analytical functions that often include combining information from different sources to derive meaningful relationships.

Learn more about GIS

Many colleges and universities and private companies across the commonwealth provide courses to help you learn GIS.

Check out our listing of GIS education resources.

Also search the web to learn much more about GIS.

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