Free GIS Stuff

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All of the costs involved to learn GIS, purchase hardware and software, and obtain data can be a bit disarming. Listed here are some completely free GIS related resources.

Free GIS Posts
Visit the Free GIS category on GIS Lounge for some of the most recent posts about free geospatial resources.

Free GIS Books
Guide to online options for free GIS, cartography, and remote sensing related books.

Free Applications
Listing of free software applications. Choose from public domain software applications to light versions of some of the more popular commercial packages.

Free Data
Most of the resources listed here are available at no cost. Find free data from all over the world and from a variety of formats

Free Data Viewers
Free data viewers for a variety of GIS formats. These viewers allow you to display geographic data as well as perform some basic GIS functions.

Free GeoTools Blog
If you are looking to learn about cheap or free tools to help you with your spatial work, this blog is a good source for tips. Run by Leszek Pawlowicz, this blog has resources for shapefile utilities, working with Google maps and tips for your GPS unit.

Web site dedicated to highlighting GIS software, tools and data that is available for free. For a nominal fee, you can also order their FreeGIS CD containing Free GIS software and data.

Free Map Servers
Want to launch maps over the internet but can’t afford commercial software? Check here for links to free map servers.

Fun with GIS
All work and no play makes for a very boring GISer. Take a break from your hectic day of mapping and spatial analysis with these fun links. Send a postcard, take a quiz or learn some trivia.

Open Source GIS
Open Source GIS programs are applications of which you can access the source code. Listed here are available open source GIS based applications you can download written for a variety of platforms and in various languages.

Free Esri Training
Esri provides select courses on its Esri Training site for free, enabling registered users the ability to pick up introductory courses covering a range of Esri software and general geographic concepts.

Google Map Creator
This freeware application takes shapefiles and generates a working thematic map using Google Maps. Only a limited knowledge of HTML and Javascript is needed to use Google Map Creator.

Article originally published May 1, 2000 and was last updated on December 28, 2011.

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15 thoughts on “Free GIS Stuff”

  1. Hi Caitlin,

    Also, wanted to share that there’s the Our World Series for K-12. Books 1, 2 and 3 are that is needed. I know it’s not free, but each book is only $19.99. Books 2 and 3 comes with a 365-day trial for ArcGIS for a computer lab. So, for around $40, a school can have ArcGIS available for about 2 years. Not a bad deal, if you ask. I have used these resources with teachers and the books come with lessons already premade and photocopyable. It has been my experience that teachers don’t “need to know” GIS, but just know how to teach. The students really seem to get into the gis lessons since they are learning with GIS and not just using it.

    • Hi Caitlin,

      ArcVoyager Special Edition is no longer being supported and is built off of the old ArcView 3.x. It’s been forever since I have been able to run it and most new computers won’t be able to install it. I should know since I was a technology specialist for a school district prior to moving to Esri. I think there was issues with XP and service packs that caused issues. If you are interested in free resources like ArcVoyager, take a look at ArcExplorer Online and ArcGIS Explorer Desktop. Most of the ArcVoyager lessons have been converted to ArcGIS Explorer versions thanks to Barbaree Duke and others. Check out the Esri K-12 GIS community for the lessons –

  2. Thanks a million for the expansive list of free stuff available that is related to GIS technology. I’d never even heard of GIS until I stumbled upon your site today. But with all this information and downloads, readily available, it behooves me to delve a little deeper into this subject. I especially appreciate the link providing a “gentle introduction” as some of this terminology already has me scared. My second favorite link has to be the “Fun with GIS” one. Nearly any link that has the word fun in the title will get clicked on by me. Again, I am grateful for the information.

  3. Hi,

    does anyone know of a freeware Gis software wich has the ability to represent wind gradient with an arrow. Now, this arrow should be proportional to the velocity of the wind and of course, should point in it’s direction.


  4. Version 08.12 (released on 2008.12.22) of Copan for Windows has improved support for the different bearing (or direction) formats used around the world.

    Copan is a free coordinate geometry (COGO) tool for field surveyors and map drafters.

  5. UGL offers free geomatics engineering software — COGO calculation, field and map traverse adjustment, and coordinate transformation — on Windows, Palm, and Pocket computers, for students and professionals.

  6. Here two relevant links: – Commonly referred to as GRASS, this is a Geographic Information System (GIS) used for geospatial data management and analysis, image processing, graphics/maps production, spatial modeling, and visualization. GRASS is currently used in academic and commercial settings around the world, as well as by many governmental agencies and environmental consulting companies. GRASS is official project of the Open Source Geospatial Foundation. – The Open Source Geospatial Foundation has been created to support and build the highest-quality open source geospatial software. The foundation’s goal is to encourage the use and collaborative development of community-led projects.

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