GIS: Geographic Information Systems

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Google Earth and Google Maps are perhaps the most well-known of all GIS systems. If you've ever used Google Maps to get directions to your destination or used Google Earth or Street View to look at your house, you have used GIS without even realizing it!

GIS stands for Geographic Information Systems. It is the modern version of cartography - the science of map-making.  GIS, however, allows one to do much more than just make a map. GIS software lets you analyze and visually represent data from a wide variety of fields. GIS is used in GPS navigation and transportation route mapping, weather maps, animal habitat mapping, and tracking the movement of people, money, or floodwaters. GIS software is used by cartographers, surveyors, programmers, database managers, and other professionals. 

You may gather your own data and map it, or you may import into your GIS program one of the many readily available data sources. Today's common GIS software includes ArcGIS, ArcMap, QGIS, MapInfo, Google Maps, and Google Earth. 

ArcGIS and ArcMap are parts of a GIS software suite published by ESRI and used in the professional GIS industry. A detailed review and tutorial for ArcGIS can be found here.

QGIS is a free open source GIS software tool. To learn more about this software visit the developer's site, or read a detailed tutorial here.

Google Maps is an online and mobile world atlas. Google Earth is a desktop and web-based GIS software. You can find a Google Earth tutorial here.


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