GIS Tips: GIS Tools of the trade

Today I got asked by someone starting out in a new GIS job at a Local Council, what software they needed, to which, my answer is always “It depends on what you will be doing”.

This person has worked with me in the past and they knew that I have a secret list of necessary software whenever I do GIS or we get a new starter here & this software is a minimum requirement for any ArcGIS user, if you have anything which I don’t mention, then please let me know, I would love to expand this list to be fully comprehensive.

  1. XTools  Some tools Free or $250 for the full version                                                         This has been around since ArcGIS 3.2 and provided near ArcInfo capability without the escalated price tag. Okay, so ESRI have upped their game and now in ArcGIS 10.1 they have provided some of the tools which were originally only available through Xtools. This is still a package worth investing in though, with tools such as the “Map to geodatabase” and the ability to “donut erase” features, it is an easy business case for me everytime I need to upgrade or build a new colleagues machine.Image
  2. UltraEdit32 $89.95 or Notepad++ (Free)                                                                      Why a text editor as your second most popular software for GIS you may ask…well, if you find yourself dealing with large xyz data or gml data you would not want to be without this!! Where this differs from the standard notepad is that you can assign macros (useful for altering xyz & ascII formats), find & replace to multiple files at a time, compare textfiles and even use UltraEdit for FTP!! If you have never used either of these software, try Notepad++ and I am sure you will be convinced!Image
  3. QGIS (Free)                                                                                                                         Install another geospatial software to deal with one? YES! Although ArcGIS is versitile and is an instrument with many different strings, one thing it isn’t is quick! QGIS is an open source project that has turned around and give ESRI something to think about, created by real GIS users, QGIS provides all the tools you would expect of a commercial GIS and without any of the weight, I recently found myself running it entirely off a USB stick! What stands QGIS far apart from ArcGIS is the plugins and user community, rather than the “We will look into it” attitude of ESRI, the QGIS community relish in a challenge and are always willing to help – With plugins to create webmaps straight from your map (QGIS Cloud) through to reading just about every geospatial format on Earth using the GDAL, one thing is for sure, you can no longer just use ArcGIS on its own. Also look forward to June with some MAJOR upgrades coming to make QGIS 2.0 the better software to run commercially…
  4. ET Geowizards Free (basic toolset) or $245                                                                    This set of tools has also been around since ArcGIS 3.2 and gave ArcGIS near ArcInfo capability and it cost nothing! Legacy is that Ian still releases a basic toolset for free which is pretty useful but ET really comes into its own when converting between point, polyline and polygon – this tool doesn’t faulter and convers points to polylines or polygons to centroids with little input. Try the free version to see how this can extend the ArcGIS Toolset.
  5. Bimp (Free)   Okay, so in QGIS 2.0 this tool may be pointless but for now this is a tool I use at least once a month. BIMP stands for Batch Image Processor and is invaluable in recursing through large libraries of images and converting formats, greyscaling, filename changing or just plain reducing image size. I personally use this one for converting Ordnance Survey data to greyscale so that data overlaid is more prominent.Image

There are also another 3 or 4 software packages which I demand as a “basic” GIS set up, though they are for another day and more catered to the work I do. Please get in contact if there is anything I missed or something not listed above, I would love to hear!!

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