TitleBodyTechnical Expertise RequiredCostAdditional Information
3D World Studio

3D World Studio is a modeling program useful for visualizing real world data utilizing tools developed within computer gaming environments. The program allows you to create buildings and terrain and export your visualization into a variety of formats.


Standard license is $49.95
Requirement: OpenGL capable graphics card, 500 mb RAM, 20 mb free hard drive space

ArcGIS Desktop

ArcGIS Desktop is a collection of software products for building complete geographic information systems (GIS). produced by Esri. ArcGIS Desktop 9 provides an integrated GIS, combining object-oriented and traditional file-based data models with a set of tools to create and work with geographic data. The following three applications comprise the ArcGIS Desktop software suite:

  • ArcMap (mapping and data manipulation): ArcMap is a map-authoring application
  • ArcCatalog (data management): shared ArcGIS application that allows you to organize and access all GIS information (e.g., maps, globes, datasets, models, metadata, and services). Includes tools for browsing and finding geographic information; recording, viewing, and managing metadata; viewing datasets; and defining the schema structure of the object-based geographic datasets.
  • ArcToolbox (data conversion, modeling, and spatial analysis): includes tools to do geographic feature overlay, feature selection and analysis, topology processing, and data conversion resulting in an output dataset. The geoprocessing framework allows you to use each geoprocessing function in a variety of ways. The tools can be used directly from a dialog, executed via command line, combined with other processes in visual models using Model Builder, or used in advanced scripts.
Basic programming skillsCost-basis
  • http://www.esri.com/software/arcgis/index.html
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ArcGIS
ESRI ArcGIS Explorer

ArcGIS Explorer is a geographical information system (GIS) viewer to explore, visualize, and share GIS information. It provides a freely-distributable way to share products produced by ESRI's commercial products.

There are two versions: one for the desktop, the other on-line. The on-line version includes support for time-enabled maps.

No programmingFree

There is a free SDK available for download.

ESRI ArcGIS Server

ArcGIS Server is a component of the ESRI suite of commercial software focused on the ability to create, manage, and distribute GIS services over the Web to support desktop, mobile and Web mapping applications.

The user can choose from Basic, Standard, or Advanced editions of ArcGIS Server. Costs vary depending on the level of service required.


Available in the cloud computing environment: http://www.esri.com/software/arcgis/arcgisserver/cloud.html.
This software is included on many university ESRI site licenses
Esri and the Esri Logo are licensed trademarks of Environmental Systems Research Institute, Inc.


ESRI provides three application program interfaces (API) for embedding Internet mapping capabilities into websites. The JavaScript API requires only a text editor, while the Silverlight/WPF and Flex versions may require additional licensing/software (see additional information below). These applications can be used with many online GIS web services, including several offered free of charge at ArcGIS.com.

Basic programming skillsFree



ArcMap is the map display and editing workhorse for the ESRI ArcGIS Geographical Information System (GIS) software package. It is most widely used for map creation, but also has broad capabilities for editing and analysis. The "Toolbox" available in ArcMap provides an encyclopedic array of GIS data manipulation and analysis functions for almost any application.

ArcMap is included in three versions of ArcGIS Desktop, each with an increasing array of capabilities. "ArcView" provides basic mapping functionality. "ArcEditor" adds the ability to create and edit data and to do interconversions between raster and vector data formats. Finally, "ArcInfo" contains the full array of mapping, editing and analysis features.

ArcMap is sold with a number of "extensions" that, if purchased, extend the capabilities to allow manipulation and analysis of additional forms of data or add additional capabilities. For example, the "Spatial Analyst" extension provides capabilities for the manipulation and analysis of raster data such as satellite images and digtal elevation model (DEM) data, including image processing and hydrologic analysis functions.

Scripting of functions is provided in several languages, with built-in support for Python programming within the ArcMap interface.

No programmingCost-basis
FRAGSTATS: Spatial Pattern Analysis Program for Categorical Maps

FRAGSTATS is a computer software program designed to work with geospatial data to help the user categorize landscape patterns and metrics, and is useful in identifying areas where land use activities have resulted in fragmentation of the landscape. The current release is version 3.3

The program is currently undergoing another major revamping, which will result in the release of version 4.0 sometime in 2011.

No programmingFree

Version 3.3 is a stand-alone program written in Microsoft Visual C++ for use in the Windows Operating environment. It accepts raster images in a variety of formats, including Arc Grid, ASCII, 16 or 32 bit BINARY, ERDAS, and IDRISI image files. However, currently FRAGSTATS does not work with newer versions of ERDAS Imagine files.

Google Earth

Google Earth is a flexible mapping and display tool that is installed on a local computer, and accesses on-line data sources provided by Google. These data sources include aerial imagery at a variety of scales and additional data hosted by Google. The user needs to have internet access to view the data provided by Google. Once Google Earth is installed it allows the user to "zoom in" and view satellite and photographic images on any place in the world. The user can also change the perspective of their view to panoramic, and they can "fly" from one area of the globe to others as if in an airplane. It includes 3-D representations of topography and, of buildings (for selected areas), and provides street view photography for some locations. It includes links to a large number of external services that provide additional information, such as photos of points of interest. Time-controls allow you to select imagery from a number of different years for analyses of landscape change.

If you download or are given a file in KML or KMZ format, you can set your local computer preferences to automatically start Google Earth when the file is "clicked".

In addition to its display capabilities, Google Earth can also be used to create data through on-screen digitizing. It produces KML/KMZ files that can then be used with other GIS products such as Google Maps, ArcGlobe and ArcMap.

A limited version of Google Earth is available for mobile devices such as cell phones.

Google Earth is free, but professional versions that include additional capabilities are available for purchase.

No programmingFree

Users can convert GIS to KML/KMZ through tools available within standard GIS software projects.


MapServer is an open source tool for publishing spatial data and interactive mapping applications to the web. It allows users to create “geographic image maps”, that is, maps that can direct users to content. MapServer uses Web Feature Services (WFS) that will serve out features and attributes to users and WMS (Web Mapping Service), that serves an 'image' of what the symbolized layers (gis datasets) look like on the server based on the extent requested. Users can implement python, java, perl, or .net programming languages to work with MapServer.

  • http://www.osgeo.org/
  • http://www.springerlink.com/content/w2777501049kv574/
Panoply Data Viewer

Panoply is a cross-platform application which plots geo-gridded arrays from netCDF, HDF and GRIB datasets. It supports the following operations:

  • Slice and plot specific latitude-longitude, latitude-vertical, longitude-vertical, or time-latitude arrays from larger multidimensional variables.
  • Combine two arrays in one plot by differencing, summing or averaging.
  • Plot lon-lat data on a global or regional map (using any of over 75 map projections) or make a zonal average lineplot.
  • Overlay continent outlines or masks on lon-lat plots.
  • Use any ACT, CPT, GGR, or PAL color table for scale colorbar.
  • Save plots to disk GIF, JPEG, PNG or TIFF bitmap images or as PDF or PostScript graphics files.
  • Export lon-lat map plots in KMZ format.
  • Export animations as AVI or MOV video or as a collection of invididual frame images.
  • Explore remote THREDDS and OpenDAP catalogs and open datasets served there.

To be plotted by Panoply, dataset variables must be tagged with metadata information using a convention such as CF.

No programmingFree