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Mapping and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) : GIS Software

Information on Maps/Mapping & Geographic Information Systems (GIS)

ESRI ArcGIS Software

General Information

Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) is the company that produces the popular ArcGIS software, used heavily in industry, government, and academia. The University of Wisconsin System has a system-wide site license for ESRI software, so most campuses have access to ArcGIS in classrooms and labs.  Although often seen as the industry standard, there are emerging software programs like QGIS that are more frequently being used in classroom instruction at UW-Madison (in conjunction with ArcGIS). 

The UW-Madison Library Workshop "Introduction to GIS" utilizes ArcGIS software to demonstrate concepts and simple operations for analysis.

Several labs and libraries on campus have ArcGIS installed for use by UW faculty, staff, and students for research projects and classroom assignments.

ArcGIS Desktop

For additional details on the availability of student and other versions of ESRI software contact UW's  ESRI site license manager Math Heinzel

Esri offers an ArcGIS Student license for use by students taking GIS-related courses or programs at the UW-Madison. Faculty need only to fill out the following webform on the Esri site to receive copies or activation codes for software for distribution to students:

Student software is at the ArcInfo license level and includes the Spatial Analyst, 3D Analyst, Geostatistical Analyst, Data Interoperability, Publisher, Schematics, Tracking Analyst, ArcScan, Maplex and Network Analyst extensions.  The license will time-out one year from registration.  Contact UW-Madison's ESRI site license manager Math Heinzel for more information.

ArcGIS Pro

ArcGIS Pro can be downloaded by UW-Madison faculty, staff, and students from the LICGF software repository on UW Box. Users will need to authenticate with their UW NetID credentials. Once ArcGIS Pro is installed, users can choose the "Enterprise Login" and enter the following URL: - this will prompt a NetID login to the UW-Madison enterprise license for ArcGIS Pro.

Connecting Remotely for UW-Madison affiliates:

ArcGIS Desktop and Pro are available remotely via UW-Madison DoIT’s Virtual lab Access

Software for UW-Madison Academic Departments

If you are faculty or staff in one of the following departments, you can get ESRI software installation media directly from your departmental support staff (this list changes frequently)

Ag & Applied Economics
Business School 
Community & Environmental Sociology   
Computer Sciences 
Forest & Wildlife Ecology  
Planning & Landscape Architecture          
Population Health Sciences
Rural Sociology 
Sea Grant  
Soil Science 

Other Software and Utilities


Quantum GIS
Quantum GIS (QGIS) is a user friendly Open Source Geographic Information System (GIS) licensed under the GNU General Public License. QGIS is an official project of the Open Source Geospatial Foundation (OSGeo). It runs on Linux, Unix, Mac OSX, Windows and Android and supports numerous vector, raster, and database formats and functionalities.

DIVA-GIS is a free computer program for mapping and geographic data analysis (a geographic information system (GIS). With DIVA-GIS you can make maps of the world, or of a very small area, using, for example, state boundaries, rivers, a satellite image, and the locations of sites where an animal species was observed. We also provide free spatial data for the whole world that you can use in DIVA-GIS or other programs.

LICENSE (available in the Robinson Map Library and Geography Library)
Geospatial imagery is used to evaluate biodiversity, detect and identify targets, plan emergency response efforts and a variety of other applications important to understanding the world around you. ENVI is the premier software solution for processing and analyzing geospatial imagery and is designed to be used by everyone from GIS professionals to image analysts and image scientists, regardless of prior experience with imagery.

Commonly referred to as GRASS (Geographic Resources Analysis Support System), is a free Geographic Information System (GIS) software used for geospatial data management and analysis, image processing, graphics/maps production, spatial modeling, and visualization. GRASS GIS is currently used in academic and commercial settings around the world, as well as by many governmental agencies and environmental consulting companies. GRASS GIS is an official project of the Open Source Geospatial Foundation (OSGeo).

Scribble Maps
Scribble Maps and Scribble Maps Pro are both free products that enable users to create customized maps online. Users can mark up maps, measure distances, import KMLs, Shapefiles, tabular files, add placemarks, text, images, and shapes. Finished maps may be embedded into webpages or exported in various formats.

Mapme is similar to Scribble Maps in that users can customized maps by adding points, labels, lines, images, then share their product with others via URLs or widgets.

Free Online Utilities

Axis Maps Resources
Resources for cartographers of all experience levels.  Free utilities include: IndieMapper, TypeBrewer, Color Brewer 2.0, and a code library.

Geocode addresses. Make a Google map with the addresses, or export latitude/longitude coordinates for export to a GIS.Zonums KML to ship

Zonums Software offers several utilities including: Epoint2GE: Excel to Google Earth; Kml2shp 2: Google Earth to GIS; DigiPoint 2: Points export from Google Maps; Shp2kml 2: Shapefile to Google Earth; Epoint2CAD: Excel to AutoCAD; Ucons: Units Conversion Tool; Color-it: Color your Map; KMLTolbox: KML online tools

NYPL Map Warper
The NYPL Map Warper is a tool for digitally aligning ("rectifying") historical maps from the NYPL's collections to match today's precise maps. Visitors can browse already rectified maps or assist the NYPL by aligning a map.