We can help UMN students, faculty, and staff from all campuses access and license several geospatial software packages. Not sure where to get started? Or don’t see software you need listed? Contact our Help Desk for assistance with finding the appropriate software for your work.
Esri is an industry leader of GIS software and services. The University has a site license with Esri which provide all students, faculty, and staff with access to most Esri applications, services, and data resources at no cost. You may use Esri software and services for academic, research, and outreach projects. Esri resources obtained through the University may not be used for commercial purposes.
If you are new to GIS, we recommend that you start with ArcGIS Online, a web-based service that has tools for mapping, spatial analysis, and data collection. If you work with large datasets, do a lot of editing, or need to create high-quality printed maps, you will want to use one of Esri’s desktop applications.
ArcGIS Online -Esri ArcGIS Online is a web mapping platform that allows you to easily create, edit, analyze, share and publish geospatial data. To read about all that ArcGIS Online has to offer, check out the official website.
Esri Story Maps - A web-based service that provides templates for telling a story with maps. You can easily create content including text, maps, and images, as well as link to websites and multimedia resources. Esri Story Maps are easy to access and use - there is no software to install and you will sign-in with your UMN Internet ID.
ArcGIS Pro - This is the latest desktop GIS software. It uses a ribbon toolbar similar to that found in Microsoft Office products. Note that this software requires a Microsoft Windows computer (Mac users will need either Bootcamp or to create a virtual machine).
ArcGIS Desktop (ArcMap) - The most widely used desktop GIS software at the University. If you are going to be working with colleagues already using ArcGIS Desktop, this is a good choice for you. Note that this software requires a Microsoft Windows computer (Mac users will need either Bootcamp or to create a virtual machine).
Esri Business Analyst - Esri Business Analyst (BAO) is an online market analysis platform that uses a wide range of demographic, census, consumer spending, and business data. You can find details on BAO's functionality on the Esri website. In the spring of 2014, U-Spatial sponsored a Brown Bag talk on BAO (video). There is no software to install and you will sign-in with your UMN Internet ID.
Instructions for signing on to Esri Business Analyst Online
To get Esri Business Analyst for a University owned computer, contact U-Spatial help desk
Esri Collector App - The Collector App allows you to easily collect data using your smartphone or tablet. Collector can be used online as well as offline when you are out of cell service range; UMN researchers have used the Collector app around the world. It is available for iOS, Android, and Windows devices.
Esri Survey 123 App - An app for collecting data that includes complex form validation and branching. Best of all, you create your form in Excel and upload to create your app quickly. Survey 123 runs in modern browsers on smartphones, tablets, and computers.
ArcGIS Enterprise - U-Spatial has Esri ArcGIS Servers that students, faculty and staff can use to host spatial data. Want to run your own server? Yep, you can do that too.
To get ArcGIS Enterprise for your personal or University owned computer, contact U-Spatial help desk
Esri CityEngine - Esri CityEngine is a 3D modeling and visualization tool. This has been used for applications such as urban planning, architecture, archeology, game development, and cinema (Disney animation studios).
QGIS - QGIS is a popular desktop GIS software with a full suite of tools for performing spatial analysis, editing data, and creating printed maps. It is open source software and has versions for Microsoft Windows, Mac, and Linux. As open source software it is free to download and use, making it a good option after you leave the University. There are two major version of QGIS available, 2.18 and 3.x (currently 3.2.1). Version 3.x is relatively new and the documentation isn't final, but we've found it to be stable and easier to use than 2.18.
ERDAS IMAGINE is used for processing remotely sensed imagery and other raster data. Note that this software requires a Microsoft Windows computer (Mac users will need either Bootcamp or to create a virtual machine). The software is licensed for 1-year personal use only.
Google Earth Engine is a cloud computing platform for processing satellite imagery and other remotely sensed data. It provides users with access to the imagery archives of various sensors (Landsat, Sentinel, MODIS, etc.) and computational resources that allow anyone with access to the internet to perform analysis on these datasets. Processing times are fairly fast because Google Earth Engine uses cloud computing on Google's own hardware. In order to use this resource, you will need to apply for access. It is currently used for non-commercial purposes and you need a .edu email account to sign up.