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Thread: Software to learn

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    Software to learn

    Hello all,
    I currently have a fair bit of free time. I was wondering if you have any recommendations for software that I should be working on learning before starting grad school in the fall. I'm pretty decent at GIS (at least the ESRI products...I worked for them for a while). I've looked at job postings to see what software they want in candidates and I'm hoping to get trial versions of software and go from there. Software that I'm planning on learning:
    ~Sketch Up
    ~ In Design
    ~ Photoshop

    Other ideas or suggestions are appreciated.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally posted by Queenducky21 View post
    Hello all,
    I currently have a fair bit of free time. I was wondering if you have any recommendations for software that I should be working on learning before starting grad school in the fall. I'm pretty decent at GIS (at least the ESRI products...I worked for them for a while). I've looked at job postings to see what software they want in candidates and I'm hoping to get trial versions of software and go from there. Software that I'm planning on learning:
    ~Sketch Up
    ~ In Design
    ~ Photoshop

    Other ideas or suggestions are appreciated.
    Hi Queen, These 3 softwares will be quite important for you in the future. Sketchup will obviously help you if you're in community design.I'll add, more advanced powerpoint knowledge, illustrator - a mastery of the full adobe package will be appreciated.
    Nowadays,most companies use ESRI ArcGIS.Also,don't forget microsoft office packages!

  3. #3
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    I am currently in a planning program and am also grabbling with this question. Planetizen has free tutorials in many software applications in planning. You need access to the software but if you can get that they seem very helpful. See THAT site.

    Moderator note:
    *Hink I think we all know which site you are discussing, but in general we frown on sending people away from our paradise to THAT place
    Last edited by Hink; 17 Jan 2013 at 3:06 PM.

  4. #4
    OH....IO Hink's avatar
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    Personally, if I were in school I would focus on a couple different areas.

    - GIS (if you are not proficient in GIS get there. It is a great skill to have)
    - Design (Adobe Suite - Illustrator for laying out pages, photoshop for photo modification)
    - Office Suite (word, excel, powerpoint, access)

    Really in planning you can get involved in all kinds of different areas. If you are in Economic Development is might be marketable to have some web design and coding skills. In general the world is going to cloud based services. Understanding how these services work and being able to explain them to higher ups helps you to relate and move forward.

    Good luck!
    A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. -Douglas Adams

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    Thanks all!

    I really appreciate your feedback and advice! This provides the necessary motivation for me to learn this software. Any other suggestions of places to look or software from others are appreciated. Now I will get to work and start learning!

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Vancity's avatar
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    May I ask, do people generally teach themselves these software programs (with the exclusion of GIS) ... or do people generally take classes in them? I noticed that there are no classes for the Adobe suite, for example, in my area, or I am not seeing them. Is it something you can feasibly teach yourself?

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    Cyburbian
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    You can NEVER be too good at Excel. Not the most sexy software in the world--I know--but being able to efficiently crunch those spreadsheets will make you extra useful to whoever you work for.

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    What about designer programs e.g. AutoCAD, etc?

  9. #9
    Cyburbian beach_bum's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Walton View post
    What about designer programs e.g. AutoCAD, etc?
    Its helpful, but not essential to most planning jobs. I would focus on Photoshop, InDesign, GIS, Sketchup and the entire Microsoft Office Suite. Adobe and many outside providers have courses on the basics of Photoshop and InDesign. I would say most of the design software is a matter of practice to learn efficiency. With all that said, being able to do hand drawings is an often overlooked skill, but still important in this profession.
    "Never invest in any idea you can't illustrate with a crayon." ~Peter Lynch

  10. #10
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Vancity View post
    May I ask, do people generally teach themselves these software programs (with the exclusion of GIS) ... or do people generally take classes in them? I noticed that there are no classes for the Adobe suite, for example, in my area, or I am not seeing them. Is it something you can feasibly teach yourself?
    I think any software can be self-taught but it just depends on how comfortable you are with doing that. I mean even classes for GIS are unnecessary with all the literature ESRI puts out there. The same can be said for Adobe and MS Office stuff as well. I think classes are only necessary if you want to prove to an employer that you know how to do something or if you're unable to learn on your own for whatever reason. Personally I think the biggest barrier to entry to learning new software is frankly the cost of the software itself which can make getting a hold of it difficult.

    I think the problem with software is that it's nearly impossible to learn everything that you might need to know in school. Some employers are accommodating with this but some clearly expect their entry level positions to know software that they couldn't possibly have learned in school... Then of course what software you pick up depends on what area of planning you want to work in. An urban designer probably won't be needing the same software skills as a transportation or environmental planner.
    Last edited by Blide; 23 Jan 2013 at 12:25 PM.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian
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    I would say it's more important to learn ways of thinking, and how to problem-solve, rather than specific computer programs. In school I put a lot of time into learning Adobe Creative Suite (Photoshop, InDesign, etc.), but the reality is that most public planning workplaces don't have the cashola (or the need) to have Adobe Creative Suite; my workplace certainly can't justify it. What HAS served me very well is learning how to convey information visually. Even using only Microsoft Word I can present a reader with what they need to know in a very effective manner.

    Even with ArcGIS, all but the smallest workplaces with have a GIS specialist. I only use it for the very most basic tasks at my workplace. Being familiar with ArcGIS will certainly help you know what you can ask of your specialist or help you make basic maps on your own, but for a lot of workplaces I'm not convinced an in-depth knowledge of ArcGIS is worth the time put into it.

    This is not to say learning programs is not valuable, but you must also always keep in mind that they are JUST tools. You can gain a functional understanding of a program in a weekend if you need to, but developing the vision required to know what you want to do with that tool is the real challenge.

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    Cyburbian
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    THANKS ALL!

    THANK YOU! THANK YOU! You all seem so spot on. I was directed to something from the U of IL which recommended that students be familiar with the following before starting classes. I'm posting them here for archival perposes:
    ~Excel
    ~Access
    ~ArcGIS
    ~In Design
    ~Illistrator

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    Super Moderator kjel's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Vancity View post
    May I ask, do people generally teach themselves these software programs (with the exclusion of GIS) ... or do people generally take classes in them? I noticed that there are no classes for the Adobe suite, for example, in my area, or I am not seeing them. Is it something you can feasibly teach yourself?
    Often times it's bundled under "Graphic Communications for Planning" or some such title. Anyways, you don't necessarily have to burn grad school tuition and time taking a class in Adobe Creative Suite when you can take it at a local community college for far less or as a non credit class.
    "He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" Jeremiah 22:16

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Midori's avatar
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    Along these lines, any recommendations for where to start on teaching myself ArcGIS? Is this a fool's errand? I am pretty much starting from scratch. Other than growing up in the information age with a mouse in my hand, I have no real prerequsites to programming. I know a bit of Access, that's it. Can I buy a book on Amazon and tinker my way into at least speaking enough of the language to sound like I know what I'm talking about? If so, what book?

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    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Midori View post
    Along these lines, any recommendations for where to start on teaching myself ArcGIS? Is this a fool's errand? I am pretty much starting from scratch. Other than growing up in the information age with a mouse in my hand, I have no real prerequsites to programming. I know a bit of Access, that's it. Can I buy a book on Amazon and tinker my way into at least speaking enough of the language to sound like I know what I'm talking about? If so, what book?
    This is no fools errand. Either a) you need to be self-motivated and b) have a good teacher (i am not available ). Any hoot. I would guess to say 90% of GIS work in planning is simply knowing how to do the basics. i.e. looking up property info through an address, assessor parcels, etc. 2nd, unless its a specialized position, most of the information is already handed to you. It is helpful how to do things such as mining information for vacant parcels, or how many parcels are close to the flood zone or within a flood zone, or creating boundary lines, etc. IMO you rarely to hardcore analysis such as spatial crap-ola that they teach in school.

    A good bet is to search within Itunes U (a section of the Itunes Store) and download some of the available courses on GIS. I did a quick search and Western Carolina University has a course that looks like it teaches basics. Maybe you can check a course out and see what it teaches and its free.

    In my organization we have 1 employee that loads data, modifies it, etc. He is the entire City's go-to person to get things done. He knows that I know how to do some hardcore GIS work, but we pretend I don't know, so that he can hire a new GIS guy but when he is too busy to get things done, I roll up my sleeves and git er done.. quietly.. in secret Good Luck.
    Men do dumb $hit... it is what they do to correct the problem that counts.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian terraplnr's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Midori View post
    Along these lines, any recommendations for where to start on teaching myself ArcGIS? Is this a fool's errand? I am pretty much starting from scratch. Other than growing up in the information age with a mouse in my hand, I have no real prerequsites to programming. I know a bit of Access, that's it. Can I buy a book on Amazon and tinker my way into at least speaking enough of the language to sound like I know what I'm talking about? If so, what book?
    I used a previous edition of this book when I was in grad school to learn the basics, because I wanted to take other courses instead of an official GIS course. I recommend it, it would be a good starting point (or possibly a good end point, I haven't needed to know anything else because that's what our GIS people are good at ).

    http://esripress.esri.com/display/in...225&moduleID=0

  17. #17
    Cyburbian Midori's avatar
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    Ah, thanks, both! Yep, that's the level of knowledge I'm looking for. We have a "GIS person" who does the input and fancy stuff. I just need to know my way around and would like to get an idea of what is possible so I know what to ask for from the GIS person. I've been sorely warned not to touch the zoning maps and always to "save as." I won't screw anything official up, just want to play with the maps and put them back where I found them.

    I will have to check out the iTunes U stuff and maybe that book.

  18. #18
    Cyburbian Vancity's avatar
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    I learned with the book "Getting to know ArcGIS desktop" .. which I believe was put out by ESRI. I think it comes with a disk that gives you the program for like 90 days or something. I dunno I bought mine used so my disk had expired, but I believe that is the idea. The text is a step by step manual, with explanations as to why you would do things one way or another. I never read the explanations because, well, I didn't have time for that ... but I bet if I had have I would have understood a lot more of the program

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