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Thread: Basic GIS tools an entry-level planner should command

  1. #1

    Mar 2007
    An undisclosed location

    Basic GIS tools an entry-level planner should command

    What would you say are the basic GIS tools an entry-level planner should command as a rule of thumb?

  2. #2
    Dec 2006
    how to import data from GPS and CAD, photometrics (drawing points, poly-lines, etc over an aerial photo), create shapefiles, use buffers, how to properly select data based on location or attributes, how to create readable maps including a useable legend, how to export to excel/access as well as make simultaneous changes in this software, how to properly change the scale in a map, which datums to use for setting coordinate systems.

    If you are using ESRI, I would recommend ArcCatalog, ArcToolbox, ArcMap, in addition to spatial analysis tools.

    At the very least understand how ArcIMS, ArcSDE, and Visual Basic work (and maybe some non-ESRI GIS platforms such as MapInfo couldn't hurt).

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Jeff's avatar
    Dec 2001
    Mr. Cool Ice
    Entry level?

    should know what it is...thats about it.

    Or just know AutoCad and forget about GIS.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian cch's avatar
    Mar 2006
    Machesney Park, IL
    Even though I've taken several GIS courses in school, all I need to know to perform my job, and every job I've had, is basically just how to add existing data layers, change the symbology to make it look nice, and make the layout view look good with the legend and north arrow and all. Oh, and I do queries all the time to look up parcel attributes. Especially if you work for the public sector, most municipalities have their own GIS people who take care of all the data creation, database management, and will make most of the major maps that planners need.

  5. #5

    Jun 2007
    Sacramento, CA

    basic data symbology

    I'd agree with CCH on this point. I am pricipally a GIS/CAD Analsyst, but I do get to do SOME Planning duties(ie, number of du for a project, wetland buffers, calc acreages) which, come to think of it is GIS as well.
    It seems to me about half the data is already made and the other half you do some GEOPRCESSING(ie, MERGE/UNION/BUFFER/IDENTITY etc) as well as table joins, this is in order for you to do some more analyses.

    One note, working with other consultants(Landscape Architects/Engineers/Planners) I've come to find 99% use ARCGIS. I've only had to use Maptitude once, Global Mapper a handful of times and MapInfo one time.


  6. #6
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
    Mar 1996
    Upstate New York
    Blog entries
    Moderator note:
    Welcome to Cyburbia!

    Renaming this thread from "The Basics". In the future, please use more descriptive thread titles.

  7. #7
    Jul 2007
    Tullinge Sweden

    Look at Manifold

    I guess the real answer to the orginal question depends on what you want to do? Before choosing a tool you need to know what you are wanting to produce. Design work? Analytical work? Maintaining land information up-to date? Scenario building? Maybe you don't need a GIS at all. Problem I've noticed is that when people see what a good GIS can do, their demands grow and their work changes. You can always start by looking at what different types of GIS software offer in terms of results.

    NOTE: I am not a salesperson.

    But as a GIS user who must pay for his own software, I would recommend Manifold ( web site without the www: manifold.net). In Sweden it costs 1% of what the equivalent tools in ArcGIS does. It is not perfect, but has many similarities to ArcGIS. It can import and export Shapefiles. Most everything is in the basic package...there may be two additional add ons that are also very reasonably priced. It costs nothing to check it out on its site.

    Repeat, I am not a salesperson. Besides, Manifold doesn't use them. And they don't advertise in the main GIS journals - which is why they are not better known.

    The there is GRASS - a very powerful FREE GIS that has a graphic face through Quantum GIS or QGIS. Yes there is a version for Windows OS. But I have found this one to have quite a steep learning curve.

    In terms of learning curves, it is easier to come at Manifold from scratch than from ESRI. For a start it doesn't need different layers for points, lines and polygons. If you've had ESRI all along, somethings are difficult to switch off in your head. But still, I found MapInfo even easier to learn out of the box.

    What I have found most important is to understand the difference between CAD and GIS. If you're going to design maps (town or subdivision design layouts), forget GIS. CAD is faster and if you already know it, continue to use it but make sure you always define coordinate systems, so that you can use the results in a GIS later on. GIS is for INFORMATION-based planning and management - not drawing based. Very good for spatial analysis, scenario building etc. And the datasets in many cases can be used by other statistical software outside the GIS framework.

    GIS is not a cartographic tool either. Lots of non-cartographers make very fancy maps with their GISes, maps that make a good cartographer cry. If you don't know how to design a well laid out map for the purpose of presenting information, GIS does NOT make it easier.

    Thats my 2c.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
    Aug 2001
    Gale Crater
    Get to know Google Earth now. Tools like Arc2Earth can convert ArcGIS data into KML files. Google Earth puts geographic information into the hands (so to speak) of the masses.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
    Sep 2001
    skating on thin ice
    Creation and managment of aspatial datasets and their relation to spatial information.

    Relational databases anf their importance

    Running queries and making them appear graphically.

    An understanding of layout and design and how things look on paper.
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

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