Information on GIS

Im interested in getting into GIS application development.  Currently Im a web/intranet  and windows application developer (JAVA, .Net, Oracle, SQL)  but would like to start creating mapping and tracking applications using GIS.  Can anyone recommend a starting point as far as software, hardware and perhaps information or groups?

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Found this pdf information on ESRI's site.  They also have a very good forum to ask questions about their software.  This is where I would go for more of the development/coding end if you end up choosing that software.

bbaoIT ConsultantCommented:
good start from here:

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Heres a link to a page of interactive webmapping links.  Some of these webmaps that offer more interaction with the map itself require you to download and install a map control such as Active CGM.

Also the link bbao gives above is a good general information site.  As far as software vendors go, the three main ones are Intergraph, ESRI, and Autodesk.  I have had some experience with all three of these.  My personal preference is Intergraph.  Next is autodesk, then ESRI.  Each of these vendors provide a webmapping solution, and development packages of map objects for desktop solutions.  There are also other less known software packages that you may wish to check out.  Smallworld and MapInfo.  I have not used these two recently enough to give much insight.  Your choice of vendor will depend on a number of factors.  GIS software is still very proprietary.  For the most part they utilize their own data formats, but also provide support for some of the most common formats such as Shapefiles or Autocad drawings.  If your working in an organization thats heavily vested in one of these, dont expect that they will change.  If you have the option to start fresh, and choose your platform then thats great.  I like Intergraph because in my experience they are the most open and flexible.  ESRI has good software, but I dont like some of their methodology that tries to funnel you into adopting their data management techniques.  I feel that GIS, although a great tool, should be treated as another information management asset, that works with existing databases and applications, not something that should take over and force you to adopt a certain way of doing things.

Sorry for the rant.  Anyway, more useful links:

This link shows the capabilties of many map controls that can be used for GIS web applications:

Heres a few examples of webmaps created using different software packages just to show a relative comparison.  Theres too many to list them all:


Autodesk MapGuide:

Intergraph Geomedia Webmap:

Hope this helps.  If you have more specific questions, fire away.


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Well Bill already covered most of it in his answer. To give my insights, I still suggest Autodesk
MapGuide among all of them.  The latest release loads faster than the other softwares in same
nature.  It already uses vector data and is not loading images, unless you opt to you another
of its viewer (LiteView) which deals in using PNG images.  It is cheaper and has direct
compatibility with Oracle, hence your spatial data storage (you can also use other databases as
long as it is ODBC compliant) It's API scripts are easy to use and customize for you can use any
web scripting and database languages you like.  The viewer for the web browser is for free
(downloadable plugin you can set for auto-download). Plus you don't need a high-end computer
to browse sites that are made with MapGuide. It can even support those PII desktops. But
ofcourse, if you are going to install it to a server...I recommend a PIII and above for fast
processing of requests from clients.

I believe Autodesk has done a good job when it comes to file compression and data flexibility
compared to its competitors. So yes, when it comes to GIS web, I suggest MapGuide...when you
go mobile (pocket pc) get Autodesk Onsite (cutomizable using eVC++) Everything connected to
one another.

For a more detailed information about the software here is a direct link to autodesk:

For more applications (aside from what Bill posted)..refer to this link for lists of sample sites:

On top of it, autodesk has a good product support and documented files that are free to

bbaoIT ConsultantCommented:
good job. thanks, bbao
Just to stick up for MapInfo, you can download a free trial version of their web mapping software from their website.

This also includes manuals and information.  Hopefully this can help you decide which software area you want to specialise in.  

If you do not want to tie yourself down to using one application rather than another you could start from scratch, depending on your programming skill level.  Some sites to look at would be geotools;

There is also a book that might interest you on Amazon - particularly regarding your skills in Java
mnyeAuthor Commented:
Wow, thanks for all of that guys.  VERY good information.  As for me, I like the option that AndrewMahon brought up with geotools, however Im not very good at java, but what better way to get better.  whats the deal with MapPoint?  Is it pretty lowend?  

Thanks for all the good info. What kind of projects does everyone here work on using GIS?

Hey matt,

I have to agree with the suggestion about Mapguide.  It is fast and flexible.  If I wanted to do pure map display, it would be my choice.  For interaction that closely mimics desktop software I prefer Geomedia.  I depends on your audience.  If your building applications that will run only within an organization, you can control the browser environment and therefore provide way more functionality.  If its for public access your limited because you need to comply with most browsers, your limited in a big way.  I like the open source stuff, but I would be wary of passing it off as a large scale sustainable solution, because the world of GIS changes so quickly and support and documentation is not as readily available as other open source systems such as MySQL for example.

I now work in Municipal GIS service, but have in the past worked in Environmental and Gas/Utilities.

Its not often we get a group like this together in this forum.  Im interested in what others are doing as well.


We also use Mapguide here.  It has been an easy to use web application.  I have used both GeoMedia and ESRI products extensively.  There are pros and cons with each.  GeoMedia is very good with reading open source and analysis on large data sets.  GeoMedia lacks the ease of map production that the ESRI products have.  ESRI products can be slow with the processing of data (personal geodatabase, shape files).  I have not used SDE so I cannot comment on its speed.  ESRI products are easier to use then GeoMedia for new users from what I have found.  To be able to create utility networks out of the box is nice to have in ArcINfo.  I know with GeoMedia you have to purchase an extension (PW Manager) to have the same functionality.  I have found that our staff has picked up and had great success with the Arc products.  We are a utility department dealing with water and sewer.
Good point about map production.  Maps are easy to create in the Arc environment.  I have found geomedia to not be very user friendly for map production.  However, I do find it allows you finer control over your plotting and layout options.  Having said that, they all pale in comparison to AutoCAD for precision map making.  As well no other product can create and edit spatial data like AutoCAD Map.  The GIS is for data display and analysis, the CAD is for precision drafting, thus the good combination of AutoCAD and MapGuide.  A lot of this talk is about the out of the box stuff.  For Matt, who is a developer, he could potentially buy a couple of developer licences of the programming objects and develop his own systems, both desktop and webmap.  I have seen custom built GIS systems that use a combination of objects from these different sytems.  Its really can go anywhere you want it.  CWise you work in a utility dept. so you know that utility data is complex enough that its hard to represent properly with out of the box software without doing some customization.  Speaking of utility data, I used to use Smallworld for gas pipleline data, and it handles networks out of the box better than anything Ive seen.  Its also way more expensive too.

Hey CWise, where are you from, you sound Canadian     :)

mnyeAuthor Commented:
Id like to do some environmental research using GIS and GPS.  perhaps meterological or astrological plotting. but i noticed that everyday uses are mostly civic. a friend just got a contract to plot out a golf course some where in ontario. not sure what he plans on using but i am curious to see what he goes with.  

you mention purchasing programming objects.  have you had any experience with any and what other languages other than the open source java are there? anyone more comprehensive than the other?


ps im not canadian but i grew up in buffalo. stuck in the south now.
Hey Matt,

Fist off, what are you looking to do, web or desktop.  I have never programmed with these objects much at all, but from what I understand, just pick your language (VB.Net, Java etc) and program these object the same way you would using Active X controls.  I ask whether you want web or desktop for good reason.  If you need a lot of query and analytical ability with large sets of data then you should be aware that if you choose the webmap option, you will spend a lot of programming time trying to mimic the functionality that comes out of the box with desktop software.  If you are just planning for you to use this or maybe one or two others, buy something like Arcview out of the box and forget the programming.  Arcview now has VBA incorporated, much the same as MS Office products, so its good for making quick and dirty UI.


mnyeAuthor Commented:
i think i am looking for a web solution although I would like experience with both.  Im really not following any ridged lines here as I have no project, just for my own curiousity. also, searching for jobs in the field Id like to be in, I've have seen a lot of job descriptions with GIS and GPS application programming experience wanted.

So in that regard, time isnt an issue, what is more important is covering industry standards, but from what Ive heard, there is no industry standard (?).  So i think I will start with GeoTools and also the 30 day trial of MapInfo. See what I can get from both and what options I have.  

Then Im going to take "Spatial Database Management and Advanced Geographic Information Systems" from the MIT OpenCourseware Project ( If you havent heard of the OpenCourseware Project, check it out. They use ArcView on an Oracle backend. But first I need to save up to buy ArcView.  Its $1500 off thier website, is that about the standard price?

thanks again for all the help.
bbaoIT ConsultantCommented:
hi, for personal and home use only, i would suggest to develop your small applications with VBA, work less and get more, if you have m$ office installed... :)
Hey Matt,

Order demo CD's for all of the different products.  Please dont buy Arcview without at least sampling a variety.  I know for sure Intergraph gives 90 day fully functional demos on most of their products, Im sure the other companies do the same.  bbao has a point, Ive seen a full blown GIS created with Access and some map objects.  It was a very professional setup.

mnyeAuthor Commented:
probably the best way to go.  thanks for all the advise and ideas!!!
hello, i would like to create the terrain model using the matlab. then missile can move along that terrain. this is for education purposes. there a few parameter on the missile can be controlled and studied. meaning that is a simple simulator/ program  not very complex as flight simulator. the missile movement controlled by it controller whereas the data of the terrain come from the gps in order to determine the the way point.
thank for you help
bbaoIT ConsultantCommented:
hohoo, "terrain model", "missile", "flight simulator"..., such words or topics is prohibited at EE?!
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