Mapping Resources

What is GIS? 

A geographic information system (GIS) is a computer system for capturing, checking, and displaying data related to positions on the Earth's surface. By relating seemingly unrelated data, GIS can help individuals and organizations better understand spatial patterns and relationships.

Where do I start?

There are many GIS programs out there, and every option has its pros and cons. The resources on this page have been selected for their excellence and rated by their strength, breadth of reach, cost, and accessibility. If there is something you would like to see or if you have questions about how to use these resources, please reach out to Other IU resources related to GIS are listed at the bottom of the page.

ArcGIS Pro

64-Bit ProcessingHigher learning curve
Integrates well with ArcGIS OnlineBulkier files
*Can be accessed through IUanyware and on select desktops on IU Bloomington Campus

ArcGIS Online

Easy access with IU accountFewer GIS tools
Simple web optimizationOverall, can become restricted compared to desktop programs
Accessible in a web browser
Integrates well with ArcGIS Pro

ArcGIS Storymaps

Great for storytellingPotentially inaccessible for some viewers
Works Directly with ArcGIS OnlineLots of moving parts
Easy to embed and share
Accessed with IU account


FreeNo IU classes use QGIS*
PowerfulSome high-level analysis tools are missing
Plugins provide similar capabilities to ArcGIS ProNot as accessible for online maps as Arc Online
Large and helpful userbase
*Seminars and other events DO occasionally cover QGIS

Google My Maps

Very user friendlyNo real analysis tools, simple mapping only
In web browserVery limited power, only 10 layers
Simple labelingWill be tied to Google
Accessible with any google account