We will primarily use ESRI’s ArcGIS 10 Desktop (ArcInfo version with all extensions), which is available for your use on all the QL304 and QL306 machines. The Quinney Labs all have ArcGIS 10.3.1 installed on them. You can and are welcome to complete the labs in ArcGIS 10.0, 10.1*, 10.2*,10.3.1, or 10.4). Although the lab computers can work, we highly recommend you working off your own laptop (if you have one). As students, you are entitled to a free one-year student license of ArcGIS for installation on your personal computer (see here for details). Grad students, if you want a version for your research, it can be acquired for free through USU Software Licensing (

The reason we use ArcGIS is because it is the industry standard and the vast majority of employers, universities and agencies you may end up working for will most likely be using ArcGIS as well. All of the principles and theory we learn in this course, will apply to any GIS software.

*ArcMap projects are not compatible when working between versions 10.0, 10.1 and 10.2.  When working in 10.1 or 10.2 you will have to "save a copy" of your map project and then "save as type" and choose version 10.0 or 10.1 in order to open project in 10.0 or 10.1.

Installation Instructions

Open Source Desktop GIS Alternatives to ArcGIS

  • QGIS - Free, open source GIS desktop (runs in Windows, Linux, Mac OS)
  • MapWindow GIS – Free, open source GIS desktop application and programming component (only runs in Windows).
  • Landserf - Free GIS, that focuses on modeling of land surface (i.e. DEMS). Java based GIS runs in Linux, Mac and Windows
  • GRASS GIS – Originally developed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, open source: a complete GIS
  • SAGA GIS – System for Automated Geoscientific Analysis- a hybrid GIS software. 
  • Quantum GIS – QGIS is an Open Source GIS that runs on Linux, Unix, Mac OS X, and Windows.

Website & WebGIS

You are welcome to use any software, hosting and servers that you wish to use, are knowledgeable about and can support dynamic webGIS applications. However, it is strongly recommend that you use Google Sites for your website and Google Maps for your webGIS applications. We will only provide support for Google Sites and Google Maps in lab. The reason we suggest these is because they are free, easy-to-use, and require no programming experience. Moreover, Google Maps and Google Earth are familiar to most web users to whom your spatial analyses and maps might be targeted. However, there are plenty of viable free and commercial alternatives out there.