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GIS Guide  

Guide to GIS at MSU, finding datasets, GIS data libraries, and GIS utilities and software.
Last Updated: Apr 16, 2014 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

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ESRI Software at MSU

Michigan State University has a site license to ESRI software, including some extensions.  Most PC computers in labs on campus administered by the campus computing department (Academic Technology Services or ATS) are loaded with ArcGIS 9.2 with ArcInfo.  Macintosh computers do not have ESRI software.

  • The Main Library has 348 patron PCs loaded with the full suite of lab software including ArcGIS 9.2.  The MSU Map Library (Main Library, west wing, 3rd floor) has two lab computers.  Users must have an active MSU NetID to use any of these computers.
  • MSU staff may also purchase ESRI software licenses from the MSU Computer Store. 
  • Students may request a free 1-year license to ArcGIS 10.1.  For more information see MSU Computer Store.
  • The MSU Geography Department, located in the Geography Building, has PC and UNIX labs for students enrolled in Geography classes.  These are not  open labs to the MSU Community, they are limited to students taking Geography Department classes.


GIS Training at MSU


Free online training:

MSU's Site License gains us access to numerous free online GIS training modules.  See this list of classes.  These training modules will each take several hours but may be completed at your own pace.  Contact Kathleen Weessies to be enrolled in any of these classes.

Workshops (non-credit or C.E.U.):

Remote Sensing & GIS is a unit on campus that offers one and two-day CEU certified workshops.  The trainers are ESRI certified.

For-Credit Classes:

The MSU Geography Department teaches several GI - related courses including Geo 325, Geographic Information Systems, a 3-credit hour course.  For more information see the Geography Department Course Listing.

GIS Consultation

RS&GIS  (Remote Sensing & GIS) is a team of GIS professionals who provide geospatial technology services such as: 

  • General consulting
  • Needs assessment
  • Planning and Implementation
  • Data development (digitizing, parcel mapping, scanning, field collection, data mining, etc.)
  • Data manipulation (coordinate conversion, resolution resampling, file format conversion, etc.)
  • Attribute standardization
  • Geodatabase schemas
  • Data processing and automation
  • Geoprocessing analysis
  • Network analysis
  • Geocoding/address matching
  • Land cover/land use data development and updates

Justin Booth
Geography Building, Room 217
673 Auditorium Road
Michigan State University

Free GIS Tutorials

Interactive mapping

  • Social Explorer
    Create maps and reports from selected census statistics.
    1790 to 1930: County, state and national data.
    1940-2010: Census tract, county, state and national data.
    2006- : ACS
  • SimplyMap  Icon
    SimplyMap provides detailed US data including thousands of population, demographic, business, and marketing data variables from data partners like US Census, consumer expenditure, real estate, crime and many more. See also a guide to using Simplymap at
    Guide to Using Simplymap
  • PolicyMap
    Policymap is an online data and mapping application that gives access to over 15,000 indicators related to housing, crime, mortgages, health, jobs, demographics and education. Data are available at all common geographies (address, block group, census tract, zip code, county, city, state, MSA) as well as unique geographies like school districts and political boundaries. Data come from both public and proprietary sources. Many of the public files are available for download. Through PolicyMap, you can access all data in interactive maps, tables, charts, reports and through a unique analytic tool. You may also upload your own address level data and share your data and interactive maps with others.
  • Data-Planet Statistical DataSets (formerly ProQuest )
    Aggregates over 590 licensed and public domain datasets provided by over 50 sources and makes 14 billion data points accessible. Researchers are able to manipulate datasets, make comparisons, chart trends over time and spatially represent data. Export as a table, SAS, or as shapefile.
  • LandScan Population  Icon
    Landscan is a world population dataset at approximately 1 km resolution (30" X 30"). It represents an ambient population (average over 24 hours) disaggragating census counts using dasymetric modeling.
  • BusinessDecision
    The strength of BusinessDecision is in providing demographic and business information in graduated circles from a specific point or address. The data may be retrieved in table or map form as PDF documents. Traffic count data is available.
    Short video:
    Note: You must be a Michigan resident to use this resource.
  • DemographicsNow!  Icon
    View demographic data on areas around your address of interest – including income, housing, race, age, education, retail spending, consumer expenditures, businesses and more.
    Note: You must be a Michigan resident to use this resource

GIS Lite

  • ArcGIS Online
    Create, manage, and store maps and applications online in Esri's cloud. Build and embed custom apps. Create a free account. Upload your own data or access a collection of basemaps, demographic maps, image services, and data from the authoritative content from commercial data providers and the GIS user communities around the world.
  • Scribble Maps
    Scribble Maps and Scribble Maps Pro are both free products that enable users to create customized maps online. Users can mark up maps, measure distances, import KMLs, Shapefiles, tabular files, add placemarks, text, images, and shapes. Finished maps may be embedded into webpages or exported in various formats.
  • Mapme
    Mapme is similar to Scribble Maps in that users can customized maps by adding points, labels, lines, images, then share their product with others via URLs or widgets.

Open Source GIS

  • QGIS
    Quantum GIS (QGIS) is a user friendly Open Source Geographic Information System (GIS) licensed under the GNU General Public License. QGIS is an official project of the Open Source Geospatial Foundation (OSGeo). It runs on Linux, Unix, Mac OSX, Windows and Android and supports numerous vector, raster, and database formats and functionalities.
  • QGIS User Manuals
  • QGIS Tutorials
  • QGIS Video (7:52)
  • More QGIS Videos
  • QGIS Tools

GIS Utilities

  • BatchGeo
    Geocode addresses. Make a Google map with the addresses, or export latitude/longitude coordinates for export to a GIS.
  • FME (Feature Manipulation Engine)
    Free licensing (either individual or loating) tool can be obtained by academic institutions through Safe Software. FME can convert between a tremendous range of data formats and is very helpful for CAD, GIS, KML and imagery conversions.
  • Zonums KML to ship
    Zonums Software offers several utilities including: Epoint2GE: Excel to Google Earth; Kml2shp 2: Google Earth to GIS; DigiPoint 2: Points export from Google Maps; Shp2kml 2: Shapefile to Google Earth; Epoint2CAD: Excel to AutoCAD; Ucons: Units Conversion Tool; Color-it: Color your Map; KMLTolbox: KML online tools
  • Quantum GIS
    Quantum GIS is an emerging oepn source GIS software licensed under the GNU General Public License. QGIS is an official project of the Open Source Geospatial Foundation (OSGeo). It runs on Linux, Unix, Mac OSX, and Windows and supports numerous vector, raster, and database formats and functionalities.
  • Extension for the Bureau of Census American Community Survey (ACS)
    The extension includes detailed instruction to download ACS data and associated boundary data to be used in GIS. It include a tool to join downloaded ACS tables and census boundary shapefiles. Several mapping designs are developed in the extension. These designs facilitates the inclusion of reliability information when mapping ACS data. These designs also help readers determine if differences in ACS estimates are real or due to sampling error.

Geosciences Librarian; Head, Map Library

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Kathleen Weessies

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