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Defining a GIS: Essential GIS functions from users

in FOSS4G, FOSS4G2011, Video, OSGeo

This study evaluates the importance of 21 "essential" Geographic Information System (GIS) functions. Graduate students and a faculty member from Idaho State University’s Department of Geosciences listed these functions, and their importance was evaluated through an online survey of GIS-related mailing lists and forums, such as Map Window, Oregon and Washington GIS, Idaho’s Geospatial Technology, and the Open-source Geospatial Foundation. 552 GIS practitioners of different backgrounds and applied fields responded to the survey.

Practitioners both assigned a level of importance to the 21 GIS functions initially proposed by Idaho State University researchers and suggested GIS functions that were not originally included in the survey. GIS practitioners valued the functions of viewing vector data, viewing and editing attribute data, displaying data on a map, and supporting different projections and coordinate systems as "extremely important," on average.

The results of this survey can (1) suggest to programmers what essential GIS functions practitioners would expect to find in any GIS package, (2) assist researchers in systematically comparing existing GIS packages (MapWindow, GRASS, Quantum GIS, Open Jump GIS, gvSIG, ArcGIS), and (3) determine which functions can be used to define a GIS.

Anderson Sandes