GIS Basics



How a GIS Works


In the past analyzing spatial data was a very expensive process.  Huge databases and expensive hardware and software made it difficult for everyone to use, apart from GIS experts.  Over the past few decades computers have become faster, more robust and more affordable.   With desktop computers, affordable and easy to use software, GIS can be used by anyone.


You do not need to be a “GIS Specialist” in order to learn GIS.  It is a tool like any other computer software, such as a word-processor, that allows the user to complete a task efficiently and effectively.  The user is the key to a successful GIS and the possibilities are endless.



Databases can be large and complex.  This database contains United States Population statistics.





When the data is interpreted using a GIS it is much easier to see the population throughout the US. 



It is not just the visualization of a database that makes a GIS so powerful but the combination of layering datasets and asking complex questions.  We will show an example later.


One-way to understand how a GIS works, is to look at the world as a collection of thematic layers that can be linked together by geography.  Thematic layers could be roads, rivers or buildings to name a few.  Once the thematic layers have been created with a GIS, we can begin to answer complex questions, and solve real world problems.