Geospatial Modeling Environment (GME) grew out of Hawth’s Tools, a collection of tools that provided welcome and easy functionality with an ArcGIS-interoperable toolbar.  It has always been optimal for environmental and ecological work, but its functionality can be applied to many other application areas. Now a stand-along package, with all of the original bits and more. It has software dependencies on both ArcGIS and R; see the download page for more information.

GRASS, Geographic Resources Analysis Support System. The original open source GIS package, remembered fondly – and not so fondly – for the challenges a user would experience.  But this isn’t your father’s GRASS.  New and improved, and increasingly popular world-wide, with resources and tutorials available in multiple languages.

IDRISI, a long-standing product of Clark Labs, integrates traditional GIS functionality – focusing on raster-based analyses – with additional digital image processing opportunities.  Their application areas are particular strong in natural resource management, environmental modeling, and related land planning and analysis.  Their use in GIS classrooms is not as widespread as other platforms, but loyal customers abound.

P.S.  IDRISI is not an acronym, but rather a tribute to Muhammad al-Idrisi, the 12th century Islamic geographer and cartographer.

GeoDa (pronounced gee-ó-da) is one of the most robust and thorough tools for Exploratory Spatial Data Analysis.  Cross-platform, open source. A must-use when you’re committed to interpreting the meaning behind the patterns and colors.

One of those free packages that always seems to be getting better and better.  GeoMapApp is “an earth science exploration and visualization application that is continually being expanded as part of the Marine Geoscience Data System (MGDS) at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University.”  Great for earth systems science, satellite imagery from many diverse platforms.  The Profile tool is handy for explaining DEMs through different visual perspectives.  Can be a quick complementary tool combined with other raster-based exercises.

Their educational resource collection has expanded too.

Quantum GIS (QGIS) is an Open Source 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.

CUNY Hunter offers a practicum using QGIS; here is info and a manual.

Harvard’s Center for Geographic Analysis has quick guides and a do-it-yourself Workshop.

The SpatialThoughts blog maintains QGIS Tutorials.

Esri is a global leader, and the most widely adopted in higher education, with over 8000 universities, worldwide, having licenses on their campus.  They maintain an Education Community page and a listserv for Higher Education users. You might find their extensive GIS bibliography helpful, or their info on educational licensing options.  ArcLessons may be a good solution for finding lab activities. And don’t forget about requesting desk copies of books from Esri Press.

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