Tools of the Trade

ArcGIS is the industry standard for GIS. This sophisticated software is considered essential for anyone pursuing advanced GIS research. It not only provides a broad range of sophisticated mapping tools, but also gives users access to an active international community of developers and technical support.

It is important to note that higher processing power often comes at a higher cost. Successfully using Arc demands both time and resources. There are a number of ways to learn this complex tool, and most universities offer training workshops and seminars through their GIS departments and map libraries. The Digital Humanities Summer Institute also offers excellent courses on a regular basis.

Licensing fees may also pose a challenge. However, historians who want to use Arc on their own personal or work computers should investigate their university’s institutional licensing policy. The software developer, Esri, also provides reasonable annual licensing options through their Home Use Program.

There are open-source options too. Supported by a dedicated community of volunteers, programs like Quantum GIS (or Q, for short) offer competitive and affordable alternatives to ArcGIS.

This research was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada

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