What is a GIS? - Geographic Information Systems or GIS allows you to see
information about areas of interest, places or things in map format. For example,
you can see the boundaries of City Council districts, parks, zoning, school districts
or police precincts. You can also find library locations, pools and fire stations to
name a few. Simply put, a GIS combines layers of information about an area to give
you a better understanding of that area.
What makes up a GIS? - A working GIS integrates five key components: hardware,
software, data, people and methods. Hardware is the computer on which GIS software provides
the tools necessary to store, analyze and display geographic information. Geographic data
(layers) and related tabular data are required in order to do work in a GIS software.
What is a GIS layer? - GIS stores information as a collection of layers that can be
linked by geography. This simple but extremely powerful concept has proven invaluable for
solving many real-world problems such as vehicle routing, municipal planning as well as
How do I do GIS analysis? - Start your GIS analysis by figuring out what information
you need. This is most often in the form of a question: Where is the closest library to my house?
Where are the city-owned pools? What council district do I live in? Be as specific as possible
about the question you want to answer.
Why use GIS? - You may already have been exposed to GIS technology without realizing
it. If you've ever used an Internet mapping program (like this one) to find directions, you've
used GIS. The location of city parks, fire stations or other amenities in your neighborhood was
most likely selected using GIS to determine how best to meet the needs of the community.