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Geographic Information Systems (GIS)

This Subject Guide provides you with many GIS resources which can enable you to successfully use GIS for your research and coursework.


The Kelvin Smith Library purchases an annual Educational Site License for university wide usage of ESRI ArcGIS software for teaching and research purposes. This software may be installed from the CWRU Software Center onto campus-owned Windows computers only.  Additional ESRI products are also available through this Site License and can be downloaded from the Ohio Supercomputing Center.

ArcGIS is also available on computers located in the Freedman Center (FC) at the Kelvin Smith Library.  The advantage to working on your project on FC computers is that you will have direct access to geospatial data stored on the library's data server which can be used in your GIS project.

Students who wish to use the software on their personal computing device must request a 12 month license of ArcGIS Desktop.

To use the ArcGIS software on a campus computer, you must set up a remote license or the software will not work.  To do this, you will go to “Start”, “All Programs”, “ArcGIS”, “ArcGIS Administrator”.  In the new window that opens, select the “Desktop” folder on the left.  Make sure the button next to ArcInfo (Concurrent Use) is selected on the right.   The license number will need to be entered into the box below “License Manager (for Concurrent Use software products)”.  Click “Change”. In the pop-up window that appears, type:  Now,click ”OK”, and “OK”.  You should now be able to successfully launch the ArcGIS software.


A popular, free, and open-source alternative to ESRI ArcGIS is QGIS. Unlike ESRI's products, QGIS is designed to run on Windows, Mac, and Linux. It may be freely downloaded at


If you are uncertain which GIS product to use or what training path to follow, please email so that we may discuss what is best suited to your needs.

‚ÄčEsri offers web-based training classes. Please refer to the ESRI Course Catalog for the complete list of courses and course descriptions.  If you are new to GIS, we recommend starting with Getting Started with GIS and Using ArcMap in ArcGIS Desktop 10.

Visit Esri's E-Learning site to learn more and to access the training.  You will need to create an Esri Account first (use your CWRU email), and then connect your Esri Account to CWRU's organization.  CWRU's Esri customer number is 40042.  Please note, it may take up to 24 hours before you are "connected" and will be permitted to access the training.

QGIS offers a free training manual through

Two books, Learning QGIS and Becoming a QGIS Power User, are also recommended.