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GeoMapping Unit: Equipment and software

The rapid growth in the acquisition and use of geospatial data now applies to many disciplines and this unit offers expertise in GIS, map/illustration design, GPS, terrain modelling, air photo interpretation and other areas.

GIS programs for use on personal computers

GIS software

ArcGIS Desktop (ArcMap, ArcCatalog, ArcGlobe, ArcScene)

ArcGIS 10.7 can be downloaded and installed on any Windows computer that is used by staff or students at Plymouth University.

The share point site we are using to distribute these files is a temporary measure and is not intuitive to use.


Step 1. Click on the link to the right. Click here

Step 2. Click on the Download icon at the top of the page

Double clicking on the .zip entry will cause the process to fail, as will ticking the folder you wish to download before clicking on the download button.

 Installing the software on your computer constitutes acceptance of the license conditions. Plymouth University do not take responsibility for any ---damage or data loss that take place during this installation.




ArcGIS Pro

ArcGIS Pro is a separate ArcGIS product that is more closely integrated with ArcGIS online. It shares functionality with ArcGIS Desktop but has a different interface. Licences are provided through your ArcGIS online account rather through the Plymouth University network. Installation files can be accessed here. If you are are not already a member of Plymouth University's ArcGIS Online community, contact the geomapping unit in order to get your ArcGIS Online account activated. ArcGIS pro can only run on Windows operating systems


QGis: A free, open source GIS program.

The open source GIS, Qgis, can run on Apple, Windows, Linux and Android computers. Installation files can be accessed from here



Non GIS Mapping Software: Adobe Illustrator

Adobe Illustrator is one of a number vector drawing packages that can be used to draw maps, especially for simpler maps, where analysis is not required. Other similar packages are Coraldraw, and Inkscape. Maps drawn in Illustration packages are not geo-referenced, and it is harder to add complex background maps, but the software is generally regarded as easier to use. For very simple background maps take a look at d-maps: . These maps can be downloaded as Adobe PDF files, opened in Adobe Illustrator, and then information can be added on top to create bespoke mapping.

Adobe Illustrator is available on University machines on Campus, but  unfortunately it is not currently available in the 'work from home' suite. A solution is being sought for the Academic Year 2020/21. For advice on using Adobe Illustrator for mapping, first read through the Helpsheet below, but if you need further help or encounter any problems email Jamie Quinn (

ArcGIS training

ArcGIS is a complex suite of programs that can be used to conduct a range of spatial analyses and cartographic tasks.

At Plymouth University, all students and staff have access to the courses offered on the Esri online campus.

Click here to view the entire range of courses

Esri reccommend the following suite of e-learning courses for new users who want to develop competence with the software.

  1. Getting Started with GIS
  2. Basics of Geographic Coordinate Systems
  3. Working with Coordinate Systems in ArcGIS
  4. Referencing Data to Real-World Locations Using ArcGIS
  5. Finding Geographic Data in ArcGIS
  6. Getting Started with the Geodatabase
  7. Solving Spatial Problems Using ArcGIS
  8. Building Models for GIS Analysis Using ArcGIS
  9. Map Design Fundamentals
  10. Planning a Cartography Project
  11. Creating Map Products

The LabPlus GIS and Mapping site contains help sheets for many basic GIS tasks - such as digitising and map creation. Click here to visit the site

GeoMapping Unit offices

 Davy 708

  • Maps (topographic, thematic, historical, mainly UK but some overseas)

  • Vertical aerial photography plus mirror stereoscopes

  • Atlases and cartographic texts

  • Digital cameras and voice recorders

  • Fieldwork laptops

  • 1 metre resolution Lidar data for Cornwall, Dartmoor and West Devon. Please consult this index map for further information and then email the GeoMapping unit with details of the tiles required.

  • Trimble Juno GPS handsets


Fitzroy 005        

  • Geological maps of the UK and World plus memoirs of UK map sheets /areas
  • BGS reports plus books related to regional geology and commonly used field mapping areas in UK and abroad
  • Large library of aerial photographs
  • Mirror stereoscopes - teaching sets and professional grade instruments

Free mapping tools

Map reading guide- beginner to advanced –essential skills for fieldwork

Grid North, Magnetic North and True North explanation of differences

 Grid – Magnetic Angle calculator

The National Grid – explained