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GeoMapping: Mapping 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

There are several Geographic Information Systems that are used at the University of Plymouth. We encourage you to use QGIS because it is open source. ArcGIS Pro is also encouraged because it uses a named user system linked to your university sign in (although you will need to know plymunigis is the ArcGIS organisation's URL). ArcGIS online is also a good starting point for your GIS journey.

ArcGIS Desktop is being phased out as it is being superseded by ArcGIS Pro which doesn't have the same licensing restrictions. We encourage you to try the alternatives above, but if ArcGIS Desktop is required, it can be downloaded. See below for more details.


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


ArcGIS Pro

ArcGIS Pro is a desktop GIS product that is closely integrated with ArcGIS online.

Licences are provided through your ArcGIS online account.

  • Currently, ArcGIS Pro requires a two stage installation process -  
  1.  ArcGISPro_29_179927.exe Download and install ArcGIS Pro 2.9
  2.  ArcGIS_Pro_295_181689.msp Download and install the ArcGIS 2.9.5 service pack to ensure compliance with recent .net updates.


ArcGIS Online

ArcGIS Online is Cloud-based software used to create and share interactive web maps. It is a good entry point to start exploring the power of GIS.

Become a member of Plymouth University's ArcGIS Online community, by creating an ArcGIS Online account here:  You are encouraged to sign-in using Your ArcGIS organisation's URL, using plymunigis


ArcGIS Desktop (ArcMap, ArcCatalog, ArcGlobe, ArcScene)

We strongly encourage you to use ArcGIS Pro or QGIS (See above)

However, if absolutely necessary, 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. The University of Plymouth does not take responsibility for any damage or data loss that take place during this installation.

*Please note that an update to the Desktop licence manager has been completed recently, meaning the licence manager now has a new address lm-arcgis which replaces the previous licence manager alias and its dns 27006@*


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. Maps produced in Illustrator (or open-source equivalents, such as Inkscape) are not geo-referenced, and therefore it is harder to add complex background maps. However, it is often be better for small static location maps. The approach to mapping using a vector drawing package is different than to GIS - choose a background map you are happy with, and manually add some symbology on the top. 

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. Good for Inset maps.

For larger scale basemaps take a look at Digimap, and use the 'Print' Feature to download a PDF/PNG file of your choice to work with inside of Adobe Illustrator.

Adobe Illustrator is available on University machines on Campus, but unfortunately it is not currently available in the 'work from home' suite. 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 (

GIS training

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.


ArcGIS Desktop is being superseded by ArcGIS Pro which doesn't have the same licensing restrictions. We encourage you to try and use ArcGIS Pro, the open source QGIS or ArcGIS Online, but if ArcGIS desktop is required, a range of training is available:

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

Click here to view the entire range of courses

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