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GIS Software Guide: GIS Software

This guide provides information on how to access and use GIS software. Much of this information is about licensed products, therefore it is geared towards current affiliates of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

ArcGIS Online

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has a site license with Esri for ArcGIS Online, which includes access to the online mapping platform and a suite of specialized applications.  

To create an organizational account, follow these steps:

  1. "Sign In" ⇒ "Your ArcGIS organization's URL" (option under "ArcGIS login") ⇒ unc.maps.arcgis.com ⇒ UNC Chapel Hill SSO
  2. Sign in with your Onyen and Onyen pasword
  3. Thereafter, you'll always login this way.   

 For further assistance, please contact our GIS Librarian. 

Installing ESRI GIS Software

For those who want to install GIS software on your machine, UNC has a site license for Esri software. A copy of ArcGIS Desktop or ArcGIS Pro can be obtained from Software Acquisition. Please note that ***Esri does not officially support ArcGIS software installed on Macs***. Those who would prefer not to install GIS software should see the "Computing Lab" box and open source alternatives can be found in the "Open Source GIS" box.

  • ArcGIS Desktop:
  1. Request and install (1) ArcGIS Desktop (2) ArcInfo Workstation from Software Acquisitions (ArcGIS Desktop 10.6.x System Requirements).
  2. Request an ArcInfo Authorization File (see How to request an ArcGIS 10.x Authorization File).
  3. Important: During installation, install at the Advanced (ArcInfo) Licensing level, and do a complete installation with all of the extensions. After installing you may want to install the latest service pack(s) from the Esri support website.
  • ArcGIS Pro (follow both steps): 
    1. Request the software from Software Acquisitions, and install ArcGIS Pro (ArcGIS Pro2.x System Requirements).
    2. Important: An ArcGIS Online Account is required to run the software. To create an organizational account, follow these steps:
      1. "Sign In" ⇒ "Your ArcGIS organization's URL" (option under "ArcGIS login") ⇒ unc.maps.arcgis.com ⇒ UNC Chapel Hill SSO
      2. Sign in with your Onyen and Onyen pasword
      3. Thereafter, you'll always login this way.   
    If you have problems running ArcGIS Pro, please contact our GIS Librarian.

Open Source GIS

Open Source tools are a great place to start, particularly for Mac users. There are several popular open source GIS applications for the desktop that include: 

Advanced users may wish to explore using a programming language, such as R or Python, for GIS analysis.

Computing Lab

Students who would prefer not to install GIS software on their computers have several options available, including the Davis Library Research Hub Computer Lab on the 2nd floor of Davis Library. The computer lab offers 10 PC computers for use by UNC at Chapel Hill affiliates, which have ArcMap, ArcGIS Pro, QGIS, ENVI, and more installed.

Remote access to GIS Software is available through the ITS Virtual Lab and the Virtual Computing Lab (VCL). Instructions on connecting to a VCL image are provided on the Virtual Computing Lab (VCL) page of this guide.

ArcGIS Pro and OneDrive

Students wanting to access GIS files from OneDrive should save all necessary data and project files in one folder, download the folder locally to the machine they are using, and then re-upload the folder to OneDrive when they are finished working.

Although it is possible, accessing files directly from OneDrive with ArcGIS Pro is not supported by ESRI and can cause errors that include lost data, corrupted files and projects, and other errors. For workarounds and other potential errors, please see ESRI’s official statement on using ArcGIS Pro with OneDrive