GIS uses computers and software to organize, develop, and communicate geographic knowledge. In simple terms, GIS takes the numbers and words from the rows and columns in databases and spreadsheets and puts them on a map.
GIS is a tool that can simplify and hasten geographic investigations. Like any tool, GIS has no answers packed inside it. Instead, for those who engage the tool and the process of geographic inquiry, it provides a means to discover pathways through our remarkable world of unending geographic questions.
GIS is used to answer spatial (geographic) related questions:
- Simple question like "Where, How Many, and What Kind?"
- Highly complex questions like "Why, When, How, and What-If?"
GIS maps are similar to static, printed maps, except that you can interact with them.
You can pan and zoom an interactive map in which map layers turn on and off at appropriate map scales.
You can apply symbols for a map layer based on any set of attributes. For example, you can shade parcels with colors based on their zoning types or specify the size of well point symbols based on production levels.
You can also point to geographic objects in interactive maps to get more information about the object and perform spatial queries and analysis. For example, you can find all the stores of certain types near schools (for example, within 200 meters) or find all the wetland areas within 500 meters of selected roads.
In addition, many GIS users edit data and feature representations through interactive maps.