GIS Commons: An Introductory Textbook on Geographic Information Systems

This is not a typical e-book; it is a free, web-based, open-source “textbook” available to anyone interested in using mapping tools to create maps.  This e-text focuses primarily on Geographic Information Systems (GIS)—a geospatial technology that enables you to create spatial databases, analyze spatial patterns, and produce maps that communicate more effectively.  While this GIS textbook is principally an introduction to GIS, most of the chapter’s concepts are applicable to other geotechnologies including remote sensing, global positioning systems (GPS), Internet mapping, and virtual globes. 

Creating good maps and analyzing spatial data is a time consuming and challenging practice, but recently, a new set of powerful mapping tools has enabled almost anyone with a computer to make maps easily and to perform at least some low-level analyses.  The results, however, are not encouraging.  Most of the new mapmakers do not have adequate training in mapping concepts and spatial analysis principles, and their maps are often improperly designed and do not communicate easily nor effectively.  This e-text—GIS Commons—seeks to help you analyze spatial data and communicate more effectively.  In short, GIS education is our goal. 

Let me know what you think,

Michael Schmandt, Ph.D.
Initial author and Associate Professor of Geography
Department of Geography
Sacramento State University


Chapter 1:  Introduction to GIS and Mapping
Chapter 2:  Data Input
Chapter 3:  The Earth and Map Preprocessing
Chapter 4:  Attribute Tables and Data Preprocessing
Chapter 5:  Analysis
Chapter 6:  Output

How to Navigate the e-Text

There are many ways to navigate the chapters and their contents, but most readers will click on the chapter tabs near the top of the screen or use the links in the table of contents, located along the left-hand margin of the page.  Many readers might also enjoy printing the chapter pdfs and reading it as a conventional book.

Please Participate

We genuinely want to hear from you.  If you have any suggestions related to the content of the chapters (including editing or topics that should be included or deleted), please log on and use the “Leave a Reply” button at the bottom of the page.  Also, just as important, please contribute resources.  For instance, if you know of a webpage that you would like to point other readers to, submit it.  We will review all replies and publish them at our discretion.

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