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Desktop Software

For users looking to run complex spatial processes, analyze remotely sensed imagery, edit geospatial data, and make customized maps, desktop software can provide extra processing power above and beyond web-based tools.

Esri ArcGIS Desktop Software

ArcMap and ArcGIS Pro are the two main programs in the Esri ArcGIS Desktop suite. Users can install both of these programs on their machines and run them simultaneously.

Members of the UMass community have access to Esri products through the Department of Geosciences. For all questions related to licensing, please contact the ESRI / GIS Software and License Coordinator, Joe Kopera (jkopera[at]geo.umass.edu).

Running ArcGIS on a virtual desktop


Running ArcGIS on a Mac


ArcGIS Pro

Runs on Windows only. ArcGIS Pro is Esri’s newest commercial desktop software, featuring a new ribbon interface and 2D/3D integration. The current versions available through UMass are ArcGIS Pro 2.9 and 3.0. If you want to install version 3.0, your Windows machine must have .NET Desktop Runtime 6.x.

How to Install

To download ArcGIS Pro software and access step-by-step instructions for launching the program, visit this page: https://www.geo.umass.edu/arcgis.

Quick Launch Steps

  1. After installation, launch the application. Click Sign in in the top right corner of the window.
  2. At the login page, click: Sign in with Your ArcGIS organization’s URL.
  3. Type umass-amherst into the text box.
  4. Enter your UMass credentials to login.
Login screen for ArcGIS Pro, showing the correct login option using "Your ArcGIS organization's URL"


Runs on Windows only. ArcMap is a commercial GIS software available through the UMass site license. It has been the main Esri product for the past several years, but is now in the process of being phased out and replaced by ArcGIS Pro.

The current version available through UMass is ArcMap 10.8. This is the final version before ArcMap is retired.

How to Install

To download ArcMap software and access step-by-step instructions for installing and licensing the software, visit this page: https://www.geo.umass.edu/arcgis.

Esri Desktop Apps

ArcGIS Maps for Office (only works in Windows)
Add-on to the Microsoft Office suite that allows users to generate maps directly from Excel and share the results to PowerPoint. To run, ArcGIS Desktop must be installed on your computer.

ArcGIS Maps for Adobe Creative Cloud (requires Adobe CC to be installed already)
Add-on to the Adobe Creative Cloud suite that allows users to craft aesthetically pleasing maps directly from Photoshop or Illustrator. Requires signing in via the ArcGIS Online option – see instructions under ArcGIS Pro above.

Free Desktop GIS Software


Runs on Mac OSX, Windows, Linux. QGIS (previously known as Quantum GIS) is a Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) that runs on the contributions of community members.


Keep in mind that the QGIS software itself does not contain all the tools needed to create and analyze geospatial data. Instead, users need to install plugins developed by the user community to fulfill these tasks. Plugins are free to download and install directly from the QGIS Plugin Manager within the QGIS application.

Search for QGIS plugins
Plugins Documentation


Runs on Mac OSX, Windows, Linux. GRASS GIS, commonly referred to as GRASS (Geographic Resources Analysis Support System), is a Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) software suite used for geospatial data management and analysis, image processing, graphics and maps production, spatial modeling, and visualization. GRASS GIS is currently used in academic and commercial settings around the world, as well as by many governmental agencies and environmental consulting companies. 


Free Desktop GIS Apps

Google Earth Pro
Free desktop software that allows you to explore worldwide satellite imagery. Users also have access to historical satellite imagery, Street View imagery, guided tours, measuring tools (distance and area), and viewshed tools.

Free and open source software for exploring and modeling spatial patterns.

Mapping application that includes a suite of curated geosciences data for analysis and map creation.

CrimeStat (only works in Windows)
Spatial statistics program for analyzing crime incident locations.

Related Free Desktop Software

Data Integration

Data integration platforms allow users to combine multiple datasets and workflows into an automated process. It is useful for people doing repetitive tasks that involve different platforms (like GIS, database software, PDF viewers, etc.).

FME is an easy-to-use platform for integrating and transforming data. Potential applications include automating Python scripts, integrating R scripts, object detection in remotely sensed imagery with computer vision, and rendering AR/VR data. Free licenses are available for students, instructors, and recent graduates.

Data Visualization

Data visualization software generates charts, graphs, and maps that help people see data in new ways. It is particularly helpful for exploring patterns and trends in data, as well as for producing images for presentations and publications.

Open-source analysis and visualization software for graphs and networks. Use for exploratory data analysis, social network analysis, and map creation.

Social network analysis software developed by CASOS at Carnegie Mellon. This free version allows up to 2,000 nodes per entity class. Runs on Windows OS.

Free software for analyzing and visualizing large networks (up to a billion vertices) developed by 
Andrej Mrvar. Runs on Windows OS.

Open-source analysis and visualization software, designed for analyzing very large datasets. Great for researchers looking to develop interactive visualizations, animations, and web applications.

Tableau Public
Free version of Tableau. Use for basic visualization and exploratory data analysis. Works with Excel or .CSV spreadsheets.

Structure-from-Motion (SfM) and Point Processing

Structure-from-Motion (SfM), or photogrammetry, generates a digital model of an object from a collection of photographs. SfM is commonly used with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, or drones) to model landscapes or large built features. It can also be used to model smaller objects, like museum artifacts. 

Free 3D point cloud and mesh processing software.

Suite of tools for creating point clouds, 3D models, and DEMs from drone imagery.

Free and open source software for building point clouds and 3D models of objects (best for small projects only).

Free software for building point clouds from any collection of photographs.

For Advanced Users

Open-source library for command-line processing.

Last Updated on December 27, 2023