Below is a collection of frequently asked questions about topics covered in this blog. Some questions contain a link to a post covering the answer in more detail.


  1. What is GIS?
    GIS is an acronym for Geographic Information System although the term GIS is often used more loosely. A geographic information system is a computer-based system for mapping and analyzing spatial information. A “GIS” could include files, databases, software, websites, etc. involved with the spatial data. The term GIS is also used as an adjective in a variety of situations – GIS software, GIS data, GIS personnel, etc. In those examples, it doesn’t mean that an entire system is necessarily present, just that spatial data is involved.
  2. What is a Shapefile?
    A shapefile is probably the most common GIS vector data format. Shapefiles can contain point, line, or polygon data. A single “shapefile” is actually composed on multiple (3 or more) files, each with a different file extension. For example, a roads shapefile could be represented by a files named “roads.shp”, “roads.shx”, and “roads.dbf”. See Wikipedia’s entry on shapefiles for more information.


  1. How do I install MapServer on my computer?
    Read our tutorial on setting up MapServer.


  1. What do I need to run the XNA programs and source code provided on this site?
    To compile and edit the source code for our XNA projects, download the XNA Game Studio Express 1.0 Refresh.