Technology is continually revolutionizing strategies, methods and techniques for geospatial professionals. Applications increasingly require interfacing with data that is or will be part of a GIS dataset, so it is important to keep your GIS skills sharp and up to date.

One way to achieve this goal is by immersing yourself in widely used software such as Esri’s ArcGIS. If you don’t have access to a licensed version of the software, you might think it’s too expensive. But did you know you can tap into the power and capabilities of the latest release of ArcGIS for Desktop for as little as $100 per year? That’s about 27 cents a day—a smart investment in your future.

Your $100 fee allows you to use ArcGIS for Desktop Advanced (ArcInfo) Version 10.1, plus the following extensions:

  •   ArcGIS 3D Analyst
  •   ArcGIS Data Reviewer
  •   ArcGIS Workflow Manager
  •   ArcGIS Geostatistical Analyst
  •   ArcGIS Network Analyst
  •   ArcGIS Spatial Analyst
  •   ArcGIS Tracking Analyst
  •   ArcGIS Publisher
  •   ArcGIS Schematics
  •   ArcGIS Data Interoperability

Where to Get It

First, review the system requirements to make sure you can install ArcGIS 10.1 on your system. From there, you can buy and download ArcGIS 10.1 for Home Use at the Esri store. The downloadable file comes in an ISO format, which is really just a disk image. There are many free programs out there that recognize the ISO format. I use Virtual CloneDrive (Freeware) from www.slysoft.com. Once the program is installed, Virtual CloneDrive will see the ISO file as a regular CD\DVD drive. By right-clicking on the file and choosing to mount it, the file seen as a CD would be on the next drive letter available on your computer.

There is an option to purchase the backup media for an additional shipping and handling fee of $19.95. Personally, however, I would save that money to use toward next year’s license fee.

How to Install It

Whether you decide to run the setup from your mounted ISO drive or from the media, the installation should look and feel the same. Even if you have previously installed ArcGIS, I still suggest reading the quick start guide for ArcGIS 10.1 for Desktop (Advanced). It details the system requirements and also explains how to authorize the software.

Once the installation is complete, click the browse button and review the rest of the materials. Included are ArcGIS Case Tools, and much more.

What You Can and Can’t Do With It

With ArcGIS for Desktop, you can create stunning maps, develop and manage geodatabases, and, for the more astute, even customize your interface. One of the things I like the best is the data sharing aspect and interfacing with ArcGIS Online through ArcMap. The software lets you grab data from ArcGIS Online; create your version or mashups using powerful editing capabilities, including the coordinate geometry tools and analysis capabilities of ArcMap; then share it with others online.

There are usage restrictions with the Home Use license, so make sure you use the software appropriately. After all, you are getting software for a fraction of the cost of the full version. The Home Use version is intended for personal, noncommercial use only. According to the license agreement, “’Noncommercial’ means use in a personal or individual capacity, which (a) is not compensated in any fashion; (b) is not intended to produce any works for commercial use; (c) is not intended to provide a commercial service; and (d) is neither conducted nor funded by any person or entity engaged in the commercial use, application, or exploitation of works similar to the licensed Products.”

Key point here—don’t try to make money from it. If you are unsure whether an application is considered noncommercial, it’s best to check with Esri.

Where to Find Help

There are some great starter tutorials in the ArcGIS Resources Center under ArcGIS Help 10.1. This page explains editing, geocoding, geodatabases, model builder and all the other core functionalities that make ArcGIS such a powerful tool. Many of the tutorials provide sample data to give you practical experience applying each concept. You can then substitute your data to get an idea of how you can use it in your environment.

There are also many free online courses. For those who are new to GIS or who may be looking for a good refresher course, Getting Started with GIS for ArcGIS 10.1 is a good resource. The ArcGIS for Home Use homepage also lists free seminars and articles in ESRI Press that can help you increase your productivity with GIS.

How It Can Benefit You

ArcGIS for Home Use can help you learn how to build and share maps and expand your understanding of GIS. If you’ve wanted to further your skills using the latest GIS software and its extensions, this is an inexpensive way to achieve your goal.