Esri software              Google Earth           DNRGPS            QGIS

ESRI Software

The GIS software used by most departments at Michigan Tech is ArcGIS, by esri. The esri software suite, ArcGIS Desktop (ArcMap, Arc Catalog, and ArcToolbox), is available in the open labs on Michigan Tech’s Campus. The current version—ArcGIS 10.4.1—is being installed during the summer of 2016.

Our site license allows the installation of esri software on any University-owned computer. This includes machines in faculty, staff, and graduate student offices.

Esri software may be used for teaching or research, not for consulting or other for-profit work. If you wish to arrange an installation of ArcGIS in your office on an IT-managed machine, contact the help desk at 7-1111 or email it-help.

Site licensed esri software cannot be installed on home computers or personal laptops – the hardware must be owned by the University. However, if you are faculty, staff, or a student who needs access to ArcGIS off-campus or would like a copy on your own computer, there are student licenses available from esri that are valid for one year.

ArcGIS Student Trial Edition

The “Student Trial Edition” includes an Advanced (ArcInfo)-level license of ArcGIS for Desktop and all standard extensions that will work for 365 days. More information about this program is available online (here).

Downloadable copies of the ArcGIS Student Trial Edition

ArcGIS 10.4.1 is the most recent version and is being installed in the open labs on Campus. (if you are looking for the tutorial data, it’s now on the installation DVD and is no longer a separate download ). The link is to an ISO image file of the installers, and should be downloaded from a high-bandwidth connection.

If you prefer older versions, the ArcGIS 10.2.2 image is here, along with its tutorial data; or ArcGIS 10.3.1 and its tutorial data.

Please note you will need to be logged in to Google with your Michigan Tech credentials before downloading any of these files, as the images are shared from Google Drive. The ArcGIS installer images are ~ 5 GB in size, and the tutorial data is ~1.8 GB.

To install software from an image file, you can a) burn the image to a dual-layer DVD, b) extract the contents of the ISO to a folder using 7-zip and run the installer from the resulting folder, or c) mount the image using a tool such as Virtual CloneDrive. VCD is the simplest solution and the installer is a quick download.

If you choose to download an image for the student edition, please send an email to obtain an activation code and instructions.

Be sure to follow the instructions for installing the student edition, as you must register an activation code at esri’s web site before the software will function properly. Activating the “Student Trial Edition” software for subsequent years does NOT require re-installation. See this document for detailed instructions.

ArcGIS software updates

Esri releases software fixes on a regular basis. If you are having any issues with ArcGIS functioning properly, you should occasionally check for new releases. ArcGIS for Desktop is the web page that lists all updates – here you can filter update results by your particular version of ArcGIS. Tip: you may verify the version you have installed in the ArcGIS Administrator application (found under the ArcGIS Folder under All Programs). 

ArcGIS System requirements

The ArcGIS suite runs on the Microsoft Windows platform (XP, Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, or Windows 10). If you have a Macintosh or Linux system, you will need some type of virtualization software (VMWare Fusion, Parallels Desktop, or Virtual Box {free!}) with a recent version of Windows installed. A full listing of hardware and software requirements necessary to run the ArcGIS suite is available from ESRI.

If you don’t want to buy a copy of Windows, a single license is available to most currently-enrolled Michigan Tech students through the University’s Software Distribution Center.

Google Earth / Google Sketch Up

Google Earth Pro is installed in all open computer labs. It may also be added to faculty and staff computers. Contact the help desk to arrange installation if you are interested. The free version of Google Earth may be obtained from, and as of spring of 2015, Google is giving away the Pro version of Google Earth! (see this link for details)

GPS Software

DNRGPS, provided by the Minnesota DNR under a no-cost license agreement, is installed in the open labs. This software allows for the transfer of GPS data from a Garmin (and many other models of) GPS unit to your computer. It can also save data collected by GPS to files compatible with ArcGIS (.shp or geodatabase feature class) and Google Earth (.kml).

Note that DNRGPS often has a lag time before it is completely integrated with ArcGIS, due to regular code changes by esri. If you have issues between your installed versions of DNRGPS and ArcGIS, DNRGPS does function well as a standalone application. More information is on the DNRGPS web site, and tips for using DNRGPS can be found under the “How to” section of this web site.

DNRGPS will work without administrative installation (you can run it from a flash drive or your home drive). The tutorial materials for DNRGarmin will be rewritten for DNRGPS in the near future.  If you need help with DNRGPS in the meantime, contact the help desk and they will rote the request to me.

FYI – the State’s official projected coordinate system for Michigan (Michigan GeoRef) is NOT handled properly by DNRGPS version due to bugs in the version of the open-source GDAL/PROJ software it uses. These issues are fixed in DNRGPS versions and (released in May & June 2014). One caveat – there are multiple definitions for the Michigan Georef (Michigan Oblique Mercator) projection, and some odd behavior can still occur with coordinates, depending on which definition you use. I suggest double- (and maybe triple-) checking any coordinate pairs before sharing with others or heading out to do field work.

Other software

Many other GIS and GPS software programs exist. These include Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) applications, as well as more specialized GPS and image processing software. As we do not have site licenses for such software, or they are not used for teaching, you should check with your instructor if you need support for other packages. If you’d like a free GIS program to experiment with, QGIS is recommended. Installers for Linux, Windows, and Macintosh are available. QGIS 2.14 was released in the spring of 2016 and is considered a “Long Term Release”; version 2.16 came out in summer of 2016.