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Desktop GIS
Professional GIS
GIS system specifications in The Nature Conservancy fall into two general levels Desktop GIS and Professional GISESRI software is the Conservancy standard for both levels of usage.

Desktop GIS

The entry level, low cost solution that provides basic viewing and querying of geospatial data, as well as basic map production and spatial analysis. Data management and editing is essentially limited to ESRI shapefiles, grids and attribute tables (not coverages).


Our software standard for desktop GIS is currently ArcView 3.2a with the Spatial Analyst extension. 


The minimum TNC standard for desktop GIS with ArcView 3.2 is as follows:

Gateway or Dell PC
700 mhz CPU
256 mb RAM (single chip)
15gb hard drive
19 monitor
16 mb video RAM

All of these specifications should be increased if funding allows, particularly the RAM. If you plan to upgrade to ArcView 8.1, we recommend that you use the Professional GIS specs below.

We also recommend purchasing or gaining access to a color inkjet printer or plotter for hardcopy output. Hewlett-Packard, Canon, or Epson printers capable of 11x17 inch output are recommended. HP DesignJet plotters are the TNC standard for large format printing (larger than 11x17 inches).

An important note about computer memory (RAM): Due to the future demands ArcGIS 8.1, we do not recommend buying a new PC for GIS use without the ability to upgrade it to at least 512 mb RAM. 128-256 mb is fine for running Arcview 3.2, but not Arcview 8.1.  Most TNC desktop GIS users can probably hold off on upgrading to 8.1 for a year, but not much longer than that.  Thus, 128-256 mb may be okay for a year while running 3.1, but when they upgrade to 8.1 they will need a new system that supports 512 mb or higher.  In other words, a system that only goes up to 256 mb will be obsolete for GIS use in a year at most.  Of course the year-old 256 mb system could be "handed down" to someone else in the office to use with any other desktop applications. Thus, it is important that sufficient memory slots be available to upgrade the system to 512 mb RAM or higher.  Since there are a limited number of available memory slots in any computer, and memory chips come in different sizes, be sure to purchase memory chips that are large enough to provide 512 mb or more of total RAM.

Contact your Regional GIS Manager for more information or advice about desktop GIS solutions.

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Professional GIS

Fully-functional, higher-cost solution that provides advanced GIS analysis, mapping and data management.  Data management and editing includes ESRI shapefiles, coverages and attribute tables, as well as raster data.


ArcInfo 8.3 is currently the professional GIS solution for advanced TNC GIS users. It includes Workstation (command line) ArcInfo as well as the ArcGIS Desktop (ArcMap, ArcCatalog, and ArcToolbox).  The cost and learning curve for ArcInfo are considerably higher than for ArcView. 

ERDAS Imagine 8.4 is the TNC standard for image processing. The growing availability of satellite imagery and the requirements of TNC landscape scale planning are increasing the need for widespread image processing capability across TNC.  Thus, we will be working with ERDAS over the next year to establish a Master Purchase Agreement for TNC offices to acquire Imagine.


The minimum TNC standard for professional GIS with ArcInfo 8.x is as follows:

Gateway or Dell Workstation
900 mhz CPU
512 mb RAM (with ability to upgrade to 1 gb)
30 gb hard drive
20 monitor
32 mb video RAM

All of these specifications should be increased if funding allows, particularly the RAM.

If funding allows, a second processor will allow the user to multitask while intensive operations are running.  It will also allow the system to simultaneously act as a file server and workstation.

Contact your Regional GIS Manager or the Enterprise GIS Program for more information about ArcInfo and professional GIS solutions.

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Global Positioning Systems (GPS)

GPS is becoming an increasingly important monitoring and GIS data development tool for TNC staff. However, TNC does not currently have a GPS standard. Over the next year we will be working with the major GPS vendors and gathering feedback from current TNC and Heritage GPS users to determine the most appropriate and affordable GPS solutions for TNC staff. We have just completed an enterprisewide GPS needs assessment survey. Click here to view the results. If you are looking to purchase a GPS for your program, we recommend that you review those survey results as well as recent GPS postings in the TNC GIS Listserv archives, visit the helpful GPS websites in our links database, contact existing GPS users listed in our experts database.


TNC GIS Software and Hardware Standards and Computer Equipment Order

Only TNC Staff will have access to the links below

To order Hardware please see the TNC Computer Purchasing page

Click here to view the FINAL GIS Desktop Software and Hardware Standards


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