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GIS Frequently Asked Questions

GIS is a system of software, hardware, data, procedures and personnel combined to help manipulate, analyze, and present information that is tied to a geographic location.


What is a Geographic Information System (GIS)?

GIS is a system of computer software, hardware, data, procedures and personnel combined to help, manipulate, analyze, and present information that is tied to a geographic location. For additional general information about GIS, go to the ESRI Online GIS Dictionary.


How may I contact you?

You may contact us at (202) 727-1140 or at [email protected].


Which software does DC GIS use?

The District GIS software standards consist of the Environmental Systems Research Institute Inc. (ESRI) products and Google Inc. geospatial services and software. The ESRI standard includes the ArcGIS line of desktop and server software product lines. The Google standard includes the Google Earth Enterprise line of server side products and Google Maps for mash-up type applications. Other geospatial software packages and vendors can be accommodated if necessary to meet specific business requirements.


Which format is your GIS Data in?

DC GIS maintains and provides data in the ESRI and Google formats. This ensures that all District agencies, residents and visitors can use this data. All spatial data are found in the Open Data DC.

ESRI shape file format are available with Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) compliant metadata.


What is your operating system?

DC GIS utilizes a .NET framework and Windows operating systems for both desktop PCs and servers.


How do I download DC GIS data?

Go to the Open Data DC. Users may search by several keywords or browse by categories. In the search results, view the summary or dive into the attributes in the data tab. There are options for downloading as a shapefile, spreadsheet or kml file. Also access the data using APIs.


What applications are available that I can use online?

All public access GIS applications are available in our map gallery.


I’m having trouble using the DC Atlas. How do I get help?

Be sure to take a moment to read the DC Atlas All-in-One User Guide, before you start using the DC Atlas.  It explains each feature in the Atlas.  If you need further assistance, please contact DC GIS.


Why are certain areas of the city’s maps not available or not as clear?

The Secret Service has required that an area surrounding the White House, Capitol, and Naval Observatory not be shown in certain planimetric map layers, and be shown at lower resolution in the orthophotographs.