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GIS Viewing Tools You Shouldn't Be Without!

"How can I view data that I just downloaded or purchased?" Have you ever asked yourself this question? We've identified some of the best viewing products available by some of the GIS Industry's leading software providers. Most of these products are very simple to use and are freely available (generally this gets the user a time-stamped evaluation copy or a "limited" functionality release). Best of all, these products will enable users to view, query, and manipulate data in SHP, E00, MIF, DXF, DWG, SDTS, DLG, DEM, Sid, TIFF, and numerous other data formats. Make sure that some (if not all) of these programs are in your "Tools" directory!

Do you know of a viewer that should be listed here - Send details to

Free TatukGIS Viewer – Natively opens most GIS industry vector, raster, and database layer map data formats, and even advanced spatial server databases and WMS and Web Map Tile services from the web. On-the-fly map layer reprojection between 3,000 supported coordinate systems. Other features include comprehensive visual layer property control for deep customization of the map appearance, legend control, scale control, thematic mapping, layer hierarchies, SQL Query Builder, advanced selection tools, and attribute data grid table.
Vector: SHP, E00, MIF/MID, TAB, GML, KML, JSON, DXF, DGN, DWG2000, GDF, OSM, TIGER2000, VPF, S-57, GPX, CSV …
Database: PostGIS, Oracle Spatial, MSSQL Spatial, ESRI ArcSDE & Personal Geodatabase, Geomedia, IBM DB2 Spatial Extender & Informix Spatial DataBlade…

ArcGIS Explorer - ESRI’s free ArcGIS Explorer GIS viewer offers an easy way to view, present, and share your GIS data. It connects directly to a variety of ready-to-use ArcGIS Online basemaps and layers. It also enables you to connect to your own map services or add local data such as geodatabases, shapefiles, KML files, and rasters. You can extend ArcGIS Explorer with your own tools to deliver GIS analysis and other capabilities to people who do not necessarily know anything about GIS.
Company: ESRI
ArcGIS Explorer

GPS2CAD-08 - GPS software that gives design professionals major cost savings in data collection by using recreational-grade GPS units to collect field information and plot it in AutoCAD, or their favorite CAD program. Most recreational GPS units are well-suited for site layout and "topo-plotting" requirements that do not need great accuracy, and GPS2CAD bridges the gap between these GPS units and CAD.
Company: GPS2CAD

GeoMedia Viewer - GeoMedia Viewer is an easy to use, FREE GIS software application for desktop viewing and distribution of geospatial data. It allows an organization to maximize the value of its geospatial data by extending availability to novice users who wouldn't otherwise have access because of the barriers of purchasing and learning how to use a full GIS software application.
Company: Intergraph
Requires: Pentium III or equivalent microprocessor - minimum 105 MB of free disk space, 256 MB RAM recommended

GeoExpress View - GeoExpress View has been designed so that you can make quick and efficient use of remotely sensed data. It is a robust stand-alone application employing cutting edge wavelet image compression technology that significantly speeds up zooming and panning operations. This makes loading, viewing and moving around image data quick and easy. System Requirements: Microsoft® Windows 98/ME/2000/XP or Windows NT® 4.0 with service pack 6 or greater 200MHz PC processor Minimum of 64 MB RAM.
Company: LizardTech
Download Here (12.5 MB)

Autodesk Express Viewer - Released December 2002, this light-weight, free viewer enables non-Autodesk product users to view, pan, query and print DWG, DXF, and DWF format data. Also, run as embedded Active X control. This is perhaps the coolest feature of the viewer. This will enable users to easily view DWF data in compatible programs such as IE, MS-Word, and Power Point. Simply email users a DWF file and it will appear visible in documents provided the Viewer has been downloaded and installed. See our first look review Here
Company: Autodesk

ERDAS ViewFinder 2.1 - ERDAS' ViewFinder is a free viewing tool provided by Leica Geosystems' GIS & Mapping Division. It provides basic image viewing and manipulation capabilities, including the ability to display, query, roam, rotate, zoom, and reproject imagery. Requires: Windows NT / 2000 / XP.
Company: Leica Geosystems
Download Here (19 MB)

ArcExplorer - A lightweight GIS data viewer developed by ESRI, available in windows, or Java edition. Easy to install, this is the defacto standard in viewing ArcView SHP format data. ArcExplorer is an excellent too for publishing data and developers can distribute the ArcExplorer setup and data on CDs. A simple to use GUI enables users to easily add themes from existing data sources, control theme characteristics, print your maps, zoom in/out, pan, identify map features, and display Map Tips. An online user guide (PDF) is also available.
Company: ESRI
Size: 12.8 MB

CartoMap - A free map viewing Microsoft® Windows® comaptible software, designed for ease of use. I first came accross this product in my search for a quality Mapinfo data viewer - supports SHP and MIF data formats and provides users with the ability to pan, zoom, query, and order layers.

Company: CartoWorld

DLGV32Pro - This popular tool, formerly know as DLGV32 (now GlobalMapper) Supports viewing of most of the popular data formats, including DLG-O, DRG, DOQ, DEM, DXF, SDTS DLG, SDTS DEM, ECW, MrSID, ESRI Shapefiles, E00, GTOPO30, TerrainBase, ETOPO2 etc. what makes it very popular is the fact that it will support the latest DEM and SDTS DEM formats, including decimeter DEMs. Additional functionality includes Crop, reproject, and merge any combination of raster data, including DRGs. Best of all there's EXPORT SUPPORT! Free version has limited export capabilities. for any novice working with USGS data, this is a must have.
Company: Global Mapper
Size: 3.5 MB

ER Viewer - Windows 95 or higher, or Windows NT 4.0 or higher ER Viewer, a free image viewer from ER Mapper enables users to save imagery as TIFF, JPEG, BMP, ERS, and BIL directly from ER Viewer. A fast interactive roaming and zooming of image files, easures distances on the ground, and much more. ER Viewer allows you to integrate ECW compressed imagery in any OLE-aware application, including Microsoft Office applications such as Word, PowerPoint, Excel and Access. supports the following data formats .bil/.ers/.hdr; .alg; .ecw; .ers; .hdr; .tif; .bmp
Company: ER Mapper
Size: 3MB

FME Universal Viewer - This nifty viwer comes included with the Safe sowtare FME evaluation download. A robust viewing tool with a simple to use interface, it supports over 100 GIS, CAD and database formats. A hefty download will get you 14 days of free use.

Company: SAFE Software
Size: unknown

Geographic Explorer - The Geographic Explorer extends the Windows 95, 98, 2000 and NT Explorer to view and find map files. The Geographic Explorer provides a number of powerful utilities. You can explore map files directly on your desktop with the Geographic Explorer Blue Marble Geographics
Company: Blue Marble Geographics

GeoHawk - GeoHawk 5.2 is the latest version of the popular GeoHawk. Inexpensive yet powerful viewer with full viewing, querying, custom searches, map tips, identifying, redlining, tracing, and GPS capabilities. Intuitive GUI interface, and Multispeak compliant. Ideal field viewer. Supports Viewing ArcInfo, SHP, DXF, and DWG GIS formats as well as a number of common image formats.
Company: GeoForce

Geomatica FreeView - FreeView allows the viewing, enhancing, and examination of remotely sensed imagery such as LANDSAT, SPOT, RADARSAT, ERS-1, NOAA AVHRR, and aerial photography. Use FreeView to overlay GIS data and view the associated attribute data. Technical specs available at
Company: PCI Geomatics
Size: 20 MB - Windows 98, ME, NT, 2000

GIS Viewer 4.0 - GIS Viewer 4.0 from UC Berkeley is a new web-based tool for displaying and manipulating layers of geographical points and vectors, and raster data such as maps and images. GIS Viewer 4.0 is designed to scale from data sets covering the entire earth to high-resolution imagery of fine details. Povides users with the ability to zoom, pan, query, automatic projection conversion among UTM, lat/lon, Albers; vector, raster, transparent raster and point data support, and numerous other features!
Company: UC Berkeley
Size: 7 MB

ViewFinder® V2.1 - ViewFinder® V2.1, a free viewing tool that provides the ability to: display image files; spatially query image files prior to exporting; overlay, smooth, sharpen and enhance imagery; and reproject multiple images on-the-fly; rapidly navigate large imagery data sets; and move imagery from its existing projection system to one of many predefined output datums and projections, creating files in either the IMG or TIFF formats.
Company: Leica Geosystems
Size: 19 MB

Volo View Express 2.01 - Free viewer for AutoCAD® -based DWG, DWF, and DXF™ files as well as Autodesk Inventor™ files! Then start viewing and printing AutoCAD and Autodesk Inventor design data with ease. Volo™ View Express 2.01 requires Microsoft® Windows® 2000, Windows XP Professional or Home Edition, Windows 98 SE, Windows Me, or Windows NT® 4.0 with Service Pack 5 or later and Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.01 or higher. Volo View Express views DWG, DXF™, and DWF (ePlot and eView) files. For users requiring additional help, Autodesk has established the Volo View discussion group: See Those of you requiring even more functionality should check out Volo View (no Express!) Redistributing Volo View Express is free, but if you decide to redistribute Volo View Express in any other way than distributing the entire volovem.exe or volovels.exe file, you must sign a Redistribution Agreement with Autodesk.
Company: Autodesk
Size: 24 MB,,837637-123112,00.html

Do you know of a viewer that should be listed here - Send details to

Other Viewers Suggested by our readers

  • MSI Viewer - The MSI Viewer permits the display of any JPEG2000 compliant image. It also includes features specific to the mapping community including georeferenced pixel coordinate display for JP2 imagery created with MSI's GeoJP2 Encoder.

  • Map Maker Gratis - Map Maker Gratis gives students and novice users the opportunity to learn the basics of map making and GIS. Gratis is a thematic mapping program that can link to data tables and also be used to distribute map projects and data over the internet. Gratis comes bundled with the 30 day evaluation of Map Maker Pro version 3.5.

  • CARIS EASY-ENC - This new generation of the popular CARIS S-57 ENC freeware data viewer has been upgraded to support the following raster data types: GeoTIFF, BSB, HCRF, TIF/IGA, and TIF/TFW. It also supports the CARIS and VPF vector data formats.

  • ArcReader - new from ESRI, ArcReader is a free, easy-to-use product that allows anyone to view, explore, and print published map files (PMFs). Published map files are created with ArcGIS Publisher. ArcGIS Publisher is an optional extension to ArcView, ArcEditor, and ArcInfo that converts map documents (MXD) to PMFs.

  • Bentley View - Bentley View extends the accessibility of engineering data for MicroStation, AutoCAD, or hybrid projects. Bentley View is designed for casual users and enables the native viewing of both DGN and DWG drawings and models.

  • MapInfo ProViewer - ProViewer allows others to view and manipulate your creations - even if they do not have MapInfo Professional

  • ENVI Freelook - ENVI FreeLook is designed to provide basic viewing, data selection, and data quality assessment capabilities for a wide variety of image data. Download at

See Also our Suggested Software - Viewers

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