Is DMS format still widely used in industries these days? It seems to be way less suitable to operate comparing degrees with floating point.


2 Answers 2


Yes, it is still widely used. All navigational devices and GIS software offers DMS format for displaying, saving and loading data. And many consumer oriented platforms use it as the main or only coordinate format.

Beside practical things like the fact that a minute of latitude is one nautical mile. The main reason is that coordinates in DMS format are easily identified as coordinates by anyone. They are more "user friendly" in that sense.

There are many reasons to choose other formats or other projections (like UTM/UPS), but it is a fact that DMS is still widely used.

Nevertheless, I'm sure all software make calculations with decimal degrees. DMS is used only for display and storing data in human-readable formats.

  • The minute-to-nautical-mile convertion is wrong. One minute of latitude is approximately one nautical mile at the Equator (~1800m). It is ~ 1300m around London latitude, and zero at the poles. It may have been a rough estimate centuries ago, but is entirely useless today, especially in a GIS context. Jan 16, 2018 at 19:00
  • @RobertoRibeiro That's wrong. A minute in latitude is a nautical mile in the whole globe. What changes is a minute of LONGITUDE. In nautical navigation (as well as in aeronautical navigation) despite the use of GPS they still use older methods. In the case of nautical navigation, they still use paper charts is common, and they measure distances, and set routes by setting theirs dividers to the rigth size in miles using the latitude grid of the map. Jan 16, 2018 at 19:26
  • You are correct in the latitude/longitude difference, my mistake. However, the case still stands for the usage, or lack thereof, of DMS in GIS context. Especifically given that OP is talking about operating in one format or another, and not merely using it to print grids in a chart. Jan 16, 2018 at 19:47

Not only is it still relatively common, but other forms of representation are also possible. Many GNSS (usually GPS) systems will report DD MM.mmmm (degrees decimal minutes). There are also packed and unpacked forms of DMS, DDMMSS.ssss or DD MM SS.ssss.

For computer processing, you're correct that just maintaining decimal degrees is easiest and only using other representation for display.

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