I'm a student and currently taking a self directed project course.

In our assignment, we were given a bunch of shapefiles and the goal is to make a tool, which would display all the data based on the parcel identifier and do some basic queries (i.e. which parcels are designated as having a commercial land use). The data would also be periodically updated to accommodate changes (ex. a parcel being re-zoned with a different land use).

One other constraint is that one of our "clients" has no previous experience with GIS while the other is quite advanced.

At first, I thought of creating a database in Access, but this lacks a spatial component to it. I've also considered mashups.

What are some other ways to approach this problem?

Thanks for your help!

  • I'd try some kind of mashup. Perhaps a PostGIS database, an OpenLayers map, and a PHP/Ajax interface. But that would require a lot of coding...
    – L_Holcombe
    Oct 15, 2012 at 1:39
  • 3
    What's the purpose of your course? Are you supposed to code something? Should you "only" get to know existing tools? Are you IT student or Geography, Journalism, ...?
    – underdark
    Oct 15, 2012 at 6:05

2 Answers 2


I think the fastest way to go at this if you want to host it in your computer would be to use the OpenGeo Suite.

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It has a web client, a map application server and a spatial database. You can load the shape files into the database by using its shape file to PostGIS loader. You can then view the layers through the GeoExplorer web app that's bundled with the Suite.

Your newbie client can use the GeoExplorer client to view, style and edit the layers.

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If he/she wishes to query the layers, he/she can use the GeoEditor app. The selected layers would get highlighted on the map too.

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As for your more technical client, he/she can use a desktop GIS client and access the data in you database by consuming the data through OGC web services so I think it's a win-win.

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You can access the introduction to the OpenGeo Suite Workshop at the OpenGeo Education Center. Good luck :)


If you can code you could look into putting something together with an opensource stack, say linux/postgis/geoserver/openlayers.

But I would advise that you use a free cloud based web mapping product like www.mangomap.com, that way you can focus on telling the story of your data rather than writing code. As you have time constraints, you'll end up with a much more polished end product that way.

Apart from making it easy to make a cool looking web map, it also offers an advanced search feature which will allow the end user to build queries, for example: show me all parcels that are commercial, have an area greater than 500m2 etc etc, all features that match the query are highlighted on the map.

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