Do you know of a way to take surveyor's calls from an excel file (for example: N35-45-15W 60.0 ft, etc) and have them generate polygon shapefiles point by point in GIS? I know you can easily do this with point features that have coordinates, but I am trying to figure out how to build full polygons (without XY coordinate information, just surveyor's calls).
If you have access to ArcGIS, there are tools to do this. At the Standard/Editor and Advanced/Info levels the COGO tools are available, one of which is the Traverse tool. With proper formating, you can directly load your calls into the tool and have it create the shape, give closure information, and make a closure adjustment.
Examples of ArcGIS traverse format for the line in your question:
DD N35-45-15W 60.0 or
DD 35-45-15-4 60.0
If you only have a Basic/Map level license, the add-on ET Geotools also has this functionality. Its free demo allows you to work with data up to 100 records, and purchase is significantly less expensive than the step-up cost in Arc licensing.
GRASS' m.cogo will get you part of the way there--converting the calls into points. You can then convert these to polygons, although it's a bit tricky. There's an example on the m.cogo man page.
As with Darren's answer, Copan Lite for Windows (it's free software -- and I was a developer) will also get you the boundary coordinates. Using its Map Traverses tool you can even adjust the traverse of calls to close exactly and go along circular arcs if they're part of the boundary.
Alternatively, the same company that provides downloadable Copan provides an online version for the same task.
Note that, in either case,
N35-45-15W must be entered as