Geospatial Analysis: A Comprehensive Guide to Principles, Techniques and Software Tools (Third Edition)

Michael J de Smith, Michael F Goodchild, Paul A Longley

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Search engines are a boon for finding out what different GIS techniques do, and how they can help in problem solving. Software vendors are understandably keen to harness engines to suggest particular software, as do researchers keen to disseminate the results of their own research. But just because a software solution has been adopted by the herd does not mean that it is the most appropriate, the most reliable or the most cost effective. Worse still, the preponderance of sponsored links makes it less likely that the user will be guided to the most appropriate solution . The spatial analysis community needs to find a way through the software maze, yet the ever wider use of search engines rarely seems to suggest a clearer route - and may also introduce too many twists and turns into the decision process. With this in mind, we have developed what we hope is a comprehensive guide that demystifies the principles, techniques, formulae and computer methods of many software tools.

Our Website and book seeks to demystify the principles, techniques, formulae and computer methods of many software tools. Our Geospatial Analysis resource addresses the full spectrum of spatial analysis and associated modelling techniques. It is available as a free-of-charge web service ( and as a 560 page printed book. We believe that the project is of use to a very wide range of users - GIS applications professionals concerned with tactical or strategic decision-making, software engineers, and the full range of students using GIS at undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

The work is international in flavour, with roots in GIS-centred programmes such as the UK Spatial Literacy in Teaching programme and the US Center for Spatially Integrated Social Sciences (CSISS: Its also incorporates most of the spatial analysis topics included within the NCGIA Core Curriculum ( and UCGIS Body of Knowledge ( and as such provides a useful accompaniment to spatial analysis courses based closely or loosely on these programmes.

Illustrative applications are provided in many cases, largely from non-academic sources, in order to highlight the growing understanding and acceptance of GIS technology in the commercial and government sectors. The range of applications that we discuss includes health and welfare, emergency and security management, transport and environmental engineering, telecommunications, urban planning, education, enterprise development, and retailing, amongst others.

Spatial analysis and GIS is now simply too big a field for a standard, discipline-specific, printed textbook to satisfy every kind of new user need. Accordingly, an innovative feature of the project is the range of formats, channels and releases that will be used to supplement the printed book - our aim is not to tack a Website onto another printed book project but, rather, to use the on-line resource to drive the creation of content that serves clearly defined user needs. This novel approach not only provides users with an efficient one-stop knowledge base on spatial analysis, but also encourages active end-user participation - corrections, suggestions and even submission of additional material for possible inclusion in the work are all welcomed!

In short, we believe that the project provides the Google Generation with an independent, reliable and authoritative first portal of call for conceptual, technical, software and applications material, and addresses the broad spectrum of new user requirements. As such it seeks to provide practical advice and information, avoiding the pitfalls of generic Google-searching and the hype of software vendor promotional materials.

Topics covered in the current release include:

  • building blocks of spatial analysis
  • historical and methodological context to the analysis of spatial problems
  • geometrical processing
  • distance and directional analysis
  • spatial queries and computations, including density analysis
  • map algebra and grid models
  • exploratory spatial data analysis (ESDA)
  • spatial statistics, including spatial regression modelling
  • surface form analysis, including hydrological analysis
  • gridding and interpolation methods, including geostatistical methods
  • visibility analysis
  • cellular automata and agent-based models
  • network and locational analysis

Software products referenced include: ArcGIS, ANUDEM, Boundaryseer, CCMaps, Cellular Expert, Clusterseer, ComSiteDesign, Concorde, CPLEX, Crimestat, ENVI, Fragstats, GAM, GeoBUGS, GeoDa, Geomed, GMS, Grapher, GRASS, GS+ GSLIB, GStat, GWR, HertzMapper, HawthsTools, Idrisi, Imagine, ISATIS, Land Desktop, Landserf, LEDA, LOLA, Manifold, MapCalc, MapInfo, Maptitude, MATLab, MFWorks, NETACT, Oriana PCRaster, RiverTools, Rookcase, S?Distance, SpaceStat, SPLANCS, SPSS, STARS, STATA, STIS, Surfer, SURPOP, TAP, TAS, TAUDEM, TNTMips, TransCAD, Variowin, WinBUGS, Xpress-MP

No search engine is likely to trace the source code or full details of the algorithms employed in commercial products. Typically, users will find only links to books and articles on which spatial analysis procedures are based, coupled with online help and 'white papers' describing their parameters and applications. Non-commercial packages sometimes provide source code and test data for some or all of the analytical functions provided, but 'non-commercial' often does not mean that users can download the full source code. Source code greatly aids understanding, reproducibility and further development, and rather few spatial analysis solutions are genuinely open source. Even when such software is available, users need to be aware that it may be applicable only to a particular form of spatial representation (e.g. a grid or raster spatial model). Like some commercial software, it may also be designed with particular application areas in mind, such as addressing problems in hydrology or epidemiology. In this context, our project seeks to demystify the spatial analysis task. Controlled comparisons enable us to suggest applications domains for which open source software is likely to be appropriate; to illustrate the differences that are obtained using different non-commercial and commercial solutions; and to evaluate and clarify some of the descriptions and reports that users may encounter when searching online.