Skip to Main Content

Maps: GIS & remote sensing

A guide to finding and using printed and digital maps.

This page includes internet resources where data (including both vector mapping data and raster remote sensing data) can be obtained for inclusion in a Geographical Information System (GIS) or use with image processing software. The list concentrates on sites which allow free download of data (including sites where the University has a subscription e.g. Digimap).

If data for a particular country is required, it may also be worth checking out the national survey organisation as they may have data available for purchase. You could also do a Google search for '[country name] free GIS'.

Collections of sites


Data for the world. For individual countries and regions see box below.

Useful tools

See the Projections box in the Using maps tab in this guide for more information about Map projections.

Guides to data

Great Britain (institutional log-in required)

More information about Accessing e-resources at the University of Reading.

Great Britain

Regional and country

GIS and mapping software

The University recommends using the industry standard ArcGIS Desktop, for which we have a licence.  ArcGIS 10.5 can be obtained through the University's Apps Anywhere service. However, there are also various Open  Source or free options which may be a better option depending on your needs.

Open Source software is defined as free to download, use and develop.  Code or raw data is available to update or develop.

Free software is free to download and use; code or source data is not available.

Freemium software is free to download. Extra functionality or content is available but not free.

If you want to create your own interactive map for a website and don't need the data analysis capabilities of a full GIS, there are a number of web mapping options - the three at the bottom of the list are examples of this.

 This section is based on Tom Armitage's presentation 'Open and "Free" geo software & data', at EDINA Geoforum 2013.