Options for Students Looking for Access to GIS Software

By Adena Schutzberg

Serious GIS students may often want, or potentially need, access to proprietary, fee-based desktop software beyond what’s in the campus lab (or available on the campus server). They might need advanced software for a project or want to explore a different package than that used in class to enhance their resumes. 
What options do they have with just a college (and sometimes high school) ID and e-mail address? I am specifically excluding access to software available via classroom or site licenses. In some cases, an institution with such a license can offer students their own licensed copy. 
I want to explore the options involving a direct relationship between the student and the vendor. The good news is that many of the familiar names in GIS software offer students special licensing and accessible pricing.
Esri’s Home Use license ($100/year) fits the bill nicely. It includes ArcGIS for Desktop and a host of extensions. Remember, like nearly all student licenses from other vendors, it’s for noncommercial personal use only. Need a copy for less time and less money? There’s a 180-day license that comes with many Esri Press workbooks. And, there’s a 60-day free trial.
Autodesk offers free student downloads for almost all of its software. Within the long list of AutoCAD software is AutoCAD Map 3D. The licenses here run for three years. There is also a 30-day free trial of AutoCAD Map 3D. 
The well regarded integrated GIS and remote sensing package is available to students in a one-year license for $95 and a perpetual license for $295. Again, read the details, which preclude commercial use.
While Intergraph has a program for universities to acquire site licenses, I could not find a way for an individual student to gain access to GeoMedia or ERDAS products at a discount.
MapInfo offers a 30-day free trial of MapInfo Professional, but I could find no student licensing options.
Caliper offers a one-year student license for its Maptitude software. Pricing is not publicly available; students must contact sales. And, the license has one extra restriction beyond no use for commercial purposes: “Licensee may not use the Product in sponsored research unless Licensee purchases a commercial license.”
Supergeo offers SuperGIS, but does not publish pricing for any of its licenses. It does not mention anything special for students on the website. The company does offer free 30-day trials of its desktop and other products. In October, the company announced that students at academic institutions that hold a laboratory license could gain access to a personal license of the desktop product.
Manifold.net does not offer an evaluation or student license but does offer a 30-day lease ($95) and a limited 10-day money back guarantee. The company does have a grant program for academic institutions.
Bentley Systems
Bentley offers students at institutions without an Academic SELECT subscription (site license) the Bentley Student Academic Suite. It includes 11 desktop packages including Bentley Map V8i and a self-study course in MicroStation V8i. It’s a two-year, non-commercial use license; pricing is described as “low cost” and can be obtained by contacting the company. I did find that in 1995 the Suite was $190...but I’m sure that’s changed!
Other Providers of Proprietary Software
To learn if other providers offer special deals for students, visit the company homepage and search on “student license” or “academic.” If the search comes up empty, a gracious note on why a student wants access to the software, especially with the support of a faculty member, may open doors to a license. The student may also offer some work in return for access to the software, such as a review or a published article about the project.
Open Source Software
Students, just like everyone else, have access to open source GIS software for free. The only caveat? Also, like everyone else, they must follow the license restrictions, which it’s worth noting, do not preclude the software’s use in commercial projects.

Published Monday, November 25th, 2013

Written by Adena Schutzberg

Published in


If you liked this article subscribe to our newsletter...stay informed on the latest geospatial technology

© 2016 Directions Media. All Rights Reserved.