GIS: Geographic Information System
Geographic Information Systems are computer systems that combine data and a geographic location. GIS provides tools to analyze spatial data and create information about a geography. Multiple datasets can be layered into one visualization to reveal patterns or spatial phenomenon. Geographic Information Science involves leveraging these tools to test theories and answer questions. GIS is everywhere. There are many applications for GIS in a wide variety of industries. It is the intelligence that helps businesses grow, scientists learn, and everyday people discover new things about the world around them.
ESRI is one of the major players in proprietary GIS software. They have an entire Enterprise Suite of Desktop, Mobile, and Web Apps. For more information and a better understanding of what GIS is, take a look at ESRI‘s definition of “What is Gis?”
QGIS is a robust Free / Open Source option if you are looking for a way to get in and start exploring GIS software. It supports many of the standard formats freely available from a wide variety of GIS data sources. If you are interested, visit their website to Get Started.
Grass is another Free / Open Source option that has been around for a long time. It also supports a variety of data formats widely available, but I feel like there is a bit more of a learning curve with this software if you are new to GIS. Visit their page for First Time Users to get started.