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Stanford Geospatial Center resources for teaching and learning: GIS software & licensing

This guide serves as the main information portal for the Stanford Geospatial Center's Support, Services and Collections

Remote-friendly spatial software and platforms

Using VPTL Cluster Computer Checkout with your SGC Q: & R: Drives

Recently, Stanford VPTL launched the Cluster Checkout program that allows users to use Stanford cluster machines remotely for both macOS and Windows. All that is required for access is a valid Stanford SUNetID.

These Cluster machines, combined with mapping of your SGC R: & Q: Drives, can provide an excellent source of extra computing power for users whose hardware (MacBook Air, Laptops with <8gb RAM, etc...) and software (MacOS) limits their ability to use Desktop GIS Software, in particular: Esri's ArcGIS Pro, ArcGIS Desktop and ArcPy.

GIS-related software on Cluster Checkout machines

These cluster machines include the following software of interest to spatial data users:

  • ArcGIS Desktop
  • ArcGIS Pro
  • QGIS
  • ENVI
  • Google Earth Pro Desktop
  • OpenRefine
  • IrfanView
  • RStudio
  • GIMP
  • Inkscape
  • More…

Accessing Cluster Checkout machines

  1. If using MacOS to connect, download and install Microsoft Remote Desktop.
  2. First, connect to Stanford VPN.
  3. Go to and use Stanford SSO to login.
  4. Click the SELECT button for the Windows Cluster.
  5. Review the available software, if needed. Click NEXT.
  6. Review the policies and details, then click NEXT.

At this point, you will have been randomly assigned an available Cluster Machine for checkout. Follow the Cluster-Checkout guidance from this point to download a connection file, and login to a Windows Machine.

Connecting to your SGC ‘R: Drive’ from a Cluster Checkout machine

Note: This guidance is for current Stanford Geospatial Center workgroup members. We are working to create a system to allow new users to be added to the workgroup, remotely, and will edit this set of instructions when it is complete. Users not in the SGC Workgroup will be able to use Cluster Computing machines to access GIS software, but will be limited to saving to the AFS mapped drives.  

  1. In the Windows File Explorer, click on This PC (do NOT use Internet Explorer).
  2. Go to the Computer tab and click on the Map Network Drive button.
  3. In the window that opens set the Drive: as R:
  4. Set the Folder: path for the User connection to \\sul-sgclab\Users\[your SUNet username].
  5. Check the box for Reconnect at sign-in if you would like the drive to automatically connect every time you log on, though that will only work if you reuse the same Cluster Checkout RDP File, which may not be constantly available.
  6. Repeat above with Q: as the Drive: and \\sul-sgclab\GIS for the Data and Groups folder connections, if needed.

ArcGIS Online is Esri's Cloud-based Geographic Information System, providing web-based mapping and location-based application development services, tightly integrated with ArcGIS Desktop and ArcGIS Pro. Use Enterprise Login at with your SUNetID for access. 

At Stanford, we use Single Sign-On to provide users with a familiar login experience, and remove "gatekeepers" from our student's access to ArcGIS Online. Anyone with a valid SUNetID can use it to log into ArcGIS Online and get started working with spatial data and analysis.


Logging into

To log into ArcGIS Online, using your Stanford credentials:

  1. Go to and click on the "Sign In" link at the top right.

  2. Click on the "Enterprise Login" button.

  3. Follow the familiar Stanford Dual Authentication procedure to login.

Once you are logged into Stanford's account, you will see the default Stanford Gallery page. You can begin adding your spatial data for use in by going to the CONTENT page, or you can get started creating a map, immediately, by clicking on the MAP link at the top of the page.

For a great set of "Getting Started" tutorials, see the Esri Learning website.


ArcGIS Pro

ArcGIS Pro is now available for download and licensing to any Stanford student, staff, faculty, or sponsored affiliate (with a valid SUnet ID), and we are simplifying the process of installing and authorizing the software. You can now find the latest installers for ArcGIS Pro, by using your SUNetID to login to, then go to the Settings>Licenses in your Profile.

For detailed instructions on downloading ArcGIS Pro from, see this Esri Support Article,

Students interested in using Esri software on a Mac should contact Student Tech Services at Lathrop (, for assistance obtaining and installing a Windows OS Virtual Machine on their device.
Faculty and Staff will need to contact their respective technical support staff for assistance with Windows virtualization. Once you have a working Windows VM, the above installers and instructions should work.
If you require versions of Esri software, other than the most recent releases of ArcGIS Desktop and ArcGIS Pro, please feel free to contact with your request.


Note: For installation on Stanford affiliated computers only and only to users who possess a valid SUNet ID. Software and data provided under this agreement are to be used for instruction, research, and administrative purposes only. Use of the licensed programs for profit, private gain, or other commercial use is prohibited.

Licensing an existing installation of ArcGIS Desktop or ArcGIS Pro

ArcGIS Pro can be licensed by logging into your account, using your SUNetID and password, when starting the software. All users of Stanford's organization are licensed to use ArcGIS Pro, as well.

Single-use licensing for ArcGIS Pro & ArcGIS Desktop

To reauthorize your current installation of ArcGIS Pro or ArcGIS Desktop, for offline use, go to the following folder and download the *.prvc file for the software version you want to authorize, then double-click it to begin the authorization process. Be sure to NOT be connected to VPN during authorization, or you will have to be connected to VPN to use the software.

Download a current Single-Use  License from Google Drive (Stanford authentication required)

ArcGIS Desktop & ArcGIS Pro are licensed for use by Stanford faculty, staff and students on personal and Stanford machines.



Planet is the leader in the current "small sat" revolution in Earth imaging. With a growing constellation of 200+ "Doves," Planet is able to image the Earth's landmass at 3m pixel resolution, once every day. This high cadence, medium-high resolution imagery is well suited to monitoring applications, semantic segmentation and traditional remote sensing applications.

The Stanford Geospatial Center manages Stanford's Enterprise account, which provides access to Planet's PlanetScope, RapidEye and monthly/quarterly composite basemap services. Access is intended for small research projects, and primarily intended for student's use in research and coursework. 


Access Stanford's subscription to's daily satellite imagery

Stanford researchers may request access to the Planet Enterprise Account by submitting this form: Stanford Enterprise Account Access Request Form. For more information about Planet and their "daily image of the Earth" see


Planet imagery product specifications


Additional Planet resources


SimplyAnalytics is a web-based mapping, analytics, and data visualization application that makes it easy for anyone to create interactive maps, charts, and reports using 100,000+ data variables. SimplyAnalytic’s intuitive analysis tools generate detailed custom maps and reports for any location in the country. Add individual data variables or entire groups of variables and generate a report in seconds, or create a ring study report illustrating the characteristics of the 1-, 3-, and 5-mile radius surrounding your target location. Rank locations, apply filters to maps and reports, and create custom study areas to further hone your research.


SimplyAnalytics data

SimplyAnalytics has all the data you need to answer key research questions, make sound business decisions, and understand the socio-demographic and economic conditions of any geographic area in the United States and Canada. We currently offer more than 75,000 data variables related to demographics, employment, housing, market segments, businesses, consumer spending, brand preferences, public health, and more from industry-leading data vendors.


Access from off-campus is an IP restricted resource and requires authentication on teh Stanford Network, using VPN or a Proxy server. The easiest way to access from off-campus is to install the "Lean Libraries" browser extension, then go to and create an account using your email address. 



Google Earth Engine (GEE) combines a multi-petabyte catalog of satellite imagery and geospatial datasets with planetary-scale analysis capabilities and makes it available for scientists, researchers, and developers to detect changes, map trends, and quantify differences on the Earth's surface.


Access Google Earth Engine Platform

Google Earth Engine is open to any user with a valid Google account. You can use your email to create a Google Earth Engine account, since Stanford uses GSuite for Education, or you can use your personal Gmail account. Each has advantages, for instance, using your personal Gmail account means it remains yours once you leave Stanford and lose access to your email account, while using your account allows you to use the Google Drive and other services that come free with your GSuite for Education services. 

Sign up for Google Earth Engine.


Getting started with Google Earth Engine

The best quick Introduction to Google Earth Engine is the GEE 101 workshop series, created by the Google Earth Engine Developer Team.


More guides and quick starts from Google Earth Engine



The David Rumsey Map Collection was started over 30 years ago and contains more than 150,000 maps. The collection focuses on rare 16th through 21st century maps of North and South America, as well as maps of the World, Asia, Africa, Europe, and Oceania. The collection includes atlases, wall maps, globes, school geographies, pocket maps, books of exploration, maritime charts, and a variety of cartographic materials including pocket, wall, children's, and manuscript maps. Items range in date from about 1550 to the present.

Digitization of the collection began in 1996 and there are now over 97,000 items online, with new additions added regularly. The site is free and open to the public. Here viewers have access not only to high resolution images of maps that are extensively cataloged, but also to a variety of tools that allow to users to compare, analyze, and view items in new and experimental ways.


LUNA Viewer

The LUNA Viewer is the primary way to view the map collection. Users can browse the entire online collection of over 97,000 images or search by keyword for specific images. Images may be exported or saved in groups. Or you can browse by categories or use the what, where, who, when links on the left side of the thumbnail pages. Learn more


Georeferencer v4

Georeferencer v4 is a new application added to our online library. It will allow you to overlay historic maps on modern maps or other historic maps. The overlaid maps reveal historic changes over time and enable many kinds of analysis and discovery. You can choose your own maps to georeference by Searching LUNA or help us georeference the entire online map library by using our Random Map link which opens maps that are part of our First Pilot Project. These images of the Yosemite Valley 1883 show some of the methods used. Users who georeference the most maps will be recognized on our site. The First Pilot Project will include 6,000 maps of major cities and regions throughout the world. Recently Georeferenced maps can be viewed by image or by location. Learn more


MapRank search

The new MapRank search tool enables geographical searching of the collection by map location and coverage, in a Google Map window. Pan and zoom the Google Map to the area of the world you want maps of, and the results will automatically appear as a scrollable list of maps with thumbnail images in the right side window. The maps in the right side list are ranked by coverage, with the maps that have coverage closest to your search window listed at the top. Mousing over any map in the list will show the map’s coverage as a light red rectangle on top of the Google Map. Clicking on a map in the list will open it in the Luna Browser. You can filter your results with the When timeline, the What or Who keyword text window, and the Map scale windows, as well as search by place name in the Find a place window. Currently about 12,000 online maps are searchable with MapRank search; soon the entire online collection will be included. Learn more




A Free and Open Source Geographic Information System. Create, edit, visualize, analyze and publish geospatial information on Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android. QGIS has matured into a full-featured desktop GIS platform over the past few years and is a perfect alternative to ArcGIS for those not using Windows, or interested in using Free & Open Source software.'

(The SGC suggests installing the Long-Term Release (LTR) version)