ArcGIS and Excel are Worthwhile

August 9, 2007  |  The Times

If I've learned anything in my first month at The Times, it's that ArcGIS and Microsoft Excel are not worthless.

For a while now, since I started grad school, I had this beef against Microsoft Excel. I hated how everyone used it and how I didn't have the money to buy the Office suite or even cared enough to want to buy it. It seemed so limited in what it could do compared to a quickly setup MySQL database.

Then last year, I took this crash course on ArcGIS. It was four days, eight hours a day of mapping. I hated ArcGIS after that workshop. The whole software suite seemed sluggish, bloated, and so not worth my time.

Today I saw some ArcGIS and Excel proficiency I had never seen before. My co-worker flew through giant spreadsheets, punched in formulas, and joined columns left and right. It was quite the scene. Once the data were prepared in Excel, she shot it over to ArcGIS. She quickly loaded a shape file for all counties in the Tri-state region, changed some limits, and voila, a few seconds later we had the map we needed. Put in some labeling, some numbers, and the graphic was complete.

Yes, ArcGIS and Excel are worthwhile.

I have so much to learn.

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