Practice exercises

Here are weblinks to provide additional resources so that you can complete the below exercises:

Click on the following links, which will open in a new window.

QGIS is a free and open source GIS software package that has become popular in recent years. It is available on multiple desktop operating systems and is both powerful and user-friendly. It also has a large and growing user base, a wide collection of documentation and tutorials, and a dedicated team of volunteers who continue to revise and update the software on a regular basis. For these reasons, it is a good choice for those wanting to learn the basics of GIS.

Exercise 1: Download, view and query vector data

The US Census Bureau provides several boundary files for different geographic regions in the country.

Exercise 2: Join tabular data to an existing shapefile

We can obtain some population data for California from the California Statistical Abstract by going to The population data can be found on the second tab.

Exercise 3: Displaying coordinate data

US open data portal

Exercise 4: Introduction to vector geoprocessing

For documentation on vector geoprocessing and other analysis tools in QGIS, go to

Exercise 5: Download, view and query raster data

See the Chapter 11 dataset resources at for a digital elevation model (DEM) of an individual county in North Carolina from the NC Department of Transportation’s elevation data page with a cell size of 20 feet by 20 feet. This is a high-resolution DEM created as part of a statewide flood mapping program using a technology called “light detection and ranging” (LIDAR).

Exercise 6: Creating raster data with heatmapping and spatial interpolation

US National Centers for Environmental Information offers free online climate data

Exercise 7: Creating a map layout with the QGIS Print Composer

For further documentation on using the QGIS Print Composer, go to