ArcGIS is the industry standard GIS software package and is produced by Esri (formerly ESRI, or Environmental Systems Research Institute). It is a Windows-only suite of programs:
ArcGIS lets you analyze data sets in relation to each other, spatially. For example:
Where is the best location in the Northeast US for a new power plant?
How will projected climate change affect the range of the Mink Toad?
Which zip codes in Brooklyn are the most toxic (i.e., most SuperFund sites)?
ArcGIS is expensive and not intended for casual use, nor is it available from off-campus. Other GIS applications may be more appropriate for your project:
This is a guide to using ArcGIS 10.1 Desktop, which is available on all workstations in the Graduate Center Library. From the Start menu, choose "All Programs" then navigate to ArcMap.
For off-campus access to ArcGIS, log in to Citrix. You'll find ArcGIS in the Statistics folder.
Also, ArcExplorer, a less versatile version of the software, is available for free download.
Alternatively, QGIS is a free, open source GIS platform that can be downloaded and used at home.