January 16, 2024

Quick Tips for Getting Started with Global Mapper

Written by: Amanda Lind


Are you familiar with GIS, projections, shapefiles, etc., but new to Global Mapper? This blog will help walk you through the very basics of the software to get you started. Global Mapper is an all-in-one GIS tool that’s popular across a wide variety of industries. Every GIS software is different, and it can sometimes take a bit of adjustment when learning to switch between them, but once you’re familiar with it, Global Mapper is the most user-friendly GIS out there. Give it a test drive with a free 2-week trial license!

This blog will cover a few Global Mapper basics. Want a more in-depth tutorial? Our free online training offers detailed lessons on where to find and how to use the tools in Global Mapper, and more. 

Looking to become a certified Global Mapper user? Check out our live online training classes! These hands-on courses will provide you with data and written workflows, and walk you through how to use the software to meet your data needs.

Into to Global Mapper training card displaying the software

Have questions? Search the Knowledge Base for tool descriptions, look through our extensive tutorial collection on YouTube, ask others via the user Forum, or email technical support at GeoHelp@BlueMarbleGeo.com.

You’ve Opened Global Mapper, Now What? 

By looking at the software, you can see that Global Mapper’s tools are stored in the dropdown menus, the toolbars, and the right-click menu in the workspace. The toolbars can all be moved around and their contents edited. When files are loaded, files will appear as layers in the Control Center, found on the left-hand side (and boxed in blue in the image below). When loaded, data will be displayed in the Workspace (Red).

Screenshot of Global Mapper with relevant areas highlighted

The majority of settings can be found in the Configuration menu by clicking on the Wrench icon, typically near the upper left corner (also circled in yellow in the image above). Other file-based settings, such as symbology and labels, can be found in the layer’s options menu. Find this by right-clicking on the layer in the Control Center. 

How To Import Data

Global Mapper can handle over 380+ different file types. There are many ways to load them into the software. The easiest way is to drag and drop a file from your computer into the workspace. You can also open data from the File Menu or choose Load Default Data from the workspace in a fresh instance in Global Mapper. On the flip side, here are video instructions on how to export data

Note that when you load data into Global Mapper, any changes made to the data are saved to the workspace, so you don’t have to worry about accidentally altering the original file. When a file is exported, applicable changes made in GM will be exported with it. 

Tip: Use the Online Data tool to stream data into Global Mapper from built-in and custom sources. Need to find data? Check out these blogs:
Free Elevation Data Sources to Use in Global Mapper
Free Satellite Imagery Data Sources to Use in Global Mapper

How Projections Work in Global Mapper

When you load files with different projections into Global Mapper, they will all display in the workspace in the same projection. Gone are the days of projection mismatches! We call it reprojecting on the fly. 

The workspace is assigned the projection of the first loaded file. You can change this projection in the Configuration menu to an existing or custom projection. This menu changes both the display projection and determines which projection will be assigned to files during export. 

Screenshot of Global Mapper's projection dialog in the configuration menu


Tip: Need a vertical transformation? Or a specific horizontal datum transformation other than the built-in transformation?  Additional projections and datum transformations are available with GeoCalc mode, powered by the largest geodetic library anywhere.

What’s a Workspace? 

A Global Mapper Workspace (.GMW) file stores paths to all of the loaded data, generated data,  any changes made to the data, and more. These changes include background color, deleted data, etc. Users typically save their work as a workspace file. The only downside is that it only stores the data’s file paths, not the original data itself outside of edits. This means that to share a workspace with another user, you will want to export the workspace as a Global Mapper Package (.GMP) file. 

You can also share data by exporting the files via the File > Export menus or by right-clicking on the layer in the control center and looking under the Layer menu. The right-click menu will provide a drop-down list of all file types that are compatible with the data type(s) selected for export.  

Data Editing 

Editing data in Global Mpper is easy; no editing mode required! Use the Digitizer tool (the pencil) to select and edit vector features. Some commonly used editing and feature creation tools can be found in a toolbar, but many more are found in the “Digitizer” dropdown menu, and right-click menus. These two menus display the same tools, but the right-click menu will only display tools applicable to the data type currently selected in the workspace.

Global Mapper has many, many specific tools for data creation. It is a customer-led software, meaning that most (if not all) of our features were created by customer request. To find a specific tool, I recommend searching the Knowledge Base.  

Tip: Do you regret a change? Undo actions using ctrl Z! Did you accidentally delete something? Here are some options for bringing it back. 


These are just the tip of the iceberg! To better learn how to use Global Mapper to its full extent, sign up for one or many of our training courses

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