April 18, 2023

Ways to share GIS data with non-GIS users

Written by: Amanda Lind


Have you ever wanted to share GIS data with someone who doesn’t have access to GIS software? For example, you’ve created a beautiful terrain model for a construction site and want to send it to a customer for review. Not everyone has access to a powerful tool like Global Mapper. Still, using Global Mapper’s extensive list of supported file types, there are many ways you can send out data that can be visualized by a non-GIS user.  

In Global Mapper, you can, of course, create a traditional non-interactive map. These maps sometimes cannot  encapsulate tiled resolutions fully, or detail included in the data, especially when elevation data is involved. There are other more dynamic methods to share the data in a way that’s almost as interactive as in Global Mapper. This blog will go over a few ways to do this for 2D and 3D data. 

If the user has another type of software that loads spatial data, you may be able to find a shared compatible file type between their software and Global Mapper. Global Mapper has the most extensive list of file compatibility types on the market (as far as we know). Peruse the full list HERE in the Knowledge Base. Do you have a file type that we don’t yet support? Let us know. 

Global Mapper supported file formats list
Global Mapper supports over 380 different file types as of the writing of this blog. Check the Knowledge Base to see the full list.

GeoPDF – 2D

A GeoPDF is a georeferenced PDF that also contains spatial/coordinate reference data. Exporting a GeoPDF is a great way to dynamically share 2D data in a format that can also be again loaded into Global Mapper. This type of file allows you to turn layers on and off, obtain XY coordinates for a location, measure length, and more. Export it from: File > Export > PDF.

2D PDFs have layers that can be turned on and off.

GeoPDF – 3D

Along with the functionalities of a 2D PDF, a 3D PDF can display data in a lightweight 3D viewer. This also provides basic functionalities such as rotating the data, labeling, changing lighting, etc. It doesn’t have the full capabilities of Global Mapper’s 3D viewer, but it’s still a great way to share lidar, terrain, vector, or any other type of 3D data. Export it from File > Export > 3D Format > PDF(3D).

3D GeoPDF against Global Mapper's 3D viewer
Exporting a 3D PDF is almost like sending a lightweight version of Global Mapper’s 3D viewer…almost.

To a Mobile Device

Are your non-GIS users out in the field? Have them download our free mobile application, Global Mapper Mobile(GMM). You could even post a public link to your data using a QR code. Users can see, interact with, and optionally edit data. GMM supports vector and raster data, including elevation and imagery. Export your data from your desktop as a Global Mapper Mobile Package file (.gmmp) from the File > Export menu or from the mobile Data Management tool. In the mobile application, users can see their current location, add data, and manipulate existing data. With a Pro subscription, users can connect to an external GNSS device, create Viewsheds from elevation data, measure Terrain Volume, connect to Online Data sources, and more. For more information on using Global Mapper mobile, check out this blog.

How to use global Mapper Mobile to share data
For example, users can click on a trail to see the max slope, trail length, total elevation, and other attributes. In a traditional 2D map, this information would have to be displayed separately and would be limited by space.

3D Models 

Global Mapper supports many different GIS file types that support elevation  (.shp, .tiff, etc.) and you can also export file types compatible with commonly used 3D software such as Blender. As a common example, Windows 3D Viewer and Global Mapper both support:  FBX, STL, OBJ, glTF, GLB, and PLY files. 

STL files can be sent to a slicer to be used in a 3D printer. From Global Mapper, you can export terrain data, features extracted from lidar, and all sorts of things. Try the Create Mesh tool to create solid surfaces from lidar points or from terrain for export as a 3D model. 

3D printed models made from geospatial data
Examples of 3D printed bathymetric terrain layers and a building, all of which can be created and exported to a slicer from Global Mapper.


There are a few ways to share data via Google to take advantage of their free map services.

Google Earth – sharing files compatible with Google Earth 

Google Earth can read KML/KMZ files (Keyhole Markup Language) exported from Global Mapper. This works well with vector data and imagery. Elevation rasters can also be displayed as imagery. The export dialog has many options specifically tailored for exporting to Google Earth, such as building extrusion and point styling.

Data from Global Mapper loaded into Google Earth
Data created in Google Earth (such as digitized vector features) can also be exported and brought into Global Mapper.

Google Maps 

You can use Global Mapper’s diverse vector editing tools to create data and then send it from Global Mapper to be displayed on your google maps account. First, export the data as CSV

TSV, KML/KMZ, GPX, or XLSX, then follow these Google instructions. If you create a My Map in Google, the data can also be opened from your mobile device, though it can’t be edited or collected as the Global Mapper Mobile is capable of. 

Have other ideas on how to share GIS data? Post them in the Global Mapper User Forum

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