ArcGIS on a Mac
June 1, 2014 5:52 PM   Subscribe

I am starting a geography class tomorrow and I am trying to install ArcGIS on my computer. I have a Mac...

ArcGIS doesn't run on Mac operating systems. I know that I could purchase Windows and Parallels (or something similar) and run the software, but I really don't want to spend that kind of cash. I am supposed to have access to it remotely through my school but the VPN is currently not working. Clearly getting the remote desktop issues resolved is my first solution...but barring that, what are the free alternatives or alternate solutions?
posted by ekf to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You'll probably have access to a computer lab. Maybe even one with Remote Desktops. Don't feel rushed to do anything about this right away.
posted by oceanjesse at 6:04 PM on June 1, 2014

Best answer: If the class is using ArcGIS then that's what you want to use, because any instructions they give won't make sense in another program and you'll be slowed way down.

I bet Windows is deeply discounted for students - check with your school's IT department or the bookstore.
posted by desjardins at 6:16 PM on June 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

You could just install a copy of Windows on the bootcamp partition, then when you need to use ArcGIS you would just boot up the Windows side. You wouldn't be using both operating systems at the same time as you would with VMWare or Parallels, but you would probably would not want to run ArcGIS in a virtual machine anyway so the dedicated bootcamp partition should run it better. That was my experience anyway -- I ran ArcGIS on a Macbook Pro running XP on the bootcamp partition.
posted by This_Will_Be_Good at 6:18 PM on June 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

Qgis is the main open source alternative, but GIS has so few analogs to other computing endeavors, you'll want to get started with the software that's used to teach the class.

If they license ArcGIS to you, is runs well in virtualized Windows if you have a solid state drive, but with a regular hard drive, it's nearly unusable. So as This_Will_Be_Good mentions, it's either Bootcamp or and SSD+Parallels/VMware
posted by bendybendy at 6:23 PM on June 1, 2014

QGis is the main open-source alternative. It's not all that dissimilar to ArcGIS underneath, but if you're just using the software for class the interface is different enough that all the instructions from class that are software-specific will be frustrating.

As a data point, I have ArcGIS running in VMWare on my Macbook Air (8 GB RAM, 1.7 GHz processor) and I can't really say that it is good beyond running very simple tasks. I would definitely run it in Windows in Boot Camp if I needed to do anything very specific at all.
posted by andrewesque at 6:58 PM on June 1, 2014

ArcGIS is the only reason I still have a Windows desktop for work. I think Bootcamp is probably your only real option (although, yes, it requires a Windows licence so maybe it's not an option). Although QGIS is a great (and constantly improving) piece of software, I would not attempt to complete a class heavy on ArcGIS class using it.
posted by Jimbob at 8:38 PM on June 1, 2014

Parallels and VMware Fusion can both be purchased with generous academic discounts, FYI.
posted by avocet at 8:50 PM on June 1, 2014

Seconding oceanjesse though, check with your school IT. My school has a java-applet web virtual machine that let's you run arcGIS without having to install or pay. This is normal and common.
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 9:08 PM on June 1, 2014

It'd be worth trying it out under CrossOver, a commercial port of the Wine tool that lets you run Windows software directly on OSX/Linux without having to buy a Windows license. It's available as a 14-day demo that can be upgraded to the full product for $60.

Note that ArcGIS 10 is tagged as Known to Not Work, but that's from 2 years ago and CrossOver has had 2 major version releases since then. It may well not work, but if it does it'll be more convenient that remote desktop or rebooting into Windows.

(also, if you try it and it does work, please update the compatibility database so other people can know about it)
posted by russm at 9:47 PM on June 1, 2014

Definitely try to get a student license during your class; they're good for a year. I would recommend just using a lab if they have one though. I ran it on bootcamp for a while, but working on the school's computers will keep you more focused.
posted by heycoder at 10:10 PM on June 1, 2014

VirtualBox is free and gets the job done as well as VMWare Fusion or Parallels for most people (including me). You still have to get a copy of Windows, though, but it's supposedly quite cheap for educational users.
posted by zsazsa at 11:22 PM on June 1, 2014

You aren't, by any chance, using Juniper VPN, are you? I've encountered a stupid bug in their script in the past that can be worked around. MeMail me if it is and I can help you diagnose and talk you through it.
posted by ursus_comiter at 8:34 AM on June 2, 2014

You can download a Windows ISO from the Microsoft website and run it in Bootcamp. After 30 days you'll get nag popups that you need to activate, but Windows continues to run fine.
posted by humboldt32 at 9:23 AM on June 2, 2014

Best answer: ArcGIS is very resource intensive, and running it through any sort of extra layer will probably make doing even simple tasks excruciatingly slow. Bootcamp would probably work miles better than vmware or parallels.

But I would check to make sure that you don't have access to a computer lab with ArcGIS installed. If they have relatively powerful computers set up for ArcGIS that would probably be your cheapest, easiest, and least painful way of doing your work.
posted by that girl at 11:45 AM on June 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

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