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Terms and definitions

What is geographic information (GI)?

Geographic Information (GI) is information about objects or features that are associated with a location relative to the surface of the earth. It’s also referred to as geospatial data. Geographic information can be stored in computer files that can then be loaded into a Geographic Information system (GIS).

Learn more about GI and GIS from the videos linked below on this page.

What is Scale?

Scale in terms of mapping, is how much you would have to enlarge a map so it is the size of the land it represents. For example a printed map at 1:25 000 scale means that every 1 unit on the map represents 25 000 units on the ground.

Learn more about map scales here

To learn more about scale, Watch the video about scale below.

What is the National Grid?

The national grid provides a unique grid system which can be applied to all Ordnance Survey maps of Great Britain at all scales. A grid reference is used to locate a position on a map/on the grid.

Learn more about the National Grid on the video provided below.

What are Raster and Vector map formats?

Raster mapping is an image based map format. It looks like an Ordnance Survey paper map. As you zoom in closer, like any digital image, the picture eventually becomes more pixelated (shows as a series of small squares) when you get very close up to it. What you see is what you get with a raster image.

Vector mapping is different - it is made up of intelligent layers of information which can be switched on/off. As you zoom in or out of a vector map the image does not pixelate like a raster map image and the information may change from one 'layer' to another.

Learn more about raster and vector mapping by watching this video

Where can I get more support?

Please visit the public sector support home page or our main support page.

Video support

Loading data into a GIS

Learn about what is involved when loading data into a Geographic Information System (GIS) and how to do this with Ordnance Survey data.

Download this video

Map Scale

Learn more about Ordnance Survey maps and the concept of scale.

Download this video

The National Grid

Learn about the National Grid and how this relates to maps.

Download this video

View more videos on our YouTube channel

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