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Nova Scotia's Geographic Information Standards Manual
Table of Contents

Arrow  Property Registration
Arrow  Revision History
Arrow  Chapter Summaries Onlyor
Arrow  Preface
Arrow  Chapter 1: Introduction
Arrow  Chapter 2: Data Schema and Dictionary
Arrow  Chapter 3: Spatial Reference System
Arrow  Chapter 4: Data Quality and Accuracy
Arrow  Chapter 5: Terminology
Arrow  Glossary Search Engine
Arrow  Full Text Glossary - indexed
Arrow  Chapter 6: Feature Definition and Coding
Arrow  Feature Dictionary Search Engine
Arrow  Chapter 7: Linkage
Chapter 8: Data Analysis Tools and Communication
Arrow  Chapter 9: Cartography
Arrow  Chapter 10: Database Directory and Catalogue
Arrow  Chapter 11: Data Interchange
Arrow  Chapter 12: Data Security
Appendix A: Glossary of Terms and Terminology
Arrow  Glossary Search Engine
Arrow  Full Text Glossary - indexed
Arrow  Appendix B: Feature Dictionary
Arrow  Feature Dictionary Search Engine
Arrow  Appendix C: Sources and Acknowledgements
Arrow  Appendix D
Arrow  Appendix E

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Geographic Information Nova Scotia - Standards Manual

    Nova Scotia's
    Geographic Information

Glossary of Terms and Terminology




The distance between two graphic entities that should be coincident (usually end points of lines) on a digital map. Gaps may arise through errors made while digitizing or scanning the lines on a map. Also referred to as overshoot and undershoot.


A publication of geographical names and locations.


1. Involves a reduction of detail in a model, either by resampling to a larger cell size in raster operation or reducing the number of points in a vector operation. (See also Thinning)

2. The process of making a classification less detailed by combining classes of features. Generalization is often used to reduce the level of classification detail to make an underlying pattern more apparent. Also referred to as map dissolve.


See Geographic Information System.

Geocentric Reference Ellipsoid

A mathematical representation of a portion of the earth's surface, the center of which coincides with the center of the earth.


A data value, assigned to a spatial object, that provides information about the geographic location of the object (for example postal code; latitude and longitude; x and y coordinates) (Compare with Key).

Geodetic Control

First order survey control related to a mathematically defined size and shape of the Earth.

Geographic Coordinates

Position expressed in terms of latitiude and longitude.

Geographic Data

See Spatial Representation.

Geographic Data Analysis

Using six binary geometric relations and operations to obtain specific information. They are point-point, point-line, point-area, line-line, line-area, and area-area relations.

Geographic Entity

A phenomenon characterized by its locational context and about which spatially referenced information is stored.

Geographic Information System (GIS)

An organized collection of computer hardware, software and procedures designed to support the capture, editing, management, manipulation, analysis, modelling, and display of spatially referenced data for solving complex planning and management problems. A GIS is characterized by its ability to perform topological structuring of data. Some Geographic Information Systems include:

Arc/Info ESRI


Intergraph MGE Intergraph Corp.

Spans Tydac Tech. Inc.

Geobased Geo Based Systems Inc.


Data that has been processed and verified to a specific level of topological processing but does not necessarily contain the topological relations. This data may then be carried into any GIS and processed thereby having error free topology. (See also Topologically Clean Data)

GIS Attribute Data

Textual data describing spatial objects.

GIS Database

A GIS database includes data about the spatial location and attributes of geographic features as well as sufficient data to produce a graphical representation of some or all of the data.

GIS Query Tool

A system which contains all of the capabilities of a GIS except for data capture and editing. ExAamples include: Arcview; CARIS Access; Spans Map

Geographically Related Information

Information that is referenced to a geographic location.


The science, technology and management of geographically-referenced information, including its acquisition, storage, analysis, display and dissemination.

Geomatics Canada

A division of Natural Resources Canada. Formally known as Surveys, Mapping and Remote Sensing Sector (SMRSS).

Geometric Correction

Transforming data to ground or image space in a known coordinate system.

Geometric Primitives

The basic geometric units of representation; specifically, points, lines and areas.

Geometric Registration

The process of geometrically aligning two or more sets of geographic data so that resolution can be digitally or visually superimposed. Data being registered may be of the same or different types, or collected at different times.


A province wide land information system which allows corporate data to be shared by a variety of departments, agencies or individuals. Thus the vertical integration of a wide variety of spatial data with the primary databases. (Previously referred to as PLIMS)


The process of delimiting a given object, either physical (e.g. a lake) or conceptual (e.g. an administrative region), in terms of its spatial relationship to the land as defined by a datum and map projection or by its relationship to a street network.

Georeferencing System

See Map Projection.

Georeferenced Data

See Spatial Data.

Geospatial Data

See Spatial Data

Geographically Referenced Digital Data

See Spatial Data


1024 Megabytes.

Global Positioning System (GPS)

A satellite based positioning system having varying levels of accuracy used in the three-dimensional positioning on the Earth's surface.


Rate of rise or fall of a quantity against horizontal distance expressed as a ratio, decimal, fraction, percentage, or the tangent of the angle of inclination. Gradient measured along a specific direction is referred to as a Direction Gradient. (See also Slope)

Graphic Device Resolution

The smallest addressable area on the surface of a graphic device.

Graphic Entities

Entities which are graphically portrayed as geometric shapes or symbols on the source document.

Graphic File

A digital representation of the controls of a chart in machine readable form on disk, magnetic tape, etc.

Graphic Superimposition

The integration of two or more graphic sets in a consistent manner over the same area.

Graphic Tablet

A small digitizer used for interactive work with a GIS or CAD/CAM system.

Graphic Workstation

A computer graphics operating unit typically consisting of one or two CRT's, a digitizer, a menu, a cursor, and an alphanumeric keyboard and a CPU. At least one of the CRT's is normally a higher resolution graphics display unit.

Graphical User Interface (GUI)

Graphics-based user interface that incorporates icons, pull-down menus and a mouse.


A term that generally refers to the pictorial representation of data.


A regular grid of latitude and longitude or plane coordinate lines displayed on a map.

Grey Scales

Levels of brightness or darkness for displaying information on display devices or conventional maps.


The division of an area into cells of equal size so that locations may be better referenced.

Grid Cell

One unit in a rectangular co-ordinate grid. A geographical unit which is easy to reference and thus may be convenient for coding, manipulating or summarizing land data.

Grid Map

A map in which the information is carried in the form of grid cells.

Grid Monument

See Control Point definition 2.

Grid North

North as defined for a particular datum.


Hard Copy

Printed paper or film copy of computer output in a visually readable form such as printed reports, listings, graphics, drawings, maps, or summaries.


The physical components of a computer. Hardware includes the computer itself, as well as the peripheral devices needed for storage, input, and output.

Heads Up Digitization

1. The process of converting a bit map image of an analogue map or other graphical overlay into numeric format using a mouse to generate vectors on a monitor.

2. Digitization from scanned images which form a stereo model.

Hierarchical Database Structure

A method of arranging computer files or other information so that units of data storage are connected by a hierarchically defined pathway. (Compare with Network and Relational Database Structure)

Hierarchical Storage

Storage units linked together to form a storage subsystem, in which some are fast but small and others are large but slow. Blocks of data are moved from the large slow level to the small fast levels when required.

High-level Language

A computer programming language using command statements, symbols and words that resemble English-language statements. High level language statements are translated on a many-to-one basis into machine language by compiler programs. Examples are FORTRAN, PASCAL, C, C+, C++, PL/1, COBOL, BASIC, Visual Basic, etc.

High Precision Network (HPN)

Hill Shading

The shading (varying pattern of light and dark) applied to a graphical representation of a terrain unit or landscape according to the relative amounts of light reflected from different terrain locations for a particular position (azimuth and elevation) of the sun.

Horizontal Control

Network of stations of known geographic or grid positions referred to a common horizontal datum and vertical datum, which control the horizontal positions of mapped features with respect to parallels and meridians, or northing and easting grid lines shown on the map.

Horizontal Seamless Database

A databse which provides the user with data without having to be concerned with conventional map sheet edges or the proverbial area at the corner of four adjoining map sheets. (Compare with Seamless Database and Vertical Seamless Database.)

Host Computer

The primary, or controlling computer in a data network.

HPGL (Hewlett-Packard Graphics Language)

A proprietary Hewlett-Packard format used to control plotters. It is sometimes used as a vector file format.

Hybrid Database

A database comprised of the Topographic Database and selected elements of the Cartographic Database, such as grid graticules, surround details and toponymy. This database is clipped to the bounds of windows as defined for specific map series. Redundant data resulting from overlapping models has been removed but some topological inconsistencies still remain. GIS analysis is possible but may require the user to resolve inconsistencies.


The measurement of the elevation of the Earth's surface with respect to sea level.



small symbol used in a graphical user interface that represents an application or macro.


See Desktop Mapping Software.

IGES (Initial Graphics Exchange Specification)

(U.S National Bureau of Standards, 1980) Widely used and supported by computer graphics and CAD system vendors as a standard format for exchanging graphics data. Generally perceived as limited in its application to GIS analysis because it does not allow adequately for topological and attribute relationships.

Image Data

The recorded representation of a unit of the Earth's surface (most commonly as a photo-image) which is produced by electronic means.

Image File

A file that duplicates to photographic quality the output from a graphics device.

Image Processing

Encompasses all the various operations that can be applied to image data. These include, but are not limited to, image compression, image restoration, image enhancement, image rectification, preprocessing, quantization, spatial filtering, and other image pattern recognition techniques.


To bring information from one system or program into another.


A single unit in a numeric or alphanumeric series used to distinguish between distinct occurrences of entities, geometric representation or ancillary data in a given data set. Often the primary key in a database.


1. A tabular reference used to quickly identify and locate a particular record or group of records based on a table's primary key.

2. A number used to identify the position of a specific quantity.

Index Key

See Linkage.

Index Map

A graphic reference which serves as a locator for more detailed information.

Indexed File

Files whose records are accessed by searching a table for key fields within records. Once the correct key is found, it is associated with the exact location of its related record.


That which results from the processing of data. Information is derived from the assembly, analysis or summarizing of data into meaningful form.

Information Management System

A system designed to organize, catalog, locate, store, retrieve and maintain information.

Information System

A combination of human and technical resources, together with a set of organizing procedures, which results in the collection, storage, retrieval, dissemination and use of data in a systematic fashion.


See Relation Database Management System.


See Relational Database Management System.


1. (Noun) The data entered to a computer system.

2. (Verb) The process of entering data.

Input Device

A hardware component for data entry; e.g. a digitizer, keyboard, scanner, or tape drive.

Intelligent Terminal

See Terminal definition 2.


Refers to a system allowing two-way real-time electronic communication between the user and the computer.

Interchange Format

A high level, media independent, data format which allows the sharing of data. Some examples of interchange formats are: DLG, DXF.


A hardware and software link that allows two computer systems, or a computer and a peripheral device to be connected together for data communications.

Intermediate Contour

An unlabeled contour line.

Internal Data Structure

Organization within a system of data and particularly, the reference linkages among data elements.

International Organization for Standardization (ISO)

An agency of the United Nations concerned with international standardization across a broad field of industrial products.


To estimate intermediate values between two or more known values.


A signal to a processor indicating that an asynchronous event has occurred. The current sequence of instructions is temporarily suspended (interrupted), and a sequence appropriate to the interruption is started in its place.


1. The coexistence of end points of lines or arcs at a specific geographic location. (Also referred to as Junction.)

2. The set of all objects common to two or more intersecting data sets.

Irregular Line

A complex line which cannot be easily described by a mathematical polynomial.

ISIF (Intergraph Standard Interchange Format)

A standard format for digital data interchange. Intergraph Corp. developed ISIF in 1980. ISIF is well-suited to communicating cartographic types of data and does not allow inclusion of limited attribute information, but cannot accommodate topological information.


Refers to polygons completely enclosed within another polygon.


See Bathymetry.


An imaginary line that connects points, or attributes, of equal value.

Isopleth Map

A map displaying the distribution of an attribute in terms of lines connecting points of equal value.

Intergraph MGE

See Geographic Information System.



Jargon term for curved lines that have a stepped or saw-tooth appearance on a display device.


A unit of work running on a computer.


1. The junction between two digitized maps, sometimes visible as a result of imperfections in the data

2. In relational database management, to match one file against another based on some condition creating a third file with data from the matching files.


See Intersection, definition 1.


The position of a text string or symbol on a map relative to the location at which it has been digitized; e.g right or left justification.



A data item that serves to uniquely identify a data record. In a GIS it is the link between graphic elements and attribute tables. (Compare with Primary Key and Foreign Key)


A device for typing alphanumeric characters into the computer.


A unit of measurement that in computer terminology equals 1024.


1024 Bytes.



Alphanumeric data, textual data, or a symbol which annotates features. Sometimes referred to as attribute label, type code, description or annotation.

Label Point

A point in a polygon used to position the label and to reference it to a polygon. (Compare to centroid)


All aspects of the terrain within the jurisdiction of the Government of Nova Scotia, including the terrestrial environment, fresh and salt water bodies and the atmosphere.

Land Capability

The potential usefulness of land in supporting renewable natural resources, e.g. forestry, agriculture, wildlife, recreation and water production.

Land Cover

1. The type of feature present on the surface of the Earth. Buildings, lakes, trees, and glacial ice are all examples of land cover types.

2. A primary feature class within the feature classification system as defined by the Province of Nova Scotia.

Land Information

Any information that can be associated with the land, such as resource, environmental, socio-economic and infrastructure characteristics. (Also referred to as Land-Related Information.)

Land Information Management

The process of integrating all the available land related information into a system for use in land management.

Land Information System

A cohesive combination of functionality, data and technology directed toward the attainment of specific objectives within a land-related application and that manages or creates land-related information

Land Ownership and Tenure System (LOTS)

A system from South Australia that serves basically 3 functions: (1) title registration; maintain a title file for every parcel of land, (2) valuation; storing a land attribute file relating to assessment e.g. land values, land uses etc., and (3) revenue collection.

Land-Related Application

A set of business functions focused around a common subject, within the field of mapping and land information management, that relates to the achievement of specific organizational goals. An application can be viewed as a cohesive business area within which information technology must be applied consistently in order to gain maximum advantage from technological investments.

Land-Related Information

See Land Information.

Land Titles

1. The proving of a person's right or tenure in land.

2. The actual document which enables a person to prove title.

Land Use

The economic and cultural activities permitted and/or practiced at a place.

Land Valuation

The determination of value of land and its appurtenances.


The time taken for the contents of a storage location to reach the read/write heads on a rotating surface (of a magnetic storage medium).


North/South position of a point on the Earth defined as an angle between the normal to the Earth's surface at that point and the plane of the equator.

Layered Data

Feature data thematically separated into separate themes.


A logical separation of mapped information according to theme. These overlays are registered to each other by the common coordinate system of the database.

Leaking Polygons

Polygons which are not totally closed. Leaking polygons constitute a topological error.

Least-squares Adjustment

Method of adjusting observations in which the sum of the squares of all the deviations or residuals derived in fitting the observations to a mathematical model is minimized. Such an adjustment is based on the assumption that blunders and systematic errors have been removed from the data, and that only random errors remain. (See also Mathematical Adjustment)

Legal Boundary

See Boundary definition 2.


The part of the drawn map explaining the meaning of the symbols used to code the depicted geographical elements.

Level Slicing

Extraction of pixels from an image according to their value.


A collection of standard computer subroutines or symbols in digital form.


A hand-held photosensitive interactive device for identifying elements displayed on a CRT screen.


A level of spatial measurement referring to a one-dimensional primitive defined object having a length, direction, and connecting at least two points. It may support an elevation. Examples are roads, railroads, telecommunication lines, streams, etc. A line is a geometric primitive. (Compare with arc)

Line Follower

A semi-automatic data capture device in which a laser beam is used to trace lines from a source map and convert them to digital form.

Line Map

Map composed of discrete marks (i.e. point, line and area symbols) as distinguished from continuous tone imagery.

Line Segment

See Line.

Line Smoothing

A process of numerical manipulation of data points to achieve smooth joining of linear features generated by an automated cartographic system. (See also Spline.)

Line Snapping

Automatic or interactive "connecting" of line end points separated by less than some "tolerance" distance to create an intersection. The tolerance may be set by the user or may be a fraction of the map extent.

Line-of-sight Analysis

Given a DTM, a study of what would be visible from a given point along a specified line or view direction. (Also referred to as Viewshed Analysis.)


The processing tolerances, interpretation rules applied to source materials, and basic production and quality assurance procedures applied to data.

Lineage Information

A record of the origin of data, methods of data capture, quality control specifications used to validate data and ownership of the data.


The method by which graphic data entities are indexed to attribute databases and cross referenced to other databases which contain relevant land information. (Also called Index Keys.)


Land Information Services Division.

LIS Parcel Index File

A database of property information based on a parcel consisting of Owner Name, Mailing Address, Civic Address, Area, Registry of Deeds Documents (including Survey Plans), Assessment Account Numbers and other miscellaneous cross references. the database is accessed and maintained by LIS using a database application called LORIS.


Land Information Systems Advisory Committee.


Byte order in which the least significant byte of data is stored first. (Compare with Big-endian)

Logical Consistency

Refers to the topologic structure of the data within a data base and its ability to relate elements to each other without contradictions.

Logical Data Model

The entire collection of data items, and their relationships, that will be stored in one database. It documents the overall view of the database.


East/West position of a point on the Earth, defined as the angle between the plane of a reference meridian and the plane of a meridian passing through an arbitrary point.

Look-up Table

Data so organized that it can be searched by a routine to retrieve information related to specified keys.

LORIS (Land Ownership Registry Information System)

A FoxPro database application used by LIS and endusers to access and manitain the LIS Parcel Index File.

LRMI (Land Records Management Infrastructure)

An integrated information network to administer, distribute, and analyse basic land records in Nova Scotia.


Land Use Committee. (Also referred to as NSLUC or Nova Scotia Land Use Committee.)

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Standards Manual's Table of Contents

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