GeoDesign Knowledge Portal

Software Systems And Tools

This area of the ontology deals with software systems and tools that can implement or participate in a spatial or aspatial decision-support process. Within the context of software technology, the terms, system and tool, are often used interchangeably. However, in this ontology, we attempt to make a pragmatic distinction between systems and tools, starting from the notion of a system as an integrated collection of components. Next, in the context of a decision-support system, which typically includes several components, a component often corresponds to a tool. That is, a special purpose component that implements specific methods within some relatively narrow functional domain. Unfortunately, it is not always possible to neatly sort software into systems and tools because some tools, when considered at a sufficiently fine structural resolution, can properly be considered systems in their own right. And, in fact, some software systems are really systems of systems. The pragmatic aspect of the distinction depends on an appeal to perspective: considering the overall scope of a decision process, if a particular system implements a relatively narrow and well defined function (or set of functions) that represents a distinct piece of the overall process, then we are likely to label it as a tool.

Child topics under this branch of the ontology elaborate on what we mean by decision-support system, but we include a brief commentary here as well. Basically, there are two views. The strict view maintains that a system must include procedures that explicitly support decision making (e.g., some form of decision modeling) in order to qualify as a decision-support system. A more relaxed interpretation maintains that a system need only contribute some form of support to a decision process in order to qualify as a decision-support system. For example, a geographic information system that organizes and presents information in a way that potentially facilitates decision making would be considered a decision-support system under the relaxed interpretation. This ontology adopts the latter relaxed interpretation.


Related Software

Spatial Decision Support Systems




Software systems and tools can also be browsed under Resources, based on the knowledge domains they model, the application domain they are used in, and the activity/task types they serve during a decision process.

You can also use the Tools tab to browse and search for tools and models.


Keith Reynolds

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methods and techniques; methodology
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