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Many debutant GIS users are asking me which one is better QGIS or gvSIG. Since I use Qgis and I don't have any experience in gvSIG, I aways say that both are very nice softwares and the chose is a matter of liking vanilla or chocolate.
But I want to have a better answer for that question, so I would like to hear from people with experience on both of them, what drove you to choose one or the other as your favorite opensource desktop GIS.

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8 Answers 8

up vote 27 down vote accepted

I use both gvSIG and Qgis. In my view it is VERY difficult to say which one is the best. BOTH are very useful and, most of all, IMHO, they are complementary.

This is the boon of using open source softwares: you can try them without spending anything!

This is my personal list. I am fully aware it is very subjective: please, bear with me...

gvSIG pros:

  • NavTable
  • Sextante In my opinion Sextante algorithms, thanks to Victor Olaya work, are more integrated into gvSIG compared to Grass' algorithms in QGIS (at present, for Qgis, there no one working "seriously" on them); Take a look at these videos: http://www.youtube.com/user/sextantelibrary
  • 3D extension There is an extension for Qgis as well (Qgis globe) but it is not on par with gvSIG.
  • Cad tools are more powerful than Qgis tools: thanks to the OpenCad tool extension. For instance, you can create circles, elipses and so on.
  • On Mobile devices gvSIG is better. There are two projects for this: gvSIG mobile and gvSIG mini. This year for QGIS there is a summer of Code project which tries to fill this gap.
  • The Gui for georeferencing an image looks more professional and intuitive on gvSIG (at least if you have an ESRI background...).
  • Saga algorithms are already integrated into gvSIG (thanks to Sextante).
  • IMHO gvSIG 1.11 is more stable than Qgis 1.7 (at least, I get less crashes on Windows Xp...)

QGIS pros:

  • The Gui is much more flexible (you can move the toolbars easily; create new shortcuts; change the icons on-the-fly and so on);
  • its range of plugins is magnificent: there are literally hundreds of them!
  • working on databases is much more powerful on QGIS. For instance, you can use Spatialite on it. There is a wonderful plugin for it. Even PostGis has a wonderful plugin (PostGis Manager).
  • Raster projection on-the-fly (starting from version 1.7);
  • the Community is mostly English-based, which means that all documentation (e.g. Manual) is written in English first and afterwards translated into other languages. the Developers' mailing list is in English as well. (For gvSIG the first language is Spanish.)
  • You can use R (thanks to: manageR)
  • Python background (which is very useful for Beginners to create new plugins);
  • On Windows, QGIS is portable (no need to have any privilege as administrator to install it).
  • On Mac, QGIS is more integrated than gvSIG (at least there are more developers working on it).
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gvSIG: GRASS GIS algorithms are integrated thanks to Sextante. -- QGIS: GRASS GIS algorithms are integrated thanks to GRASS-Toolbox. See grass.osgeo.org/wiki/GRASS_and_Sextante and grass.osgeo.org/wiki/QGIS_GRASS_Cookbook –  markusN Aug 12 '11 at 23:41
Nice answer! Thanks. –  Pablo Aug 14 '11 at 11:38
Just a remark: although experimental, in qgis you can now run the algorithms from saga gis, which are the original algorithms that sextante was based upon. github.com/polymeris/qgis/wiki/SAGA-Interface-HOWTO –  johanvdw Aug 19 '11 at 10:13
There's also a QGIS plugin for drawing and rotating circles, ellipses, rectangles and squares. Haven't tested how it compares to OpenCad tool extension. –  underdark Feb 4 '12 at 22:39
Sextante is now available in QGis –  FredB Apr 10 '13 at 18:51

I have much more experience with QGIS, but coincidentally just recently I decided to give gvSIG a try. Below some observations, some of which are different from answers from others. My guess is that this is at least partly related to the platform and perhaps memory configuration (especially if you work on Windows). I am running both on Linux (Ubuntu 11.04). Anyway, some points that come to mind:


  • From the very limited experience I have with gvSIG (1.11), it seems stable
  • I am currently using QGIS (1.7) a lot and it is very stable in my experience. In a few cases I have experienced problems, but these were always related to one of the experimental plugins (QGIS offers the options to download stable and experimental plugins)

Rendering / displaying maps

  • Both render raster up to 2.4 GB reasonably fast on my machine. But if rendering rasters become slow in QGIS, you have the option to build pyramids, after which rendering will be much faster. I think gvSIG offers such an option too, but I am not sure
  • Both render large shapefiles without much problems.
  • gvSIG offers a much wider selection of fill symbols, and all symbols are highly configurable (this aspect is rapidly improving in QGIS). On the other hand, labeling options in QGIS seem to be more comprehensive

Spatial analysis

  • The integration with Sextante gives the gvSIG user direct access to a very impressive library of raster, vector and database functions, including SAGA functions.
  • QGIS has a fairly large selection of plugins as mentioned above, including one for Sextante integration. Others include a CadTools plugin that provides cad like functions (but as I have never worked with CAD, I cannot judge on quality or
    functionality). A disadvantage is that is is sometimes difficult to find the right plugin and supporting documentation is limited or lacking altogether for a lot of the plugins.


  • Both gvSIG (through the Sextante toolbox) and QGIS offer access to a large set of GRASS GIS functions (in QGIS you can access all when using the build in command line)
  • In QGIS you can open and edit GRASS data from any GRASS database, location and mapset (unlike in GRASS GIS itself, you can select simultaneously layers from different locations or even GRASS databases). This is not possible in gvSIG as far as I know (number one reason for me to go for QGIS).
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Talking about free softwares, the dynamic of the community could also be an argument of choice for using one or another.

That document benchmarks gvSIG/Qgis and GRASS regarding the community aspects (see english summary of paper here). I would say it is interesting but has to be read with precaution. Taken indicators to analyze the community participation could be discussed! And specifically here, since more and more users use qgis as GRASS GUI.

(And it could be discussed on many others points)

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And we can't forget the powerful integration of Qgis with GRASS GIS via the Qgis-GRASS plugin!

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I've used a little bit both the products, so give the right importance to my words.

The first thing that you can experiment is that working with large base data with QGis is almost impossible, due to low performances. GVSig is extremely faster, and used a "paginated" rendering that is very cool when you're working.

GVSig used an UI approach that (my2cents) is similar to ArcView GIS 3.X: extremely popular and "familiar" bot personally I love much more QGis UI.

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Qgis right now is also lighter. But for heavy operations, I find gvSIG more useful.

The right question you should ask is: what do I want to do? Viewing, editing or geo-calculate heavy stuff?

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Well, as far as I saw using both QGIS and gvSIG, either have an equal value. But, your choice is dependent upon on what you want to do. QGIS is a complete application in order to working on GIS and it's supported by a large community.

But if you need a portable GIS application (that runs on the stick, eventually) or you want to get support for MrSID files in Linux, gvSIG could be an option.

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for QGIS on USB check faunalia.pt/usbgis –  underdark Aug 1 '12 at 12:15

gvSIG also has a portable version packaged by Cartolab.

As one of the developers of NavTable and OpenCADTools, i mostly agree with Silvio's analysis. gvSIG is more robust and has much better performance than Qgis, but i think that qgis has a more configurable gui.

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