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I'm looking for a free and reasonably licensed alternative to ArcGIS Desktop (or maybe just ArcGIS Server). I'm quite new to GIS, so I'll state some of the things I want to be able to do and you can tell me what alternatives are out there. I need to be able to convert from GML or Shapefile format to some GIS database format, (I bet I cant do this with GDAL/OGR but I'm not sure). And then I want to be able to programmatically query the database for assets of certain types within specified bounds. For instance, I would like to find all roads within a lat/long box and extract their names and their polyline representations.

At this point I am only interested in a programmatic API. I'm not interested in anything with a GUI.

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closed as too broad by PolyGeo Jul 4 at 3:46

There are either too many possible answers, or good answers would be too long for this format. Please add details to narrow the answer set or to isolate an issue that can be answered in a few paragraphs.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

There are already similar questions to this one on the site.…… – Zachary Aug 23 '10 at 16:44
those questions are related but not similar. John is looking for a framework for GIS software development not an end user product, and Open Source is not a requirement. – matt wilkie Aug 23 '10 at 17:56
John I recommend adding "for software development" or similar to the subject line to emphasize the "no GUIs please" aspect of the question. – matt wilkie Aug 23 '10 at 18:12
Understood. The reason I pointed them out is to avoid bogging the site down with variations of the same questions. – Zachary Aug 23 '10 at 18:20
up vote 8 down vote accepted

OGR can convert GML and/or shapefile to PostGIS, SpatiaLite and a number of other datastores, and has a well developed API. Both postgis and spatialite can support the kind of query you want, though I personally have not done so (actually depending on the details of your queries, you may be able to do all of it in OGR).

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Based on your description, you will need the OGR library (to convert from GML/shape to your database) and a spatially enabled database (I would recommend PostGIS).

If you are happy with a raw database to query with SQL, that's all you need. There are plenty of postgres utility libraries, and one for your programming language of choice.

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Free GIS Alternatives:


*Some require plugins or additional steps to incorporate your GIS requirements

Mapperz uses all of the above with Postgres (with Postgis) as the Spatial Database.

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the first three don't answer the question, "I'm not interested in anything with a GUI". – matt wilkie Aug 23 '10 at 17:53
whups, sorry, I didn't notice the "no gui" requirement was added after your post. :) – matt wilkie Aug 23 '10 at 18:13
qgis can be compiled to your own spec with or WITHOUT a GUI if you so choose convert your gml udig has a SDK again you can build your own from it OpenJump has too… hope it helps point you in the right direction. – Mapperz Aug 23 '10 at 18:23

Take a look at TatukGIS it's not free but has a better licence model.

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We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

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