Take the 2-minute tour ×
Geographic Information Systems Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for cartographers, geographers and GIS professionals. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Can someone please give me a list of free and open source GIS desktop packages?

share|improve this question
Perhaps the questions would be more useful if it were more specific, like platform or by use or by level of effort to use. –  GuidoS Jul 22 '10 at 19:40
it would be better to ask people to name only one program per post, perhaps with the reason why, and no duplicates. This way others can vote on individual applications and not on lists, which will have duplication. The best/most popular will float to the top. Also people can give the Pros/Cons for each app in the comments. –  matt wilkie Jul 22 '10 at 21:27
it's a good idea to use the word Libre, e.g. Free and Libre, in order to help convey that you're looking for things that are free (as in price) as well as free (as in freedom). Assuming of course you actually do want both of those qualities. –  matt wilkie Jul 22 '10 at 21:35
I am trying to seed the Stackexchange with some typical questions. I already know the answers but I wanted to make sure we got this covered. –  TheSteve0 Jul 22 '10 at 21:50
Should have been community wiki. –  Matt Parker Jul 23 '10 at 5:40

20 Answers 20

up vote 41 down vote accepted

Quantum GIS







share|improve this answer

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.

please split these into seperate answers so they can voted up/down individually –  matt wilkie Jul 23 '10 at 18:53

Quantum GIS is easily the most mature, robust, and user-friendly. Cross-platform, too!

share|improve this answer
+1 for qgis, not so sure about the "easily" –  matt wilkie Jul 22 '10 at 21:28
qgis is nice, but the UI needs some more maturity... Using some of the plugins clutters the UI with tons of toolbars with icons I mostly don't understand easily. But then I am the GRASS GIS dude here in my department anyways... –  Crischan Jul 23 '10 at 6:27
In my opinion QGIS definitely has the most familiar interface, especially to people who work with ArcGIS. But it needs to grow some more muscle- lots of functionality is currently provided by linking to GRASS. –  Sharpie Jul 23 '10 at 7:12
@Crischan - GRASS isn't known to be beautiful or user friendly. I think the QGIS interface is a lot more efficient than GRASS's –  dassouki Aug 16 '10 at 19:27
+1 for QGis, especially in combination with a PostGis database –  Adrian Aug 14 '11 at 14:35

I would look at OSGeo.org for this. They maintain a collection of Open Source GIS packages and utilities.

This includes:

In addition, there are many useful tools and libraries, such as GDAL, OGR, OpenLayers, etc.

share|improve this answer

Bruce Bannerman has produced a Mind Map showing various Open Source Geospatial projects, with a summary of project features and links to project URLs at: http://wiki.osgeo.org/wiki/User:Bruce.bannerman

share|improve this answer
+2! that's a nice collection, much better than my haphazard collection of emails and text files. Thanks! –  matt wilkie Jul 22 '10 at 22:36

http://freegis.org/ - the oldest and perhaps most comprehensive directory of free GIS software and projects.

share|improve this answer

Portable GIS is a very useful set of Open GIS Tools that can fit on a USB stick and used on other computers and very good for field work on a laptop. Great for beginners or students without the resources to purchase for commercial GIS products.

Newly updated version 2 contains a self-contained installer, updated versions of all the constituent software packages, a new control panel, and improved documentation.

"this idea was to provide beginners with a ready-installed and configured stack of open source GIS tools that would run in windows without the need for emulation or a live cd. "

The current set of software includes:

* Desktop GIS packages QGIS (with GRASS plugin), uDIG and gvSIG,
* FWTools (GDAL and OGR toolkit)
* XAMPPlite (Apache2/MySQL5/Php5),
* PostgreSQL (version 8.4)/Postgis (version 1.4),
* Mapserver, OpenLayers, Tilecache, Featureserver, and Geoserver web applications.

(450MB download, and needs a USB stick of 2GB)

credit to Joanne Cook (archaeogeek) http://www.archaeogeek.com/blog/portable-gis/

Archaeogeek migrated to Octopress 02Apr12 Portable GIS v2 updated link http://www.archaeogeek.com/portable-gis.html

share|improve this answer

I don't see MapWindow mentioned here.

share|improve this answer
mapwindow.org The link somehow broken. I was excited to use this new GIS software. Pity me! –  zearth Jul 20 '11 at 4:02
What are you trying to say? Mapwindow has already been recommended here. The link you provide works. –  whuber Jul 20 '11 at 13:41
I don't know. Maybe sth wrong with my server connection. Perhaps, I'll try it next time. –  zearth Jul 21 '11 at 0:28

SAGA GIS, System for Automated Geoscientic Analysis, is often under represented in floss GIS lists. SAGA developed from raster processing roots, and is thus very strong there, and grew into vector handling and analysis later. It is a mature tool.

share|improve this answer

The programming language R is focused on statistics, but has some good mapping capabilities. I wouldn't use it to design a poster-sized map, but it has several packages for handling GIS tasks. The best part is that you can crank out spatial statistics without needing to leave the program.

share|improve this answer
It also has strong packages that link to GDAL and GRASS –  Sharpie Jul 23 '10 at 7:16

I'd recommend Whitebox GAT (http://www.uoguelph.ca/~hydrogeo/Whitebox/), although I'm a little biased, being the developer. It's free, open source, and transparent. It has powerful analytical capabilities for raster and vector data analysis and a friendly user interface.

enter image description here

enter image description here

share|improve this answer

I have used a free and open source program called ILWIS which I used to create a bushfire hazard map from slope, aspect etc.

share|improve this answer

VTP the Vitrual Terrain Project, a 3D terrain visualization toolset which predates Google Earth, not a GIS in the strictest sense but the developers have GIS smarts so it leaks over a bit. It's intelligent about projections for instance.

share|improve this answer

If you consdier Google Earth as a GIS application, Nasa's WorldWind is an open source alternative.

share|improve this answer

Here are two good academic papers discussing these issues exactly. They deal mainly in biology, but compare the different packages very well:



share|improve this answer

Admitted not the simplest one to learn, but nobody (except one in a list-answer) citing GRASS ?

I like its very simplicity when commands are given as simple bash scripts.. and I like to use bash scripts in order to keep track of what I do.. (and GRASS even does it automatically if you still want to use the GUI, as it keeps the log of the commands in a history file)

share|improve this answer

Epi-map, part of CDC's Epi-info epidemiology package, may be worth a look if you're in that line of work.

share|improve this answer

OpenMap's free too. UI's pretty old school though. I prefer qGIS or uDig.

share|improve this answer

As the previous answers have shown, there are a lot of candidates to choose from. The question should thus be "what OpenSource GIS fits my needs?" I wrote a paper with the title "Use of Free and Open Source GIS in Commercial Firms" in 2008, the framework I presented there should still be relevant. See: http://code.atlefren.net/download/dl.php?id=10

And then you have this wiki: http://sourceforge.net/userapps/mediawiki/mentaer/index.php?title=FOSS4G_Software_List which seems rather comprehensable.

share|improve this answer

Hi I also recommend Quantum GIS (QGIS) and SAGA. As currently QGIS supports also native saga grid format it is very easy to work with this two programs together and use advantages of both. And for free :-)

share|improve this answer

protected by whuber Feb 4 at 14:25

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality answers, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site.

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.