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I'm looking for an open source GIS server or desktop package that supports as many file formats as possible, is fast, runs on Linux or Mac and can be controlled via an API.

Planning to do very basic editing such as intersects so I guess most GIS platforms will be able to do this.

Does anyone have any recommendations as to a suitable package?

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If asked today I think a question such as this should be posted on the Software Recommendations Stack Exchange. – PolyGeo Mar 25 at 8:39
up vote 24 down vote accepted

Here's a vote for Quantum GIS with GRASS plugin enabled as your desktop application. (QGIS is available on Windows, MacOS X and Linux). OGR/GDAL will take care of nearly any file format. Store all your data on PostgreSQL/ PostGIS and serve it out with Geoserver.

Link to QGIS API Documentation.

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Have done some powerful Geoprocessing and Analysis in QGIS it is become a 'must have' GIS app for everyone, students (low cost, just hardware), and professionals. – Mapperz May 6 '11 at 17:44
QGIS does look very good, just loaded some huge layers and it crunched through them very quickly. Struggling to get the API up and running but I'll persevere! – RichW May 6 '11 at 19:22
underdark is the resident QGIS expert and developer - blog is a great help to GISse. – Mapperz May 6 '11 at 21:35
+1 for QGIS. Best open source GIS so far. – Nathan W May 7 '11 at 13:18

UDig is Java based so it will run on all the major operating systems with no issues. Has good editing support.

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Just had a look at UDig and although it looks pretty feature full and handles a lot of files it does seem to be quite slow at loading large datasets. Hopefully it'll improve in the future and I'll reconsider it. Thanks anyway! – RichW May 6 '11 at 19:23

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