Are there any open source tools which can be used for map composing, preferably GUI based. I use Quantum GIS sparingly but I am interested to know if there are others. The tool must be able to read raster/vector layers in standard formats and allow exporting in various formats. Something like GeoPDF export would be a great plus.

3 Answers 3


There are many, but QGIS is probably the most robust current offering. A few others:

  • Mapnik -- high quality output, can render with Cairo and AGG for very nice results.
  • GRASS GIS has multiple ways of composing maps, including wx.psmap
  • MapWindow if you're on Windows
  • TileMill is a web-based interface for generating maps using Mapnik as the backend

Lastly I'd mention Inkscape, which isn't exclusively for maps, but its ability to parse PDFs and PS files means it can often be a useful post-processing tool for fine-grained control of maps generated in other software.

Most of the OS software uses GDAL/OGR for its actual data input/output, and currently there isn't any support for GeoPDF outputs unfortunately.

  • Though I was aware of ps.map in GRASS I didn't know about wx.psmap! Seems like it was added recently since the 6.4.2 version. Thanks for that since I primarily use GRASS.
    – Chethan S.
    Commented May 22, 2011 at 22:48

I cast a vote for uDig. I find it comparable to qGIS and easy to use. It is built with Eclipse Rich Client technology which has added benefits:

  • uDig can be used as a stand-alone application.
  • uDig can be extended with RCP “plug-ins”.
  • uDig can be used as a plug-in in an existing RCP application.

uDig uses the GeoTools library for core GIS functionality like data reading, coordinate reprojection, rendering, etc. Developers will need some understanding of GeoTools to create more complex functionality.


Today I came to know about GMT(The Generic Mapping Tools).

GMT is an open source collection of ~60 tools for manipulating geographic and Cartesian data sets (including filtering, trend fitting, gridding, projecting, etc.) and producing Encapsulated PostScript File (EPS) illustrations ranging from simple x-y plots via contour maps to artificially illuminated surfaces and 3-D perspective views. GMT supports ~30 map projections and transformations and comes with support data such as GSHHS coastlines, rivers, and political boundaries.

Examples of GMT output

  • It's of course a command line tool but I am impressed by its utility.
    – Chethan S.
    Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 15:04
  • This sounds to me a lot like the ArcInfo 7.x "ArcPlot" module. Are the concepts similar? Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 17:35
  • GMT is a quality toolset which deserves larger mindshare. It has been around a long time (1988) and has a large library of features, and (I believe) the single largest collection of projections in it's library. Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 18:12

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