I´m working on a GIS-Project in the Defense & Intelligence sector. The goal was to develop/create a GIS-Service that:

  • stores and manage GIS-Data (Map data, Height data.. )
  • has a repository for GIS-Data ( for versioning, etc.)
  • Synchronization of GIS-Data between Workstation/PC and Tablet (over Network + local with usb sticks/ hdd’s)
  • GIS Functionalities (Analysis, etc.) as a part of the GIS-service and as a local library accessible from different apps on the Tablet

  • OpenSource

  • C++ / Qt – API
  • Placing symbols on the map

So the main goal is to store, manage and share the maps between different apps on tablets, servers, workstations and pc’s.


  • Line of Sight
  • Routing
  • Terrain analysis

I already compared the most popular OpenSource Gis-Tools but the main issue here is that I have to use C++ and Qt.

I also put a lot of effort into trying to build an standalone application based on QGIS which led to a lot of problems like compiler Errors and other building failures.

So is there a EASY to use OpenSource GIS-Tool for developing a GIS-Application or do I have to spend money on professional GIS-Tools ?

  • This is a good question but will likely need some refining to get objective responses. The two questions are not similar. one asks about Qt/C++ the other about expensive tools. If you can make them build on each other then you might get a response to both. other wise you could edit your question to only one. Also you are not clear on what the programming problem you had is with Qt API. Perhaps splitting that issue out someone can help you fix that problem. – Brad Nesom Dec 8 '14 at 17:56
  • not sure, but I think that GRASS GIS could help. – radouxju Dec 8 '14 at 18:19
  • I'm obviously quite biased here, but for digital terrain analysis (including visibility analysis and flow routing) the open source Whitebox GAT, for which I am a developer, is quite good ;) I know that SAGA is also excellent for this domain as well. – WhiteboxDev Dec 8 '14 at 23:08
  • 2
    Niko, One of your bullet items specifies 'open source' but your bottom line asks if ESRI's ArcGIS and other professional and expensive GIS would fit your needs. These two questions/statements are in conflict as ESRI and most other professional GIS toolsets are not open-source (although some may consider them open-standards based.) – JasonInVegas Dec 9 '14 at 23:29
  • 1
    As it stands I think your question is too broad because for each of your dot points you are effectively asking "is there an open source GIS service that ...?" and then asking potential answerers to come up with your solution to encompass all of them. Many of the requirements you ask about are already covered in previous Q&As here so I recommend reviewing those before coming back to focus your question on the one that is the most important to you to have answered first as per the Tour. – PolyGeo Dec 10 '14 at 0:01

For OpenSource GIS tech investigate the offereings available via OsGeo. This is not the only source of FOSS4G but is a comprehensive stable of solutions that work well together and, in some cases, are the test bed for certain GIS standards.

QGIS is an excellent solution for your needs as it has both desktop and server solutions but also comes bundled with not only SAGA (already mentioned in the comments) but also GRASS. GRASS was originally developed by the US military before becoming FOSS4G and offers analysis tools like line of sight etc. QGIS plus some of the vast array of freely available plugins does most, if not all, of what ArcGIS can do (I started out on the latter and have migrated as a Freelance GIS Consultant to QGIS).

QGIS can interface with many standard spatially enabled databases, especially PostGIS. This will provide you with your data storage needs and also plays well with other data serving tech such as GeoServer. By using a central database such as PostGIS for your storage, you will handle most of your data sync needs in one go. Linking it with QGIS-Server or GeoServer, may be a suitable route for data delivery (though QGIS an link directly to the database - the best solution will depend on your users and use-case).

QGIS is built on Qt for plugin development. QGIS has a C++ API (as well as a Python one).

QGIS has various overlapping technologies for terrain analysis (GRASS, SAGA and GDAL) plus image analysis tools (Orfeo) that sit alongside traditional GIS raster tech. Through NVIZ and some plugins, QGIS also provides a 3D environment (not quite as good as ArcGIS's ArcScene IMHO but useable nonetheless). Through PostGIS and various plugins, QGIS has networking tools too.

Finally QGIS is available for Windows, MacOs, Linux, BSD and Android, which should cover most of your requirements (depending on your tablets).

I am not suggesting that QGIS + PostGIS is the only opensource solution that meets your needs, but it does seem to be a good fit and as a Freelancer who relies heavily on it on a daily basis I commend it to you (not least for the defence hook-in via GRASS).


Most (if not all) Defense/Intelligence sector clients already have existing, enterprise-grade GIS toolsets.

I propose that you evaluate the most common of these (ESRI is only one of four or five major vendors in the sector) with an eye to 'extending' their capabilities with your specialized development efforts. You do not have to invest heavily in enterprise software suites in order to build onto these GIS systems because developer licensing is relatively inexpensive for you the developer -- as long as you are only using the licenses to assist in your product development.

That way, your results can be built, then ported to any number of existing GIS installations as a 'plug-in' or as a 'vertical' application suite. -- As most of these also support n-tier web-based applications, your solution can include web-based GIS applications as well.

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