I have been using GIS for a few years now (ArcGIS and MapInfo). But only when I have started using QGIS I come across OSGeo4W, as there is an option to download it on the QGIS website.

I have tried looking it up online but everything is very technical. I was hoping someone could explain in simple terms what it used for.

Also is there a difference between OSGeo4W / OSGeo?


2 Answers 2



OSGeo is an umbrella organisation (Foundation) that supports many Open Source GIS Projects. Some of the more well known ones are: QGIS, GeoServer, and OpenLayers.

Being part of OSGeo gives a project some support, through assistance with governance, and potentially funding. But it also gives a project some legitimacy and assurance. Being part of OSGeo means the project has a team of core developers, a roadmap on where the project is going, and some form of governance.

You can be confident using Open Source GIS software because it has this support network through OSGeo.


OSGeo4W is a windows installer for Open Source GIS projects. The nature of Open Source means that many project/programs rely on eachother for features. A great example of this is GDAL. GDAL is used to some extent by practically all Open Source GIS projects to read and write data. But because Windows, being a closed platform, it has not developed a package manager like Unix based operating systems. So if you install GRASS and QGIS using their stand-alone installers, you end up with 2 installs of GDAL. Add 3 or 4 more Open Source installs and you can end up with a dozen installs of GDAL, in addition an install just for GDAL.

This is where OSGeo4W comes in. It can keep track of the shared requirements of Open Source GIS packages, so QGIS and GRASS can share a single install of GDAL. It also keeps track of versions so you can simply upgrade programs.

  • Can anyone comment on whether the osgeo4w installer is still necessary in 2023 for Windows? Previously I had to use osgeo4w for an older qgis-3.12 in 2020, but recently I was able to install qgis-3.30 directly so I removed osgeo4w. I can see it's Trak site is still actively maintained, but it seems like the open source / linux issues have been circumvented? Are there still reasons to use osgeo4w? Mar 31, 2023 at 18:45

Look at the OSGeo: Open Source Geospatial Foundation site. You will see that they support Desktop applications (GRASS GIS, QGIS,...), Web Mapping projects (OpenLayers, GeoServer,MapServer ...), Geospatial Libraries (GDAL/OGR, GEOS, PostGIS,...) , ...

OSGeo4W is simply a binary distribution of these libraries/softwares for Windows environments (OSGeo4W Packages)

Therefore, the expression

it can be done in OSGeo

can mean many things (applications, scripting, ...)

  • Thanks for clarifying those. Would you be able to add more detail about how OSGeo works? Both as a website and a software program?
    – T.O.6
    Oct 2, 2015 at 13:10
  • 2
    OSGeo does not works, it is a foundation that supports applications and libraries
    – gene
    Oct 2, 2015 at 13:39

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