Our office is considering to make an offer of a large scale master plan project. The end-user files are required to be shape files, or at least ArcGIS compatible files. (The base map for desing is available in ESRI shape.)

We are using iMac's while ArcGIS is available only for PC/Windows. I guess the only way is to use free software QGIS. Since I have quite limited experience in QGIS, I'd like to know:

  1. Is QGIS a software which can handle large scale maps in its original coordinates (6xxxxxx, 3xxxxx)? The design area is almost 30x15 square-km's.
  2. Can QGIS handle ESRI shapefiles reliably, meaning also exporting the shapefiles so that client has a decent files for their use? As described here (ArcGIS and QGIS compatibility: issues with Shapefiles or Geodatabases?), I don't think this will be an issue.

In my experience I would say the answer for both is 'yes', but I'd like to get the opinion from someone who has used it more.

  • As per the Tour there should be only one question asked per question. – PolyGeo Feb 29 '16 at 11:58

I switched from using ArcMap to QGIS and I find the two very similar. I use QGIS for both large scale and small scale project. Sometimes I find it a bit slow if I have a very heavy file but you are able to render the file and create spatial indexes which considerably helps working with these files. QGIS offers 'on the fly re-projection' and handles my original coordinates of BNG. As well QGIS mainly works in ESRI's shapefile, but you can bring in other files, such as mapinfo tab, dxf etc. I've never had a problem with any shapefile conversion.

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I use QGIS as a Freelancer for large projects and consider the area you mention to be perfectly normal and not large at all, though much will depend on the capabilities of your iMacs. I regularly work on areas with a radius of 35km (so approximately 70x70km) and have not experienced any particular slowness or lack of capability in comparison to ArcGIS.

QGIS can handle shapefiles reliably and a vast array of other data formats to. To do so it uses GDAL/OGR which has been around for a very long time (in fact ArcGIS uses GDAL for its raster file transformations) and is the backbone for may systems other than QGIS. QGIS can read file-based Geodatabases, though not write to them as it is a proprietary format. To be honest, shapefiles are a bit old-hat. It is an 'ancient' format that ESRI rather wishes would die. There are probably better options with portability between ARC and QGIS. Arc, for instance can read PostGIS databases, so a POstGIS server that is common to you and your clients (or handed-off using a dump) could work well depending on your situation. Many other compatible data formats are also available.

QGIS has a huge cabablity and there is almost nothing I used to do in ArcGIS that I can't do with QGIS. QGIS is really a "meta-GIS" as it is actually a UI for several different GIS technologies including (and not limited to) GDAL/OGR, GRASS, SAGA, Orfeo. I don't think you will be dissapointed.

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