I was wondering if anyone has had any success running QGIS on the Windows Surface tablet? Specifically with the Windows RT OS.

  • Are you wanting touch screen support? It could be possible but what do you want to do with QGIS? editing , database connecting? – Mapperz Aug 12 '13 at 15:37
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    I would like to pull data from a database, and then use the data in the field for validation. Touch screen would be nice. – Ryan Garnett Aug 12 '13 at 15:38

I'm using the latest QGIS master builds on a Windows Surface Pro with very good results. Since the Surface Pro is running Windows 8, there is no issue with using the currently available OSGeo4W installer to install both the stable version and master branch nightlies of QGIS on the tablet.

Pros (especially compared to running QGIS Android):

  • While there isn't great stylus support at this time in QGIS, things like mouse hover (e.g. tool tips) and contextual menus work well. Actually, the stylus on the Surface Pro works better than any stylus-based tablet I have tested, working up to a full cm from the surface of the tablet.
  • An Intel CPU (what QGIS is generally compiled for) with good processing power
  • Good graphics rendering
  • The screen resolution can be easily adjusted
  • It has both a full USB port, e.g. you can connect most external GPSs to it
  • It has a micro SD card slot, to integrate photos, e.g. when using the QGIS eVis plugin
  • It is possible to dual-boot the tablet with an install of Ubuntu, which is very interesting. I have not tried this yet, and have no idea on how well Ubuntu functions on the hardware and whether the Surface's stylus will be supported. Though there should be Wacom drivers for Ubuntu, I've no idea whether those will work for the Surface's hardware implementation of the stylus. I do know regular Wacom styli do not work with the Surface.


  • Runs hotter than an Android tablet
  • Has much shorter battery life than Android tablet
  • There is a minimal selection of weatherproof cases for it (I could only find one)
  • HAS NO INTERNAL GPS (though external ones, via USB, should work with QGIS)

All-in-all, I think the Surface Pro (or other Wacom-stylus-based tablets, like Fujitsu's) may be the best in-field QGIS data collection/digitization devices currently available, since QGIS is still basically a desktop, multi-window GUI app.

However, the Surface RT (not-Pro) tablet is not the same beast. It is based off of an ARM CPU, like many mobile tablets, so the OSGeo4W installer will not work, since all of its executables are compiled for Intel. It is possible to cross-compile QGIS for ARM, since that is what is done for the QGIS Android project, but (I think) there are currently no instructions for doing so, beyond that project, which is heavily integrated with Android's SDK/NDK.

Once QGIS is compiled to run on ARM, I have no idea how it will function on Windows RT, since many traditional desktop apps don't function on it.

The regular Surface RT tablet also does not include the stylus, so much of QGIS's mouse-based GUI features would not work so great. The tap-and-hold contextual menu may work.

The Surface RT is also bootloader-locked, so it can not be dual-booted.

An interesting side note, when the Ubuntu Touch project (ARM-based) becomes stable and QGIS is compiled to work with it, the realm of ARM-based tablets that could be turned into solid QGIS field collection devices may increase dramatically, allowing for cheaper alternatives as well.

  • Also, with the OSGeo4W install on the Surface Pro there is full support for PyQGIS Python console and plugins (running under Python 2.7.4). – dakcarto Aug 12 '13 at 20:19
  • What weather case did you find? – Ryan Garnett Aug 26 '13 at 20:54
  • Hmmm. I can no longer locate it online (rather unbelievable for such a high-profile tablet). It was a product on amazon. – dakcarto Aug 26 '13 at 23:32
  • Windows RT also has sansboxed applications so it's not just a matter of getting it running it on ARM. Windows RT is also dead so I would buy a Pro if you can. – Nathan W Apr 30 '15 at 20:54

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