I am totally new to GIS, and so I apologize if my question is not clear enough. My basic problem is the following:

  • I have about 160,000 Danish addresses with longitude and latitude for each address.
  • I would like to calculate the distance to the nearest big city (preferably by road and not straight line), and the distance to the coast.
  • I have access to a topographical map of the roads and cities in Denmark in the scale of 1:1000000.
  • The data structure is vector.
  • The format is GDB (ArcGIS).
  • The coordinate system is UTM32-ETRS89.
  • I use windows 7 64 bit.

I have the following question:

Is there a free GIS to work with the GDB format (and preferably a reference to a tutorial or similar for absolute beginners)?

Any comments are welcome, and I gladly provide more info if needed.

Thanks a lot!!

  • 2
    Welcome to GIS SE! Our protocols can take a little getting used to so something to be aware of is that to keep clean Q&A it is best to only ask one question per Question. In this case the answer to 1. is Yes, and 3. is just in case you get no solution from 2. Consequently, I recommend that you edit your Question to focus on 2.
    – PolyGeo
    Oct 3, 2013 at 10:21
  • Thanks for the answers and advices. I have updated the question. I hope it's better.
    – Mace
    Oct 3, 2013 at 11:50

2 Answers 2


A good place to start with FOSS4G is QGIS. I reccomend that you use the OSGEO4W installer because, with that, you can ensure you have the file-based GDB capability installed, which you appear to need.

QGIS has a RoadGraph plugin which,you can install by opening QGIS and going Plugins->Manage and Install Plugins and then locate it in the Get More section. Here is a how to on using the RoadGraph plugin for calculating shortest distance.

However, there are other solutions which may be more powerful. One is PgRouting. It would require you to upload your file-based GDBs to a PostGIS database.

Anyway, this should give you something to get started and all the software listed here is free.

  • Thanks! I will take a look at QGIS and the "how to" guide. As a first step I was able to install QGIS, but couldn't even open the sample dataset :) I have a long way to go, but there is probably a tutorial somewhere.
    – Mace
    Oct 4, 2013 at 12:15

Quantum GIS is a free, open source GIS available for the public to download from the internet. I created an introductory course in QGIS 1.8 (just downloaded 2.0, will have to update my slides). If you're interested in learning how to use it, let me know. Otherwise their website offers great advice, as well as a sample dataset to get used to how the program works. The great thing about QGIS is the availability of PlugIns. Users can upload their own python plugins for the public to utilize; some of my favorites include the OSM (Openstreetmap) and the distance/azimuth plugin...

Check it out!


  • Thanks! I tried downloading their sample datasets, but I couldn't even open the dataset - I know I sound like a complete imbecile, but I do know my way around a computer and different programming languages, so I guess I just need a seriously basic introduction to vector and raster data and the QGIS. I would very much like to see your slides.
    – Mace
    Oct 4, 2013 at 12:11
  • My introductory course is on a separate external hard drive, I'll have to locate it... However in the meantime a basic overview of what we are looking at here:
    – LMHall
    Oct 4, 2013 at 15:06
  • Vector data are comprised of points, lines, and polygons... The points are referenced by x and y coordinates. Lines and polygons are series of points pairs, (x1,y1)(x2,y2) and so forth. Your data are most likely going to be point features for addresses and as MappaGnosis stated above, try to mess around with a few plugins to see what works. You will want to find the shortest distance between two points, this is a basic algebraic function that the GIS can process in a fraction of a second!
    – LMHall
    Oct 4, 2013 at 15:08

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