Since the end of 2013 a free use of Bing Maps in ArcGIS is no longer possible. You have to obtain a Bing Maps key directly from Microsoft.

In QGIS (with OpenLayers plugin) it is possible to use Bing Maps (and also Google Maps) without a Bing Maps key and without a fee.

Why it is possible to use Bing Maps with QGIS for free while you have to pay for it with ArcGIS (Desktop)?

ESRI source: http://downloads2.esri.com/ArcGISOnline/docs/bing_faq1.pdf

  • Until version 10.1 you were allowed to use Bing. Possibly same reason why you cannot use Google Earth imagery in ArcMap - licensing issues. The imagery is not owned by Microsoft, same as the Imagery in Google Earth is not owned by google. Commented Feb 12, 2014 at 14:56

3 Answers 3


QGIS don't use directly the layers of Bing Maps or Google Maps or Apple (forbidden, licensing issue) but use OpenLayers via Python (with the OpenLayer Plugin). This plugin allows you to add a number of image services (allowed) to your map canvas.

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You can use them for your work, but if you want to publish the map, you will be bound by the terms of the licenses of Google, Bings, Apple, etc. .


In short: openlayer run something like a web browser in the background with the images, and force the position in the web browser to match the one in the gis software (sometimes it doesnt do pretty well). Thats why you can use bing or google images in QGIS.


You need to license Bing Maps for these types of applications. Open Layers is set up to take in a Bing Maps key to enable these types of layers.

  • Thanks for the information. "You need to license Bing Maps”. Who is you? The user of the plugin (= I) or the provider/programmer of the plugin?
    – Jens
    Commented Sep 19, 2014 at 7:04
  • I'm a Program Manager for the Bing Maps Customer Advisory Team. I work with partners like ESRI to implement Bing Maps into their platform.
    – rbrundritt
    Commented Sep 19, 2014 at 16:58

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