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Free geoinformatics software

Free and Open Source GIS Software

Open source geospatial software is great! It makes geospatial tools available to a diverse set of users who can access the source code to study, modify and develop the software further. This encourages the exchange of ideas within a community and between creators so that more adept tools can be created. Open source and free GIS software give access to a wide range of tools and features that could otherwise cost the user a fortune. And there is plenty to choose from.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I think you will agree all the major pieces of open source and free geospatial software are mentioned here.

Free Desktop GIS 

GeoDa– This is outstanding software for users unfamiliar with GIS to learn about spatial analysis and a useful introductory tool to statistics. Geoda has an intuitive interface, provides multiple basemaps, and supports a wide variety of file formats. Geoda has powerful capabilities for performing spatial analysis, multivariate search data analysis, performing basic linear regression, and global and local spatial autocorrelation. 

OS compatibility– Windows, Mac, LinuxGet it herehttp://geodacenter.github.io 


GRASS GISGeographic Resources Analysis Support System first developed as a tool for land management and environmental planning by the US military, now is a notorious open source GIS software that offers users immense amplitude of tools and solutions for a broad spectrum of application and research. GRASS is a distinguished GIS software for heavy processing, geospatial data management, spatial modeling, and analysis. GRASS supports raster and vector data in both 2D and 3D and includes over 350 core modules for geoprocessing and extra of more than 100 add-on modules created by other users. GRASS excels primarily as a free GIS software option for analysis, image processing, digital terrain manipulation, and statistics. 

OS compatibility– Windows, Mac, LinuxGet it herehttps://grass.osgeo.org 

gvSIG– Developers designed gvSIG as an extensible solution with the idea of future collaboration between users in mind. gvSIG recognizes most known vector and raster data formats. gvSIG Desktop offers a notable list of CAD tools, 3D capabilities, spatial data analysis, and advanced geoprocessing besides the regular data management tools. gvSIG Online is a platform that allows to manage, publish, and share spatial data online or in the cloud. gvSIG Mobile allows users to collect data out in the field and integrate directly with gvSIG Desktop and gvSIG Online. 

OS compatibility– Windows, Mac, LinuxGet it here http://www.gvsig.com/en 

ILWIS– Short for Integrated Land and Water Information System, ILWIS at first was a commercial GIS software with basic key features but now has developed further than digitizing and editing geospatial data and has become open source. ILWIS offers a good deal of remote sensing tools to manipulate, visualize and analyse vector, raster, and tabular data, including advanced modeling, geo-statistical analysis, 3D visualization, and analysis. ILWIS users around the globe praise the software for its functionality and user-friendly interface. 

OS compatibility– WindowsGet it herehttps://52north.org/software/software-projects/ilwis/ 

MapWindow– GIS software with basic features and extensible plugin architecture. MapWindow lets users visualize, manage, edit and analyse data and produce printable maps. It features impressive analytical functions through integration with GEOS and GDAL/OGR. Developers of MapWindow have stated that they want MapWindow to become the most user-friendly GIS desktop software available. 

OS compatibility– WindowsGet it herehttps://www.mapwindow.org 

OpenJUMP– (formerly JUMP GIS) A desktop software that has a simple functionality but can be enhanced with growing numbers of plugins. First created as a conflation software that would merge geospatial data of roads and rivers from different digital maps into a single data set, now has developed in an open source software that also can handle large data sets and allows users to display, edit and analyse spatial data. Worth to mention that OpenJUMP can work with geographic data in GML format. 

OS compatibility– Windows, Mac, LinuxGet it herehttp://www.openjump.org 

OrbisGIS– Designed as a multi-platform for research, OrbGIS is capable of processing vector and raster data models, creating noise maps, or processing hydrology models without any add-ons. However, it is still in development mode and only a few OrbisGIS plugins are available. 

OS compatibility– Windows, Mac, LinuxGet it here http://orbisgis.org 

QGIS(previously known as Quantum GIS) – QGIS was intended to be a simple GIS software, offering the most common functionality as a GIS data viewer and spatial data editor. By now 

QGIS has developed as one of the most widely used software that is utilized by a broad spectrum of professionals in different fields. QGIS supports multiple raster and vector data formats and new format support can be added thanks to the plugin architecture. Plugins are a key factor that expands the capabilities and functionality of QGIS. 

OS compatibility– Windows, Mac, Linux, AndroidGet it herehttps://qgis.org/en/site/ 

SAGA GIS– Short for System for Automated Geoscientific Analyses, SAGA was developed with a purpose to provide scientists with an efficient yet easy-to-learn platform for applying geoscientific methods - primarily for terrain analysis. It is done through the application programming interface (API). Now, SAGA offers an extensive and rapidly expanding set of geoscientific methods, that are grouped into libraries of interchangeable modules. User-friendly interface allows you to activate multiple windows for all your analysis needs (maps, histograms, point clouds, attributes, etc.). SAGA may not be great for cartography, but it certainly is a top-notch software for environmental modeling. 

OS compatibility– Windows, LinuxGet it herehttp://www.saga-gis.org/en/index.html 

uDig– Based on Eclipse Rich Client (RCP) Java framework and is extensible thanks to the addition of plugins developed using the RCP Framework. uDig in its basic configuration supports diversified data forms, including GML. Readily available plug-ins for geospatial processing and analysis, improved cartographic capabilities, OGC web processing service, and data creation. Compared to other open source GIS software, uDig is quite basic, however, it is user-friendly, internet-oriented and allows complex analytical capabilities to be built. 

OS compatibility– Windows, Mac, LinuxGet it herehttp://udig.refractions.net 

WhiteBox GAT– WhiteBox Geospatial Analysis Tools was designed for advanced spatial analysis and data visualization in research and education. The software supports raster and vector data and allows to run several processes at the same time. WhiteBox GAT offers more than 395 tools for geospatial processing and has extensive features for processing LiDAR LAS files. It was developed so that users could integrate custom plug-ins and expand the functionality of the software. Do not confuse WhiteBox GAT with WhiteBoxTools, which is a standalone command-line program and Python scripting API for geospatial analysis. 

OS compatibility– Windows, Mac, LinuxGet it herehttps://jblindsay.github.io/ghrg/Whitebox/ 

Other tools 

Capaware– Capaware was developed as a tool for virtual 3D terrain mapping, that allows users to better understand, model, evaluate and analyse data. It uses OpenSceneGraph as a graphics engine, therefore, achieving high frame rates per second. Capaware has a plug-in architecture but not many plugins have been developed at the moment. The software has a huge potential for application in urban planning, disaster management, civil engineering projects and in plenty of other fields. 

OS compatibility– Windows, LinuxGet it herehttp://www.capaware.org 

GMT- Short for Generic Mapping Tools is a compilation of command-line tools for processing and viewing of geographic and Cartesian datasets. GMT allows users to design illustrations for publications, create animations and automate workflow. Comprehensive GUI and web applications are available from third-parties. GMT allows boundless customization using scripting in several programming languages. 

OS compatibility– Windows, MacGet it herehttps://www.generic-mapping-tools.org 

TerraView– TerraView is an application based on the TerraLib GIS library, that manages vector and raster data stored in a relational or geo-relational database. TerraView allows users to manipulate and visualize raster data together with vector data as well as perform statistical analysis like local and global autocorrelation index, semi-variogram and regionalization. 

OS compatibility– Windows, Mac, LinuxGet it herehttp://www.dpi.inpe.br/terralib5/wiki/doku.php 

WhiteboxTools– An advanced geospatial data analysis platform that is intended to perform as an analytical backend for other GIS software. WhiteboxTools is not a cartographic or spatial data visualization package. It is a compilation of more than 430 tools contained within a compiled binary executable command-line program and the associated Python scripts. Not to be confused with WhiteBox Geospatial Analysis Tools. 

OS compatibility– Windows, Mac, LinuxGet it herehttps://jblindsay.github.io/ghrg/WhiteboxTools/index.html 

Web map servers 

GeoServer– A web server that enables users to publish maps and data in diverse formats to standard clients like web browsers and GIS software via WMS, WFS, WCS, WPS, Tile Caching and more. Developed for interoperability, GeoServer publishes most major sources of spatial data using open standards and its functionality can be expanded via plugins. GeoServer can handle hundreds to thousands of map layers and create maps in various output formats. 

OS compatibility– Windows, Mac, LinuxGet it herehttp://geoserver.org 

MapGuide– MapGuide is a web-based platform designed to develop and use web mapping software and geospatial web services with a featured interactive viewer that allows users to manage data and perform basic operations and analysis. 

OS compatibility– Windows, LinuxGet it herehttp://mapguide.osgeo.org 

Mapnik– A toolkit for developing cartographic applications that in essence is a collection of geographic objects like geometries, data source, maps, features and layers. Mapnik supports different geospatial data formats and offers flexible styling options for designing diverse types of maps. It is primarily aimed at a web-based development and the library can be used in any server environment. OpenStreetMap uses Mapnik to render for main layers on its website. 

OS compatibility– Windows, Mac, LinuxGet it herehttp://mapnik.org/ 

MapServer– MapServer is a lightweight mapping engine that is regarded as one of the fastest in the world. It is a platform for publishing spatial data and interactive mapping applications on the web, and not only allows users to browse data but also creates maps that direct users to content. MapServer can run as a CGI program or via MapScript. 

OS compatibility– Windows, Mac, LinuxGet it herehttps://mapserver.org 

Spatial database management systems 

ArangoDB– Developers of ArangoDB say that it was designed with the intention to be a multi-model and flexible database. It allows key-value, document, and graph data to be stored together and queried with a common language. 

OS compatibility– Windows, Mac, LinuxGet it herehttps://www.arangodb.com 

OrientDB– Designed to be very fast, OrientDB is a scalable, high-performance, multi-model database that can store 220 000 records per second on common hardware. It has the best features from Object Databases, Graph database management system and modern NoSQL databases. 

OS compatibility– Windows, Mac, LinuxGet it here http://orientdb.org 

PostGIS– As a PostgreSQL database extender, PostGIS adds support that allows spatial data to be stored, queried and analyzed within the database. A significant number of software products, like QGIS, SagaGIS, gvGIS, GRASS and many others, can use PostGIS as a database backend. 

OS compatibility– Windows, Mac, LinuxGet it herehttps://postgis.net 

SpatiaLite– A basic and lightweight library that extends the SQLite core to support Spatial SQL capabilities. SpatiaLite doesn’t have a complex client-server architecture, it is universally portable and the whole database simply corresponds to a single monolithic file. 

OS compatibility– Windows, Mac, LinuxGet it herehttps://www.gaia-gis.it/fossil/libspatialite 

TerraLib– Created with the intention to support the development of customized geographical applications. TerraLib is a software library that stores data in various database management systems, like MySQL and PostgreSQL, and allows temporal, attribute and spatial queries on the database. 

OS compatibility– Windows, Mac, LinuxGet it herehttp://www.terralib.org/ 

Software development frameworks and libraries for web applications 

CesiumJS– JavaScript library to develop interactive 2D maps and 3D globes in a web browser without a plugin. CesiumJS is easy to use, offers high-performance, delivers precision and visual quality, and can be implemented on multiple platforms. 

Written in– JavaScriptGet it herehttps://cesium.com/cesiumjs/ 

deegree– Java-based framework for spatial data infrastructures and the geospatial web. Deegree offers a number of web services for its users, including, serving vector data, rendering maps, performing searches for geospatial datasets and services, serving pre-rendered map tiles, as well as, executing geospatial processes. All in all, deegree provides components for geospatial data management, including data access, visualization, discovery, and security. 

Written in– JavaGet it herehttp://www.deegree.org 

GeoNode– A web-based application and platform for developing GIS and for deploying SDI. GeoNode is designed as a flexible platform that developers can extend, modify, and integrate into existing platforms. It allows users to create interactive maps and share data publicly or with restrictions allowing access to only specific users. 

Written in– PythonGet it herehttp://geonode.org 

Leaflet– This leading open-source JavaScript library was developed focusing on simplicity, usability, and performance. Leaflet doesn’t require an extensive GIS background to utilize it and that is the main reason for its popularity. It supports all major desktop and mobile platforms and developers can display tiled web maps hosted on a public server, add tiled overlays, load feature data from GeoJSON files, style, and create interactive layers. 

Written in– JavaScriptGet it herehttps://leafletjs.com 

Maptalks– A light JavaScript library to create integrated 2D and 3D maps, firstly was created as a tool for a project that would help clients choose optimal locations for new fast-food restaurants based on spatial data analysis, Maptalks now is open source. It is easily expandable, can render tens of thousands of geometries, and offers essential features for most cartographic needs. 

Written in– JavaScriptGet it herehttps://maptalks.org 

OpenLayers– A complete, high-performance JavaScript library that is packed with features and developed for creating embedded maps. OpenLayers can display vector data, map tiles, and markers loaded from any source. 

Written in– JavaScriptGet it herehttps://openlayers.org 

Polymaps– A JavaScript library for generating image and vector tiled maps using SVG. Polymaps allows users to create interactive and dynamic maps in web browsers. It provides a quick display of datasets and can load data at a full range of scales – from the country level down to a local street. Polymaps support GeoJSON files and allows users to use CSS rules to define the style of visualization. 

Written in– JavaScriptGet it herehttp://polymaps.org/ 

Terria– A rich library designed to enable developers to publish their spatial data on the web. Terria uses Cesium and WebGL for 3D visualizations and Leaflet for 2D. It can be deployed as a static website allowing users to generate a reusable URL of their current map view. 

Written in– JavaScriptGet it herehttps://terria.io