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Open Source GIS 101, Part 6: Quantum GIS

Part 6: QGIS  (Quantum GIS)

Eleven years ago, Gary Sherman began developing a GIS viewer for the Linux desktop. Though the early progress was slow, the project gradually accumulated more contributors over the years. Today, QGIS is a true grassroots open source software application with thousands of users around the world.

There are many reasons to like QGIS. Of all the open source GIS software applications I’ve tested, I feel it has the greatest combination of power and ease of use. It runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux, and its small file size allows it to run smoothly on older computers that would otherwise crash if they tried to run ESRI’s ArcGIS. Numerous user-contributed “plugins” are also available for solving a variety of tasks that are typically written in Python.

Another factor that adds to its user-friendliness is that so much help is available online. Aside from the homepage, there are so many helpful bloggers, one can easily ‘Google’ a QGIS question to find a solution. The Quantum GIS Planet only lists a portion of what’s out there.

For those who are completely new to open source GIS in general, Gary Sherman has written a helpful book, The Geospatial Desktop.

Though QGIS is a favorite open source GIS application for many (in a very few ways, it is even superior to ArcGIS), don’t rush out to replace your proprietary software yet. Open source GIS is still limited to open data formats and simple geometric features, and I know at least one person who found the lack of pre-installed symbology disappointing.

Nevertheless, QGIS is a popular and fast growing open source GIS for the desktop, with a large number of fans, users, and regular contributors. See this year’s Google Summer of Code for QGIS and OSGeo.

In two weeks, Part 7, GDAL/OGR…

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