12 Open Source GIS Software


12 open-source Geographic Information System (GIS) software, along with some of their notable features and links for access:

1.QGIS (Quantum GIS)

  • Features: Supports vector, raster, and database formats. It also provides feature like digitizing, viewing, importing, exporting, and analysis of geospatial data.
  • QGIS is a professional GIS application that is built on top of and proud to be itself Free and Open-Source Software (FOSS). It can work with many data formats (raster, vector, and database), making it flexible for different GIS tasks. Additionally, QGIS allows for the creation of plugins to extend software functionality, allowing customization for specific needs.
  • QGIS is a user-friendly, cross-platform desktop geographic information system (GIS) used to analyze and edit spatial information. QGIS supports both raster and vector layers; vector data is stored as either point, line, or polygon features. The software also supports integration with other popular GIS software.
  • Access: QGIS
  • Official Website: https://www.qgis.org/en/site/forusers/download.html


  • Features: Offers image processing, data management, and spatial modeling. It’s suitable for professional GIS data analysis and representation.
  • GRASS GIS (Geographic Resources Analysis Support System) is a software suite used for geospatial data management and analysis, image processing, graphics and map production, spatial modeling, and visualization. It is known for its advanced capabilities in handling raster, topological vector, image processing, and graphics production.
  • Geospatial Data Abstraction Library (GDAL) is a robust, open-source raster geographic information system (GIS) and supports interfaces for programming languages. GRASS is more suitable for academic and advanced GIS work requiring complex spatial analysis and modelling. However, it has a steeper learning curve compared to QGIS.
  • Official Website: https://grass.osgeo.org/download/
  • Access: GRASS GIS
Grass GIS


  • Features: A translator library for raster and vector geospatial data formats. This provides a single raster abstract data model and a single vector abstract data model to the calling application for all supported formats.
  • The Geospatial Data Abstraction Library (GDAL) is a translator library for raster and vector geospatial data formats that presents a single raster abstract data model and single vector abstract data model to the calling application for all supported formats. It also comes with a variety of useful command-line utilities for data translation and processing.
  • GDAL is a translator library for raster and vector geospatial data formats. OGR is a part of GDAL that handles vector data. It’s a powerful tool for converting and manipulating a wide variety of geospatial data formats.
  • Official Website: https://gdal.org/download.html
  • Access: GDAL


  • Features: Supports rendering a variety of spatial data formats into maps, including advanced cartographic quality maps. It also supports OGC (Open Geospatial Consortium) standards.
  • MapServer is an Open Source platform for publishing spatial data and interactive mapping applications to the web. It’s known for performance, as it is fast and can be used for displaying large datasets.
  • MapServer is an open-source platform for publishing spatial data and interactive mapping applications to the web. It’s known for speed and ability to support a large number of data formats.
  • Official Website: https://mapserver.org/download.html
  • Access: MapServer
Map Server


  • Features: Allows sharing, processing, and editing geospatial data. It supports standards set by the OGC like Web Feature Service (WFS), Web Map Service (WMS), and Web Coverage Service (WCS).
  • GeoServer is a server that allows users to share, process and edit geospatial data. Designed for interoperability, it publishes data from any major spatial data source using open standards.
  • GeoServer is an open-source server written in Java that allows users to share, process, and edit geospatial data. It’s designed for interoperability and interfaces with a wide variety of data formats.
  • Official Website: https://geoserver.org/download/
  • Access: GeoServer
Geo Server


  • Features: Adds support for geographic objects to the PostgreSQL relational database. It follows the Simple Features for SQL spec from OGC.
  • PostGIS is a powerful extension for the PostgreSQL database that adds support for geographic objects. It enables location queries to be run in SQL.
  • PostGIS is an extension to the PostgreSQL relational database that adds support for geographic objects, allowing location queries to be run in SQL.
  • Official Website: https://postgis.net/install/
  • Access: PostGIS
Post GIS

7.SAGA GIS (System for Automated Geoscientific Analyses)

  • Features: Designed for an easy and effective implementation of spatial algorithms. Offers a comprehensive, growing set of geoscientific methods, providing an API for the implementation of new functions.
  • SAGA is a GIS used for editing spatial data. It provides a user-friendly GUI and API and includes many modules for the analysis of vector, table, grid and image data, as well as for geostatistics, and various tools for GIS-applications.
  • SAGA GIS is a GIS software with immense capabilities for geodata processing and analysis. SAGA is especially useful for terrain analysis but also offers tools for many different kinds of geospatial analysis.
  • Official Website: http://www.saga-gis.org/en/index.html
  • Access: SAGA GIS


  • Features: Designed to be an easily extensible solution, allowing continually evolving with the new technologies. Used for capturing, storing, handling, analyzing, and deploying any kind of referenced geographic information.
  • gvSIG is a tool for geospatial data analysis, including a desktop version for data exploration and editing, and a mobile version for data collection in the field.
  • gvSIG is a desktop GIS application capable of handling vector and raster data, databases, remote services, and complex topological operations. It has a wide variety of plugins that expand its basic capabilities.
  • Official Website: http://www.gvsig.com/en/products/gvsig-desktop/downloads
  • Access: gvSIG
gv SIG


  • Features: A high-performance, feature-packed library for creating interactive maps on the web. It can display map tiles, vector data, and markers loaded from any source.
  • OpenLayers is a high-performance, feature-packed library for creating interactive maps on the web. It supports a variety of geospatial data sources and includes features like vector editing and server-side rendering.
  • OpenLayers is a high-performance, feature-packed library for creating interactive maps in web applications. It can display maps from any static image source or from dynamic map servers.
  • Official Website: https://openlayers.org/
  • Access: OpenLayers
Open Layers


  • Features: A mobile-friendly, lightweight, yet robust library for interactive maps. It’s designed with simplicity, performance, and usability in mind.
  • Leaflet is a JavaScript library for mobile-friendly interactive maps. It’s lightweight, yet robust and very easy to use. It’s designed with simplicity, performance and usability in mind.
  • Leaflet is a widely used open-source JavaScript library for building mobile-friendly, interactive maps. It’s known for its simplicity, performance, and usability.
  • Official Website: https://leafletjs.com/
  • Access: Leaflet

11. Whitebox GAT

  • Features: An open-source geographical information system (GIS) and remote sensing software package. Provides a platform for advanced geospatial data analysis with applications in both environmental research and geomatics.
  • Whitebox Geospatial Analysis Tools (GAT) is an open-source geographical information system (GIS) and remote sensing software package. The project began in 2009 and was originally intended to provide a platform for the development of geospatial algorithms.
  • Whitebox Geospatial Analysis Tools (GAT) is an open-source GIS and remote sensing software package. It’s developed with a focus on providing a user-friendly platform for advanced geospatial data analysis.
  • Official Website: https://www.uoguelph.ca/~hydrogeo/Whitebox/
  • Access: Whitebox GAT

12. Orfeo Toolbox

  • Features: A C++ library for remote sensing images processing, it has been initiated by the French Space Agency (CNES). Provides a large set of algorithms and applications, including image simulation, image segmentation, and image statistics.
  • Orfeo Toolbox is a library for processing high spatial resolution images like those obtained from satellites. It’s built on the medical image processing library ITK and provides extensive capabilities for large image processing tasks.
  • Orfeo Toolbox (OTB) is a library for remote sensing images processing. It was developed by the French Space Agency and is widely used for high resolution optical, multispectral, and radar images.
  • Official Website: https://www.orfeo-toolbox.org/download/
  • Access: Orfeo Toolbox
Orfeo Toolbox

These tools are all powerful and versatile, they each have their unique strengths and best use cases. Depending on your specific needs, some may be more appropriate than others.

Some of the top features of each of these geospatial tools:

  1. QGIS (Quantum GIS):
  • Extensibility: QGIS supports plugins to add additional functionality.
  • Cross-platform: Available for Linux/Unix, MS Windows, and MacOS X.
  • Variety of data format compatibility: Supports many GIS file formats (vector and raster) and databases.
  • Powerful raster, vector, and geospatial processing: Excellent for complex analytical tasks and geostatistics.
  • Multidimensional data management and analysis: Useful for handling and analyzing data over time.
  • Interoperability: It integrates well with other open-source GIS software.
  1. GDAL/OGR:
  • Data format compatibility: Can convert between a very large number of raster and vector data formats.
  • Command-line tools: Useful for scripting and automating tasks.
  • Access to geospatial databases: GDAL can connect to various spatial databases including PostGIS.
  1. MapServer:
  • Fast and scalable: Excellent for serving large amounts of data.
  • High customization: Provides high flexibility in generating dynamic maps.
  • Variety of output formats: It can render maps in a variety of graphic formats and includes map overlays.
  1. GeoServer:
  • Easy to use: The web admin interface allows for easy configuration.
  • OGC Standards Support: Implements several Web Service standards from the Open Geospatial Consortium.
  • Interoperability: Great compatibility with various data formats.
  1. PostGIS:
  • Spatial and Geographic objects for PostgreSQL: Enhances PostgreSQL database with the ability to handle geospatial data.
  • Performance: Efficiently handles large volumes of geospatial data.
  • Integration: Integrates well with other GIS software, like QGIS and Mapserver.
  1. SAGA GIS (System for Automated Geoscientific Analyses):
  • Extensive geoscientific methods: Geostatistics, Terrain Analysis, Image Processing, etc.
  • Modularity: Contains a collection of executable modules, which can be controlled through various interfaces.
  • Effective grid system: SAGA uses a unique system for effectively managing and processing data grids.
  1. gvSIG:
  • 2D and 3D views: Provides tools for managing both 2D and 3D data.
  • Extensibility: Numerous plugins available for expanded capabilities.
  • Multilingual: gvSIG has been translated into a number of languages.
  1. OpenLayers:
  • Interactivity: Provides a rich set of features for user interaction.
  • Versatility: Can display a wide variety of geospatial data sources.
  • Customizability: Easy to customize the look and functionality of the maps.
  1. Leaflet:
  • Simplicity: Provides a simple API for embedding maps in web applications.
  • Lightweight: Has a small, focused code base that’s easy to work with.
  • Mobile friendly: Supports touch events and mobile-specific features.
  1. Whitebox GAT:
  • Extensive toolset: Over 400 tools to perform GIS and remote sensing tasks.
  • Scripting capabilities: Ability to extend functionality using scripting languages.
  • Intuitive user interface: Features a highly interactive and easy-to-use interface.
  1. Orfeo Toolbox:
  • Powerful image processing: Ideal for high-resolution optical, multispectral, and radar images.
  • Extensible: It can be extended with new algorithms using the Monteverdi application or Python.
  • Large-scale processing: It’s built to process large images, suitable

Limitations of GIS Software

  1. QGIS (Quantum GIS):
  • Performance: May experience lag or instability when dealing with very large datasets.
  • Complexity: While it offers numerous functionalities, it can be complex and overwhelming for beginners.
  • Limited 3D capabilities: Although it has 3D features, they are not as advanced or interactive as some other GIS platforms.
  • User Interface: The user interface is not as modern or intuitive as other GIS software.
  • Learning curve: Requires a significant amount of time to learn due to its command-line focus.
  • Limited online support: GRASS has fewer online resources, tutorials, and community forums compared to QGIS or ArcGIS.
  1. GDAL/OGR:
  • User-friendliness: As a command-line utility, it may be less user-friendly to those unfamiliar with programming or scripting.
  • Documentation: While GDAL is powerful, its documentation can be lacking or difficult to understand.
  • Error messages: Error messages can be cryptic, making troubleshooting difficult.
  1. MapServer:
  • Configuration complexity: Can be complex to set up and requires technical knowledge to implement.
  • Lack of administrative GUI: It doesn’t provide a graphic user interface for server configuration.
  • Limited data editing capabilities: Primarily designed for rendering maps, not for editing spatial data.
  1. GeoServer:
  • Performance: May struggle with performance issues when dealing with large datasets or complex tasks.
  • Complexity: Can be complex to set up, particularly in terms of tuning performance.
  • Styling: More limited cartographic capabilities compared to desktop GIS software.
  1. PostGIS:
  • Complexity: Requires understanding of SQL and relational databases to use effectively.
  • Documentation: While there are resources available, they are sometimes advanced and technical for beginners.
  • Limited GUI: As a database extension, it lacks a direct graphical interface for data exploration.
  1. SAGA GIS (System for Automated Geoscientific Analyses):
  • Outdated interface: Its interface can be clunky and not as intuitive as other GIS software.
  • Limited support: There may be less community support and fewer resources for help.
  • Plugin Compatibility: Fewer plugins or extensions compared to QGIS or ArcGIS.
  1. gvSIG:
  • Performance: Some users find that it can be slow, particularly when handling larger datasets.
  • English Documentation: Some of the documentation and user resources are primarily in Spanish.
  • Compatibility: Sometimes struggles with certain file types and formats.
  1. OpenLayers:
  • Learning curve: Can be challenging to learn due to its extensive and complex API.
  • Documentation: While it has extensive documentation, some users find it hard to navigate and understand.
  • Performance: Some users report issues with performance when dealing with large datasets.
  1. Leaflet:
  • Limited functionality: While it’s simple to use, its capabilities are more limited compared to OpenLayers.
  • Large datasets: May struggle to handle large datasets or complex vector data.
  • Lack of built-in GUI: Does not have a built-in interface for creating maps; it’s only a library for building one.
  1. Whitebox GAT:
  • Limited Support: As a less common GIS tool, it may have limited community support and fewer resources.
  • Interface: The user interface may not be as polished or intuitive as other more established GIS platforms.
  • Compatibility: Some users have reported issues with compatibility with some file formats.
  1. Orfeo Toolbox:
  • User Interface: Primarily a set of libraries, thus not as user-friendly for those unfamiliar with coding.
  • Learning curve: Requires a certain level of knowledge and expertise to make the most of its capabilities.
  • Limited resources: As a more specialized tool, there’s less community support and fewer learning resources compared to more mainstream GIS software.

Geospatial tools are used in various industries and sectors, including:

  1. QGIS (Quantum GIS):
  • Urban planning and development
  • Environmental management and conservation
  • Agriculture and forestry
  • Geology and geophysics
  • Transportation and logistics
  • Environmental modeling and analysis
  • Landscape ecology and land management
  • Archaeology and cultural heritage
  • Geospatial research and academia
  • Hydrological modeling and watershed analysis
  1. GDAL/OGR:
  • Remote sensing and satellite image processing
  • Geospatial data conversion and interoperability
  • Web mapping and data integration
  • Cartography and map production
  • Geodatabase management and integration
  1. MapServer:
  • Web mapping and geospatial data visualization
  • Location-based services and mapping applications
  • Government and public sector planning
  • Environmental monitoring and resource management
  • Real estate and property mapping
  1. GeoServer:
  • Web mapping and geospatial data sharing
  • Earth observation and remote sensing
  • Natural resource management and monitoring
  • Emergency response and disaster management
  • Government and public sector geospatial services
  1. PostGIS:
  • Geospatial database management
  • Spatial analysis and querying
  • Web-based GIS applications
  • Transportation and routing analysis
  • Asset and facility management
  1. SAGA GIS (System for Automated Geoscientific Analyses):
  • Terrain analysis and modeling
  • Hydrological modeling and analysis
  • Climate change and environmental studies
  • Geoscientific research and exploration
  • Ecological modeling and biodiversity assessment
  1. gvSIG:
  • Urban planning and development
  • Cadastre and land administration
  • Environmental monitoring and management
  • Infrastructure and utilities management
  • Geospatial education and research
  1. OpenLayers:
  • Web mapping applications and portals
  • Location-based services and geolocation
  • Real-time tracking and fleet management
  • Mobile mapping and field data collection
  • Customized interactive map visualizations
  1. Leaflet:
  • Web mapping applications and websites
  • Mobile-friendly and responsive map interfaces
  • Location-based marketing and advertising
  • Geospatial data visualization for analysis
  • Interactive map-based storytelling
  1. Whitebox GAT:
  • Hydrological modeling and analysis
  • Geomorphology and terrain analysis
  • LiDAR data processing and analysis
  • Environmental and natural resource management
  • Land cover classification and change detection
  1. Orfeo Toolbox:
  • Remote sensing image processing
  • Image classification and feature extraction
  • Change detection and monitoring
  • Land cover mapping and analysis
  • Agricultural and forestry applications
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