For those of us that are deeply embedded in the geospatial world, spending several thousand dollars on mapping software is a ‘no-brainer’. But that is not the case for many of the readers of The Geospatial Times. For those of you looking for a robust, free mapping solution that can read a wide variety of file formats as well as offers a toolkit that actually lets you perform your own spatial analysis, then Quantum GIS (QGIS) is the choice for you! What really separates QGIS from the other free mapping applications out there is its ability to query data for a defined set of search criteria; without this ability, a GIS application is really just a means to make a static map.
Here is a complete list of the functions and features we feel should make QGIS your choice for a free GIS application:
- Works on both PCs and Macs
- Open a variety of vector, raster and streaming formats
- Create and edit vector files
- Display multiple layers at once
- Change symbology with the ability to categorize data for useful map legends
- Measure distances
- Export on screen displays to a picture file (such as a JPEG)
- Query/filter the attributes of vector layers to perform spatial analysis
The only function missing from QGIS is the ability to open personal and file geodatabases. That said, with Esri’s recent launch of the public API for file geodatabase development, this may well change.
If you would like to test out QGIS for yourself, here is a link to download the version that works for your computer.
If you find QGIS to be too complex for your needs, a nice second choice is the free mapping application, uDIG, but this application lacks the ability to query the attributes of vector layers.
Brock Adam McCarty