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Top 10 Free GIS Software

Vegard J. Løwe

Co-Founder & COO

Top 10 Free GIS Software

GIS (Geographic Information Systems) software is essential for spatial data analysis, mapping, and decision-making.

While some GIS software can be expensive, there are several powerful and free options available. These free tools offer a wide range of features that can meet the needs of both beginners and advanced users.

Here’s a guide to some of the best free GIS software available.

1. Atlas.co

Atlas interface

Atlas.co (that’s us!) is a modern browser-based GIS platform with a generous free plan. It’s easy to use, collaborative and offers a wide range of spatial analyses and presentation features to make shareable interactive maps.

  • Features: Data visualization, editing, analysis, real-time collaboration, and map composition. Supports various data formats.
  • Pros: User-friendly, powerful and collaborative
  • Cons: Does not include as many niche analyses as some of the competitors
  • Website: Atlas

2. QGIS

QGIS interface

QGIS (Quantum GIS) is one of the most popular free GIS software options. It's open-source and packed with features suitable for various GIS tasks.

  • Features: Data visualization, editing, analysis, and map composition. Supports various data formats.
  • Pros: Highly extensible with plugins, active community support, and regular updates.
  • Cons: Steeper learning curve for beginners.
  • Website: QGIS

3. Google Earth Pro

Google Earth Pro interface

Google Earth Pro offers advanced features and tools for free. It’s great for visualizing geographic data and creating custom maps.

  • Features: High-resolution satellite imagery, 3D building visualization, importing and exporting GIS data.
  • Pros: User-friendly, rich visual content, widely used.
  • Cons: Limited analytical capabilities compared to dedicated GIS software.
  • Website: Google Earth Pro

4. GRASS GIS

Grass GIS interface

GRASS GIS (Geographic Resources Analysis Support System) is a powerful open-source GIS software suite used for geospatial data management and analysis, image processing, and spatial modeling.

  • Features: Advanced geostatistical analysis, raster and vector data processing, temporal data support.
  • Pros: Extensive analytical capabilities, strong support for large datasets.
  • Cons: Interface can be less intuitive compared to other GIS software.
  • Website: GRASS GIS

5. gvSIG

gvSIG interface

gvSIG is an open-source desktop GIS designed for capturing, storing, handling, analyzing, and deploying any kind of referenced geographic information.

  • Features: 3D visualization, network analysis, geoprocessing tools.
  • Pros: User-friendly interface, supports a wide range of formats, strong focus on interoperability.
  • Cons: Smaller user community compared to QGIS.
  • Website: gvSIG

6. MapWindow GIS

MapWindow interface

MapWindow GIS is a free, open-source, extensible geographic information system that can be used as a mapping tool, or to develop and distribute custom spatial data applications.

  • Features: Basic GIS functionality, extensible via plugins, support for numerous data formats.
  • Pros: Simple to use, good for quick map creation and basic analysis.
  • Cons: Limited advanced features compared to QGIS and GRASS.
  • Website: MapWindow GIS

7. Whitebox GAT

Whitebox interface

Whitebox GAT (Geospatial Analysis Toolbox) is an open-source GIS and remote sensing software package developed for advanced geospatial analysis.

  • Features: Comprehensive geospatial analysis tools, robust handling of raster data.
  • Pros: Strong focus on scientific and educational use, good for advanced geospatial analysis.
  • Cons: Limited vector data capabilities.
  • Website: Whitebox GAT

8. SAGA GIS

SAGA GIS interface

SAGA GIS (System for Automated Geoscientific Analyses) is an open-source GIS software with a focus on geoscientific analysis and data processing.

  • Features: Extensive geoscientific analysis tools, powerful raster data processing.
  • Pros: Strong analytical capabilities, user-friendly interface.
  • Cons: Limited vector data processing capabilities.
  • Website: SAGA GIS

9. OpenJUMP

OpenJUMP interface

OpenJUMP is an open-source GIS software written in Java. It’s known for its stability and extensibility.

  • Features: Basic GIS functionality, support for a variety of data formats, extensible via plugins.
  • Pros: Stable and reliable, good for basic GIS tasks.
  • Cons: Fewer advanced features compared to other GIS software.
  • Website: OpenJUMP

10. uDig

uDig interface

uDig (User-friendly Desktop Internet GIS) is an open-source GIS application framework built with a focus on being user-friendly.

  • Features: Basic GIS capabilities, internet mapping, support for OGC standards.
  • Pros: Easy to use, good for integrating web-based GIS services.
  • Cons: Limited advanced features, smaller user community.
  • Website: uDig

Free GIS software offers a range of capabilities for different needs. Whether you're a beginner needing basic mapping tools or an advanced user requiring robust geospatial analysis, there's a free GIS software option available.

These tools make GIS accessible to everyone, allowing for effective spatial data analysis and mapping without the need for expensive software licenses. With active communities and regular updates, free GIS software continues to evolve, providing powerful tools for a variety of applications.

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