14 Free/Open Source GIS Software: Map the world

Nilam Oswal

Nilam Oswal

Senior editor

Parul Saxena

Chief editor

Last updated: February 5, 2021

Looking to map the world?

Not many of you might be aware of how geographical data is being accumulated, managed, and displayed, apart from the weather data we encounter on our mobile phones, laptops, and weather news. Believe me when I say topographical data is used for many more serious things than just telling us the weather. This is where geographical information (GIS) software comes into the picture.

Why do you need GIS Software, you may ask?

The answer is simple, to collate and analyze geospatial data and to display the map representation in 2D or 3D format. 

And where are these systems used?

Various fields like insurance, planning, engineering, logistics, telecommunications, etc.

How does it all work?

By using location-enabled tools for analyzing and visualizing geographic coordinates.

Knowing this, if you want to run a business in any of the above-said fields, then this blog will pin-point you to procure the right open-source GIS software needed to gather the required data for your company.

In this post, I’ll talk to you about 14 best open source GIS software that either support one user or one project, but will give you the best value of your time and investment.

Best Free/Open Source GIS (Geographic Information Systems) Software

Deploying top-tier GIS software can cost hefty amounts, but we bring you some free GIS software that is available for your organization to do the work just as perfectly and accurately as any commercial software.

Tool #1: ArcGIS

Collating and managing spatial data has never been easier than this. The data can also be shared and analyzed smoothly using ArcGIS Software. Since it is accessible on desktop as well as a mobile platform, you could use it on-premises or through the cloud. 

A robust tool for all map-related needs, this open-source GIS software is maintained by ESRI (Environmental Systems Research Institute). The tool is easy to comprehend with a basic understanding of the elements involved. 

ArcGIS

Key Features

  • Geocoding
  • Directions-mapping
  • Data Visualization
  • Offline mode to access maps
  • Spatial Analysis
  • Imagery

Pros

  • Robust platform
  • Preset of tools
  • Advanced reporting features
  • Can handle large amounts of vector data
  • Web maps can be published easily

Cons

  • Priced too high
  • Proprietary formats rendering it non-free
  • Data cannot be ported easily between ESRI and other GIS platforms

Tool #2: 3-GIS Network Solutions

Planning, designing and managing networks are all so easy with 3-GIS Network Solutions. All their solutions are web-based and have been trusted worldwide by many engineering firms, utility owners, and other service providers.

Not just time, but finances can be managed easily with the help of this easy-to-use tool. The features are easy to navigate and super-intuitive. High scalability is a major plus factor, as well as the insightful statistics that the tool provides to your business.

3-GIS Network Solutions

Key Features

  • Geocoding
  • Integrated with Google Street View
  • Integrated with ArcGIS
  • Automatic routing options
  • Interoperability
  • Spatial Analysis
  • Color Coding

Pros

  • Pocket-friendly
  • Highly scalable 
  • Can be designed easily 
  • Information sharing can be done real-time

Cons

  • No free trial option

Tool #3: SuperGIS Desktop

Analyzing patterns of spatial data is perhaps the USP of the SuperGIS Desktop. Not just presenting the data more straightforwardly and understandably, this tool is a suite of applications that help you distribute resources and breakdown patterns.

Result? Simpler and more meaningful data which is more logic-driven. With the SuperGIS Desktop, you can work on a lot of analytical solutions like extract analysis, georeferencing, proximity analysis, translation of projections, and much more.

Key Features

  • Spatial Analysis
  • Process Designer to automate workflows
  • Symbol Composer to make the representation more interesting
  • Integration with OpenStreetMap and OGC Services
  • High precision survey data

Pros 

  • Visually-appealing maps
  • Robust platform
  • Intuitive GUI
  • Basic level of understanding elements needed
  • Value-adding tools like Symbol Composer, Process Designer

Cons

  • Although easy to learn, users need to be acquainted with the system

Tool #4: Maptitude

Mainly developed for business users, Maptitude has slowly expanded its wings to other domains as well, basically wherever spatial analysis is needed. Very easy to integrate with Microsoft Office, this tool requires knowledge of the programming language called Caliper Script.

What’s more, with Maptitude, you could geocode addresses, and the tool will do the rest for you. The tool is cloud-based and more of a location intelligence tool than just being a GIS one. With Maptitude, you can quickly and seamlessly analyze all types of spatial data at a very affordable cost.

Maptitude

Key Features

  • Interoperability
  • Geocoding
  • Color Coding
  • Spatial Analysis
  • Data Visualization
  • Analysis of Trade Area

Pros

  • Highly interactive Maps
  • Geocoded Addresses
  • Census data integration
  • Can be integrated with other GIS platforms
  • User intuitive
  • Demographics updated every year

Cons

  • Limited customization
  • Not as sophisticated as other top-tier GIS tools

Looking for GIS Software? Check out SoftwareSuggest’s list of the best GIS software solutions.

Tool #5: gisAMPS

If you are looking for an all-included web-based tool to analyze spatial data, look no further. gisAMPS open-source GIS software delivers what it says on its product page to the ‘T.’ Capable of bringing all business processes under one umbrella, this tool enables access to real-time information for all field agents.

gisAMPS can be easily integrated with all geoAMPS products. It has the right mix of a reliable and intuitive mapping methodology as well as robust business analysis capabilities, all thanks to its dashboard feature.

gisAMPS

Key Features

  • Real-time tracking
  • Virtual fly-by possible
  • 3-D representation of data
  • Accessibility on Mobile
  • Advanced reporting and dashboard feature
  • Offline access to data

Pros

  • Enhanced speed in achieving project milestones
  • Lower cost
  • The central database for the entire team
  • Automation of business analytics

Cons

  • Enhancement in design and functionalities possible

Tool #6: LMKR GeoGraphix

Since the Exploration & Production industry (E&P industry) is built for Geo technicians. LMKR GeoGraphix  open-source GIS software enables the E & P industry to perform its function in a more cost-friendly and error-free manner. Fracturing and drilling are two processes that are both time-consuming as well as prone to human errors when it comes to analyzing landscapes.

The chances are that you may have already come across this product if you are someone from the E & P industry, thanks to its vast features. 

With Geographix, Well and stream data can be easily captured and better field plans made. And not just that, quality mapping can be done in no time.

LMKR GeoGraphix

Key Features

  • Real-time Satellite imagery
  • Shapefile map-layering
  • Identifying better well spots
  • Contour Mapping possible
  • Current land Position
  • High-definition maps

Pros

  • Interlinking of data
  • Smooth storage of project data
  • Better quality control features
  • Can be used to identify strata more intricately
  • Virtual visualization of data possible

Cons

  • Resolution of isoline not very clear
  • Compatible mostly with 64-bit processors

Tool #7: Extensis GeoExpress

What do you do with the heaps of high-definition geospatial imagery and how to deal with issues regarding sharing and storing them? Well, go in for Extensis GeoExpress, a tool built to compress imagery in MrSID (or multiresolution seamless image database) format. This format helps retain the quality of the image while squeezing it in a compact size. 

What’s more, you can edit the image and share it for further analysis, if you are not happy with some of the original components. Patented by LizardTech, you can quickly develop orthophotos of spatial data.

Extensis GeoExpress

Key Features

  • Raster and LiDAR Image Support
  • MrSID
  • Lossless compression
  • Mosaic datasets possible
  • Fine editing
  • Multi-spectral image bands

Pros

  • Reduced File Size
  • Lossless Compression
  • Easy to store images
  • Finer-quality imagery
  • Imagery can be integrated with GIS apps like ArcGIS, QGIS, ENVI, Autodesk, and others

Cons

  • File format (.sid) needs to be decompressed before opening, thus increasing the time to access the image.

Tool #8: QGIS

When it comes to automating map production, processing geospatial data, and generating cartographic figures, QGIS is the best GIS software to work with for your requirements. Besides composing and exporting graphical maps, it enables you to carefully view, edit, and analyze geospatial data. QGIS supports both raster and vector layers. 

QGIS integrates with other open-source geographic information systems and extends its capabilities. It is mostly used for terrain analysis, disaster risk reduction, and environmental resource mapping.

QGIS

Key Features

  • Data capturing
  • Overlaying
  • Spatial analysis
  • Create, edit, manage, and export data

Pros

  • Multiple plugins and tools that can be customized
  • User-friendly interface

Cons

  • It can be made more image analysis friendly

Tool #9: GRASS GIS

GRASS refers to Geographic Resources Analysis Support System and is a tool for land management and environmental planning. It is an open-source GIS software that offers tools and programs for several tasks. This includes image processing, data management, spatial modeling, graphic production, and data visualization.

Companies looking for a GIS package that can help in terrain manipulation must consider GRASS as the top option.

GRASS GIS

Key Features

  • Image processing
  • Raster analysis
  • Vector analysis
  • Geocoding

Pros

  • 350 robust vector and raster manipulation tools
  • Intuitive GUI and reliability

Cons

  • Not useful in cartographic design
  • Data management is complicated

Tool #10: OpenJump

This free GIS software, written in JAVA, is capable of handling large sets of data. It boasts functionalities that enable users to read and write shapefiles, read different spatial databases, and interpret various vector formats. One more striking feature it offers is the ability to edit geometry. OpenJump allows users to analyze buffers, overlays, and vector data.

It is proficient at letting you create pie charts, plotting, and choropleth maps. Moreover, OpenJump GIS plugins add to its capabilities. Whether you need a plugin for raster, editing, printing, web processing, spatial analysis, or databases, it provides them all.

OpenJump

Features

  • Chart data
  • Layer editing
  • Geometry data

Pros

  • Editing geometry and attribute data
  • Customize the appearance of your information

Cons

  • Changes you make often go unsaved; thus, you need to keep backups for any ongoing work

Tool #11: uDig

This is a free GIS software that encapsulates its functionalities in its name.

It’s super cool and catchy:

  • u – user-friendly interface
  • D – Desktop; you can run uDig on Windows, Mac, and Linux
  • i – internet-oriented consuming standard; this includes WMS, WFS, or WPS
  • g – GIS-ready for complex analytical capabilities

uDig is most suitable for elemental mapping. With its Mapnik, you can import base maps with the same tune as ArcGIS offers. Built with Eclipse Rich Client (RCP) technology, it aims to provide a user-friendly framework to build complex analytic data. 

uDig

Features

  • Drag and drop interface
  • Editing tools
  • Vector operations
  • Import base maps

Pros

  • Works as an independent application or an extension with RCP plugins
  • It’s catalog, symbology, and Mac OS functionality makes it robust and powerful

Cons

  • Limited tools to personalize the data
  • Processing speed is quite slow

Tool #12: SAGA GIS

SAGA GIS specializes in the automated geoscientific analysis. Though it started for terrain analysis, it is now jam-packed with a growing set of geoscientific methods. It is the perfect free GIS software for the geoscientific community.

As an interactive GUI, it enables users to visualize and manage geographic data with the help of maps, graphs, and histograms. Additionally, it allows multiple windows to showcase all your analysis. It has the best morphometry tools, including SAGA topographic wetness index and topographic position classification.

SAGA GIS

Features

  • Intuitive GUI for data management, visualization, and analysis
  • Framework-independent function development
  • Object-oriented system design
  • Geo-referencing projections

Pros

  • Can handle large volumes of vectors and information
  • Leverage the benefits of using raster and spatial information in any format

Cons

  • Cannot use for cartography as the main working subject
  • Every element you add appears separately; thus, making it annoying at times

Tool #13: 

When it comes to performing advanced geospatial data analysis, Whitebox GAT is the perfect GIS tool. With applications in both – environmental research and geomatics industry – it is the most powerful open-source GIS software your company can benefit from for its requirements.

Whitebox Geospatial Analysis Tools make use of LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) data that enables users to explore natural and human-made environments precisely. Furthermore, it possesses functionalities for hydrodynamic modeling, storm surge modeling, and shoreline modeling.

Whitebox GAT

Features

  • LIDAR data
  • Image processing tools
  • Hydrology tools
  • GIS tools

Pros

  • Over 410 tools to clip, convert, analyze, buffer, manage, and extract geospatial information
  • Open access and remote sensing GIS package

Cons

  • You cannot integrate it into other software and open-source GIS projects

Tool #14: GVSIG

The last on our list is gvSIG – free and open-source GIS software that hosts the largest professional network of open-source geomatics. It lets users create layouts and access to different geoprocessing networks easily.

When it comes to 3D visualization, no other software can beat gvSIG system software. Its CAD tools enable you to edit vertices, trace geometries, snap and split lines, and polygons. Moreover, gvSIG’s mobile app helps companies to maintain track of fieldwork with its GPS tools. 

GVSIG

Features

  • 3D and animation
  • Vector representation
  • Raster and remote sensing
  • Topology

Pros

  • It works with different vector formats
  • It poses advanced tools for spatial analysis

Cons

  • Labeling vector information doesn’t fit the presentation
  • Limited options to change the layout of fields in the table

Some businesses may require open-source GIS software that prioritizes topographical analysis, whereas some need cartography analysis. Thus, it is advisable to determine your business needs first and then find the right fit.

Now that you are familiar with so many tools for geospatial imagery and analysis, jot down your business requirements and let our blog help you choose the one that best fits your needs!

If you are already aware of any of these, then which one did you like the most? Let us know below in the comments section.

Nilam Oswal
Nilam Oswal is a Content Marketing Head and Brand Strategiest at SoftwareSuggest. When she's not hard at work, she can be found wandering, reading, and just generally having a good time in life.

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