Open Source GIS Software

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An Overview of Free & Open Source for GIS (FOSS4G). For the latest list click here: FOSS4G Software List

Free & Open Source GIS

A selection of FOS GIS Software Projects 2011
Over the past 2-3 years I have created a list of free GIS software projects. Though, for the list I/we consider only major projects that have established a user base or have potential to establish a bigger user community. A maintained list of GIS software can be found on the following wiki page:

This software listing was last updated in January 2014.

Our latest article, describing this variety of FOSS4G projects and with some tips for selecting free software was published in 2013 by Journal CEUS. You can find a link to this manuscript and to our latest overview article from 2010 below.

Desktop GIS

[update 8. July 2015]: As it turns out over the past years, the biggest competitors of free vs. proprietary Desktop GIS software are QGIS vs. ESRI's ArcGIS. An interesting comparison of both (from Nov. 2014) has been published in this consultancy document for the Joint Nature Conservation Comittee (JNCC, UK). Have a look!

Below you can find links to two tables that should give an overview of free Desktop GIS and projects. Desktop GIS means thereby that we did not include map web server tools or basic GIS libraries. Please be aware that this listing is probably not comprehensive and that the comparison was done End of 2007. However, some of the articles below are newer.

Accept.png OS Desktop GIS - general overview table

Add.png OS Desktop GIS - functionality table

Delete.png GIS software that does not qualify for the tables above

The tables can be altered on request. Please write to sstein[-at-] - and preferably add the tables with your changes (use for instance word doc + track changes mode)

My Articles on free GIS

We also wrote one article that provides some more information on the desktop GIS projects and additionally contains an introduction on open source licenses and FOSGIS organizations (the first link). A second article presents a better "user-oriented" introduction, but focuses also more on the general GI(S) tools for landscape ecology - and not only desktop GIS. The third article focuses on several free GIS tools, not just Desktop GIS.

  • 2008 - An Overview on Current Free and Open Source Desktop GIS Developments. (revised version from Sept. 2008 - pdf; final 2009 version DOI: 10.1080/13658810802634956)
  • 2010 - Free and open source GIS software for building a spatial data infrastructure. (revised version from May 2010 - pdf; published in 2012; OGRS 2009 proceedings published by Springer). I have also given a talk on this - see the video on youtube & slides.
  • 2013 - The 2012 Free and Open Source GIS Software Map – A Guide to facilitate Research, Development and Adoption. (revised version from Oct. 2012 - pdf; final version at Computers, Environment and Urban Systems Journal: DOI: 10.1016/j.compenvurbsys.2012.10.003)


  • Spring GIS will be "open-sourced" in the near future.
  • I also got some comments on FOSGIS from Gianni with a vendor perspective on the article and the tables
  • The GISVM project offers a Linux distribution (Ubuntu) that contains several of the FOSS Desktop GIS above (e.g. QGIS, gvSIG, OpenJUMP, UDig,..), on one CD for download.
  • There is also the LiveDVD project of the OSGeo foundation if you want to have a first look on the mentioned software.

Other FOS-GIS related comparisons

Websites with listings of free GIS software (projects)

I have to thank numerous people of the different projects for contributing information: GRASS & QGIS: Markus Neteler, Otto Dassau, Marco Hugentobler and Stefan Holl; KOSMO: Manuel Navarro; MapWindow: Daniel Ames, uDig: Jody Garnet and Jesse Eichar, SAGA: Olaf Conrad; ILWIS: Martin Schouwenburg; OpenJUMP: Michael Michaud, DeeJUMP: Andreas Schmitz; PirolJUMP: Arnd Kielhorn; SkyJUMP: Larry Becker; gvSIG: Mario Carrera; and OrbisGIS: Erwan Bocher. I would like to thank Ralf Tauscher, Jan-Oliver Wagner and others for comments and suggestions on foregoing presentation slides and first manuscript versions. The icons used on this page are from FAMFAMFAM. Finally many thanks to Gary Sherman for hosting the previous page.