Open Source GIS

Mature enough for University use?
ACMLA / CARTO June 2011
Bibliothèque de l'Université Laval
Eva Dodsworth, UWaterloo Library
Daniel Brendle-Moczuk, UVic Libraries
-Define FOSS-GIS
-Why consider FOSS-GIS?
-brief background / history GRASS & QGIS
-QGIS vector workshop exercises
-QGIS / GRASS workshop exercises
-Discussion / Thoughts
FOSS developer and programmer documentation:
can know who created what and contact the creators
(example of GRASS 6.4 Raster manual: r.colors)
FOSS-GIS programing possibilities
QGIS “Plug-Ins”
So why consider FOSS-GIS?
“As adopters of open source technology, academic libraries should
consider adding FOSS GIS and becoming involved with the open
source movement.
GIS and data librarians are in a unique position as they gain
familiarity with several applications of GIS under many
circumstances, since they have patrons from many different fields
whose needs for GIS range from basic to advanced.”
(Donnelly, 2010)
FOSS desktop GIS
ESRI GIS history
-early 1980s:
ARC/INFO: command-line
-mid 1990s:
ArcView: graphical user interface (GUI)
-late 1990s: Arc 8.x
-2010: Arc 10.0
GRASS / Quantum GIS
-early 1980s:
GRASS (Geographic Resources Analysis Support System)
-US Army Construction Engineering Research Laboratory (CERL)
-mid 1990s:
US Army CERL ended involvement with GRASS with 4.1
-late 1990s:
GRASS 5.0 (GUI) with public license
-early 2000s:
Quantum GIS began with some developers from GRASS
-2011: QGIS 1.6 & GRASS 6.4
GRASS / Quantum GIS
-enough talking…
Let’s get to work…
QGIS: Vector Exercise
What can QGIS do?
View and explore vector and raster data
Create, edit, manage and export data
Spatial data analysis
Add special functionalities through plugins
Create maps
Publish maps on the Internet
Data formats supported
• Popular Vector formats supported include shapefiles, GML,
KML, GeoRSS, PostGIS, Oracle Spatial, and Mapinfo formats
• Popular Raster and imagery formats supported include
GeoTIFF, Erdas Imagine, ECW, MrSID, JPEG2000, and more
• GRASS raster and vector data from GRASS databases
• Online spatial data served as OGC-compliant Web Map
Service (WMS) or Web Feature Service (WFS)
• OpenStreetMap data
• A comprehensive suite of analysis and data management tools which is
equivalent to GIS tools in ArcToolbox, including:
 Analysis tools
 Research tools
 Geoprocessing tools
 Geometry tools
 Data Management tools
QGIS plugins
• Many plugins covering special GIS functions are available
Coordinate Reference Systems
• Support for 2,700 known
Coordinate Reference System
• Support on the fly (OTF)
projection of vector layers
• Support custom coordinate
reference systems
• Support reprojection of vector
QGIS Pros and Cons
• Open source (free)
• Run on different operation
systems (Windows, MacOS
and Linux)
• A small file size
• Easy to use
• A variety of plugins
• Supports MrSid, KML
(import and export), WMS,
• Lack of customer and
technical supports
• Rely on community support
and voluntary developers
• Sometimes not stable
Import KMLs
Download and Installation
• The current version was released on 27 November
• To download, go to and choose
standalone Windows installer
• Install the download file.
GRASS / Quantum GIS
-some quick screen shots of QGIS / GRASS functions
QGIS Plug-Ins: Georeferencer (UVic campus did not exist in 1954!)
QGIS: Display .dem
QGIS: Assign Projection to .dem
(QGIS) GRASS: Vector Analysis Tools
(QGIS) GRASS: Extensive Raster Analysis Tools
Hiking uphill with an 8 yr.old: Least Cost Route
WMS: DFO Canadian Hydrographic Service (CHS) Charts
ArcMap 10: Bing Hybrid Layer
QGIS 1.6 OpenLayers Plug-in: Google Hybrid layer
ArcMap 10: Bing Maps Hybrid (Miranda, Brasil)
QGIS 1.6: Google Maps Hybrid (Miranda, Brasil)
GRASS Raster Analysis: 7km ViewShed from La Citadelle de Quebec
GRASS / QGIS raster functions
-enough talking…
Let’s get to work…
Conclusion / Recommendations / Summary
“The change to open source requires a different mindset. Rather than
one program or one suite of programs delivering everything you
need, you go over to different programs that all communicate with
each other and use the same (standard) protocols and data formats.”
-Respond and recommend according to the needs of our students
…they all have different needs…
Geo-Spatial Data Sources
Canada Department of Fisheries & Oceans. GeoPortal WMS.
Natural Resources Canada. Canadian Digital Elevation Data.
021L/14e&w, 82O/04e, 092B/11e
Natural Resources Canada. CanVec & National Topographic Data Base.
021L/14, 092B/11e
Selected Sources
Chen, D. et al. (2010). Assessment of open source GIS software for water resources
management in developing countries. Journal of Hydro-environment Research 4(3), 253-264.
Donnelly, F.P. (2010). Evaluating open source GIS for libraries. Library Hi Tech 28 (1), 131-151.
Open Source Technology & ESRI. (2011). ARC News 33(1): 14.
Ming-Hsiang Tsou & Jennifer Smith. (2011). Free and Open Source Software for GIS education.
Sherman, G.E. (2008). Desktop GIS: Mapping the planet with open source tools. Raleigh, N.C.:
Pragmatic Bookshelf .
Steiniger, S. & Bocher, E. (2009). An overview on current free and open source desktop GIS
developments. International Journal of Geographical Information Science 23(10), 345-1370.
Steiniger, S. & Hunter, A.J.S. [2010]. Teaching GIScience with free and open source software? – A
first assessment. GIScience 2010: 6th Int’l conference Zurich, Sep.14-17.

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