Each week, the FLOSS Weekly podcast takes an hour-long look at exciting projects in the world of Free/Libre and Open Source Software. It recently covered QGIS (or Quantum GIS), which is a really nice, user friendly, Geographical Information Systems package for plotting and analysing map data. It is well worth a listen:
Some of the interesting things discussed include:
- Use cases of the software, including flood hazard mapping and plotting utilities.
- The popularity of QGIS amongst the international development and disaster management communities.
- That much of the funding for the software development comes from local governments, who saw that they were spending so much money on licence and subscription costs for proprietary packages that it would be much better value to switch to open source and use the money to hire their own software developers to add features that they were missing. (This is the same reason that the Spanish region of Valencia created another open source GIS package, gvSIG).
- That even the software developers can’t agree on whether the name is pronounced “Cue – Gee – Eye – Ess” or “Cue – Jiss”.
You can learn more Quantum GIS, and download a copy, at the QGIS website. It is my favourite tool for:
- Georeferencing scanned field maps so that they can be imported into GIS packages (Georeferencer plugin)
- Plotting up my own data with Google Maps (aerial photos or otherwise) or Open Street Map in the background. This uses the QGIS Open Layers plugin.
- Using the Map Composer to make nice pdf maps for printing, sometimes including data from GRASS GIS (another open source GIS package that has many tools for analysis).
To see a list of other useful free/open source tools for geoscientists, check out my post All the Software a Geoscientist Needs, for Free!