13 Free GIS Software Options: Map the World in Open Source - GIS Geography (2023)

13 Free GIS Software Options: Map the World in Open Source - GIS Geography (1)

Your search for free GIS software is now over

You don’t have to pay a king’s ransom to map the world. This is because you can do it all with free GIS software.

The best part is:

These free GIS software give you the firepower to get the job done as if you’re working with commercial GIS software.

We’ve ranked the top 30 GIS software applications. But these 13 reign supreme for free mapping software.

1. QGIS 3

4.8 stars

13 Free GIS Software Options: Map the World in Open Source - GIS Geography (2)

When QGIS releases a new version, it’s kinda a big deal. Because the unsung heroes of open source GIS software are back! It’s their third big release. QGIS 3!

Open source flows in the DNA of QGIS 3. It’s been genetically tailored to break the mold of commercial GIS. Not only because it’s now in 3D. But QGIS plugins still give you the power to analyze like the Incredible Hulk.

QGIS 3 is the most inventive release. For example, it brings a whole new set of cartography, 3D, and all its convenience worth its weight in gold. And it’s the only open source GIS software that can compete with ArcGIS Pro as shown in these 35 differences between ArcGIS Pro and QGIS 3.

REVIEW: The Hidden Powers of QGIS 3 (Review)

2. QGIS 2 (Quantum GIS)

4.0 stars

13 Free GIS Software Options: Map the World in Open Source - GIS Geography (3)

After the epic GIS software battle in GIS history between ArcGIS vs QGIS, we illustrated with 27 differences why QGIS is undoubtedly the #1 free GIS software package.

QGIS is jam-packed with hidden gems at your fingertips. For example, you can automate map production, process geospatial data, and generate drool-worthy cartographic figures. There’s no other free mapping software on this list that lets you map like a rock star than QGIS.

QGIS Plugins boost this mapping software into a state of epicness. If the tool doesn’t exist, search for a plugin developed by the QGIS community.

Volunteer effort is key to its success. The QGIS Stack Exchange support is impressively great. If you’re still searching for free GIS software, you’d be insane not to download the free GIS software QGIS. Here’s your beginner’s guide to QGIS to get your feet wet.

REVIEW QGIS 2 Review (Quantum GIS)


(Video) Introduction to Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Software: An Open Source Lecture #GIS #Maps

3.9 stars

13 Free GIS Software Options: Map the World in Open Source - GIS Geography (4)

GRASS GIS (Geographic Resources Analysis Support System) was developed by the US Army Corps of Engineers as a tool for land management and environmental planning.

It has evolved into a free GIS software option for different areas of study. Academia, environment consultants, and government agencies (NASA, NOAA, USDA, and USGS) use GRASS GIS because of its intuitive GUI and its reliability.

It has over 350 rock-solid vector and raster manipulation tools. Not awfully useful in cartographic design, GRASS GIS excels primarily as a free GIS software option for analysis, image processing, digital terrain manipulation, and statistics.

REVIEW: GRASS GIS – Geographic Resources Analysis Support System Review

4. Whitebox GAT

3.8 stars

13 Free GIS Software Options: Map the World in Open Source - GIS Geography (5)

Yes, Whitebox GAT (Geospatial Analysis Toolbox) is #4 on the list of open source, free GIS software. Unbelievably, Whitebox GAT has only been around since 2009 because it feels so fine-tuned when you see it in action.

There’s a hydrology theme around Whitebox GAT. It actually replaced Terrain Analysis System (TAS) – a tool for hydro-geomorphic applications. Whitebox GAT is really a full-blown open-access GIS and remote sensing software package.

Where it shines is LIDAR! With no barriers, Whitebox GAT is the swiss-army knife of LiDAR data. The LiDAR toolbox is a life-saver. For example, LAS to shapefile is an insanely useful tool. But you may need a Java update to go in full throttle though.

The cartographic mapping software tools are primitive compared to QGIS. But overall Whitebox GAT is solid with over 410 tools to clip, convert, analyze, manage, buffer and extract geospatial information. I find it amazing this free GIS software almost goes unheard of in the GIS industry. Get more useful knowledge from the Whitebox GAT Open Source Blog.

REVIEW: WhiteBox GAT – Geospatial Analysis Toolbox (Review)

5. gVSIG

3.7 stars

13 Free GIS Software Options: Map the World in Open Source - GIS Geography (6)

After QGIS, gvSIG is the next best option for free GIS software. Its features are underrated. For example, it has a field app, 3D capabilities, and a desktop application.

Despite its lack of English documentation, the gvSIG project is still easy to pick up and work with. We illustrate in this gvSIG guide and review why we like it SO much.

  • The NavTable is agile in that it allows you to see records one-by-one vertically.
  • The CAD tools are impressive on gvSIG. Thanks to the OpenCAD Tools, you can trace geometries, edit vertices, snap and split lines, and polygons.
  • If you need GIS on your mobile phone, gvSIG Mobile is perfect for field work because of its interface and GPS tools.

REVIEW: gvSIG Software Review: Desktop, 3D, and Mobile GIS


(Video) Top 5 Open Source GIS Software - Mapping in GIS

3.4 stars

13 Free GIS Software Options: Map the World in Open Source - GIS Geography (7)

Free GIS software users rejoice. Once commercial GIS software, now turned into open source GIS. ILWIS (Integrated Land and Water Information Management) is an oldie but a goodie.

The extinction-proof ILWIS is a free GIS software for planners, biologists, water managers, and geospatial users. ILWIS is good at the basics – digitizing, editing, and displaying geographic data. Further to this, it’s also used for remote sensing with tools for image classification, enhancements, and spectral band manipulation.

Over time, it has improved support for time series, 3 analysis, and animation. Overall, I found it difficult to do some of the basics like adding layers. However, the documentation is thorough with a pretty decent following for usage.

REVIEW: Integrated Land and Water Information Management (ILWIS) Review


3.4 stars

13 Free GIS Software Options: Map the World in Open Source - GIS Geography (8)

SAGA GIS (System for Automated Geoscientific Analyses) is one of the classics in the world of free GIS software. It started primarily for terrain analysis such as hillshading, watershed extraction, and visibility analysis. Now, SAGA GIS is a powerhouse because it delivers a fast-growing set of geoscientific methods to the geoscientific community.

Enable multiple windows to lay out all your analysis (map, histograms, scatter plots, attributes, etc). It provides both a user-friendly GUI and API. It’s not particularly useful in cartography but it’s a lifesaver in terrain analysis.

Closing gaps in raster data sets is easy. The morphometry tools are unique including the SAGA topographic wetness index and topographic position classification. If you have a DEM and don’t know what to do with it – you NEED to look at SAGA GIS. Overall, it’s quick, reliable and accurate. Consider SAGA GIS a prime choice for environmental modeling and other applications.

REVIEW: SAGA GIS (System for Automated Geoscientific Analyses) Review and Guide

8. GeoDa

3.4 stars

13 Free GIS Software Options: Map the World in Open Source - GIS Geography (9)

GeoDa is a free GIS software program primarily used to introduce new users to spatial data analysis. Its main functionality is data exploration in statistics.

One of the nicest things about it is how it comes with sample data for you to give a test drive. From simple box plots all the way to regression statistics, GeoDa has a complete arsenal of statistics to do nearly anything spatially.

Its user base is strong. For example, Harvard, MIT, and Cornell universities have embraced this free GIS software to serve as a gentle introduction to spatial analysis for non-GIS users. From economic development to health and real estate, it’s been used as an exciting analytical in labs as well.

REVIEW: GeoDa Software – Data Exploration at its Finest

9. MapWindow

(Video) QGIS: Finding GIS data online

2.6 stars

13 Free GIS Software Options: Map the World in Open Source - GIS Geography (10)

In 2000, MapWindow was proprietary GIS software. However, it has been made open through a contract with the US EPA called “Basins”. At this point, The source code was released to the public.

Now that MapWindow 5 has been released, it surprisingly has some serious punch. For example, MapWindow does about 90% of what GIS users need – map viewer, identify features, processing tools, and print layout.

It has some higher-level tools such as TauDEM for automatic watershed delineation. While HydroDesktop for data discovery, download, visualization, and editing, DotSpatial for GIS programmers. Also, it has an extensible plugin architecture for customization.

10. uDig

2.5 stars

13 Free GIS Software Options: Map the World in Open Source - GIS Geography (11)

uDIG is an acronym to help get a better understanding of what this Free GIS software is all about.

  • u stands for user-friendly interface
  • D stands for desktop (Windows, Mac, or Linux). You can run uDIG on a Mac.
  • I stand for internet oriented consuming standard (WMS, WFS, or WPS)
  • G stands for GIS-ready for complex analytical capabilities.

When you start digging into uDig, it’s a nice open source GIS software option for basic mapping. uDig’s Mapnik lets you import base maps with the same tune as ArcGIS

Specifically, it’s easy to use, and the catalog, symbology, and Mac OS functionality are some of the strong points. But it has limited tools and the bugs bog it down to really utilize it as a truly complete free GIS software package.

REVIEW: uDig – User-friendly Desktop Internet GIS (Review)

11. OpenJump

2.4 stars

Formerly JUMP GIS, OpenJump GIS (JAVA Unified Mapping Platform) started as a first-class conflation project. It succeeded. But eventually grew into something much bigger. Because of how its large community effort grew, OpenJUMP into a more complete free GIS software package.

One of its strengths is how it handles large data sets well. Rendering is above-grade with a whole slew of mapping options. For example, you can generate pie charts, plotting, and choropleth maps.

OpenJUMP GIS Plugins enhance its capabilities. There are plugins for editing, raster, printing, web-processing, spatial analysis, GPS, and databases. Conflating data is another option with a whole lot more from its plugins.

REVIEW: OpenJUMP GIS Software Review

12. FalconView

2.1 stars

(Video) ArcGIS for Microsoft 365 - At a Glance

13 Free GIS Software Options: Map the World in Open Source - GIS Geography (13)

The initial purpose of FalconView is to be a free and open source GIS software. Georgia Tech built this open software for displaying various types of maps and geographically referenced overlays.

Now, most of FalconView’s users are from the US Department of Defense and other National Geospatial-Intelligence Agencies. This is because it can be used for combat flight planning.

In SkyView mode, you can fly-through even using MXD files. It supports various types of display like elevation, satellite, LiDAR, KMZ, and MrSID.

REVIEW: FalconView by Georgia Tech (Review)

13. OrbisGIS

1.9 stars

13 Free GIS Software Options: Map the World in Open Source - GIS Geography (14)

OrbisGIS is a work-in-progress. Its goal is to be a cross-platform open source GIS software package designed by and for research. It provides some GIS techniques to manage and share spatial data. OrbisGIS can process vector and raster data models.

It can execute processes like noise maps or hydrology processes without any add-ons. Orbis GIS Plug-ins are available but are very limited for the time being.

The developers are still working on the documentation. You may want to look elsewhere until this project gets sturdy up on its feet.

14. Diva GIS

1.5 stars

13 Free GIS Software Options: Map the World in Open Source - GIS Geography (15)

Biologists using GIS unite! This one specializes in mapping biological richness and diversity distribution including DNA data.

Diva GIS is another free GIS software package for mapping and analyzing data. Diva GIS also delivers useful, everyday free GIS data for your mapping needs.

It’s possible to extract climate data for all locations on the land. From here, there are statistical analysis and modeling techniques to work with.

For the biologist in you, it’s worth a long look for biologists around the world. Otherwise, you should be looking at one of the top options above.

Free GIS Software List

As we have shown, there’s a bucket load of free GIS software that can:

  • Perform hundreds of advanced GIS processing tasks.
  • Generate stunning cartography and mapping products.
  • Manage your company’s geospatial assets efficiently.

Now that you have a better vision of free GIS software available to you, did we miss anything?

Let us know with a comment below.

(Video) OSINT At Home #9 – My Top 4 Free Satellite Imagery Sources


2022/04/28 – gvSIG moved down a couple of spots to #5. Updated to star ratings, instead of percentages.


What is a free GIS software? ›


What are the open source software in GIS? ›

Open Source GIS Software

QGIS and DIVA-GIS are more widely used than the others.

Is there a free mapping software? ›

Google My Maps

Whether you're planning your next vacation, mapping out your current business locations, or simply looking to share a list of delivery locations with others, this is your tool.

Which one is free and open source GIS software? ›

QGIS is a free and open source GIS software licensed under the GNU General Public License. QGIS is an official project of the Open Source Geospatial Foundation (OSGeo). It is a cross-platform GIS solution, supporting a variety of operating systems like Linux, Mac OSX, Windows and Android.

Is ArcGIS a free software? ›

Learn ArcGIS provides 21 days of free software, including licenses to ArcGIS Online, ArcGIS Pro, ArcGIS Business Analyst, and many other applications.

What is an example of open source software? ›

Popular open-source software applications include Mozilla Firefox, LibreOffice, and VLC Media Player.

What are the main types of open source software? ›

Types of open source software
  • Open source office software.
  • Open source accounting software.
  • Open source operating systems.
  • Open source website software.
  • Open source browsers and communication applications.
  • Open source IT security.
  • Images/multi-media.
  • Open source development tools.

Which are open-source softwares? ›

  • GNU/Linux.
  • Mozilla Firefox.
  • VLC media player.
  • SugarCRM.
  • GIMP.
  • VNC.
  • Apache web server.
  • LibreOffice.

Which open-source GIS product is for mobile GIS? ›

Both the tools are available on Android devices, while Input is also available in iOS. Screenshots from QField, the open source mobile GIS app. In these tools, users can setup attributes and data columns that are then populated with different data.

Which of the following is not open-source GIS software? ›

Detailed Solution. The correct answer is ​Microsoft Office. Open-source software means the source code of the software is made available by the authors.

Which of the following is not a free and open source GIS software? ›

The correct answer is Internet explorer.

Is ArcGIS earth free? ›

Is ArcGIS Earth free? Yes. The Android, iOS, and Windows versions are all free to download and use.

Is Live Earth map app free? ›

Live Earth Map for Android

This completely free app allows users access to the whole world in real time using satellite images from space. Explore the wonders of the world, look up...

What is free mapping? ›

An online resource that enables visitors to easily and quickly use maps in order to measure, search and overlay mark-up elements on maps for a wide range of useful applications.

What is open source software free? ›

Free and open-source software (FOSS) is a term used to refer to groups of software consisting of both free software and open-source software where anyone is freely licensed to use, copy, study, and change the software in any way, and the source code is openly shared so that people are encouraged to voluntarily improve ...

Is an open-source system free? ›

Nearly all open source software is free software, but there are exceptions. First, some open source licenses are too restrictive, so they do not qualify as free licenses. For example, Open Watcom is nonfree because its license does not allow making a modified version and using it privately.

Is ArcGIS an open-source GIS? ›

Open Source GIS Software | ArcGIS Supports 350+ Projects.

Is Google Earth a GIS software? ›

Google Earth Pro is a free software that, albeit not a true GIS, allows visualization, assessment, overlay, and creation of geospatial data. This user-friendly resource is often a useful intermediary for learners who are interested in learning more about GIS and want to start with more basic processes and tools.

What is the best free map making software? ›

Click here to try Maptive now.
  • Mapme. Mapme is an effective mapping tool for many different industries such as real estate, construction, event & non-profit use. ...
  • Map Chart. Map Chart is a free map drawing tool that's perfect for those on a budget. ...
  • Scribble Maps. ...
  • Visme. ...
  • ZeeMaps. ...
  • Infogram. ...
  • Map Tiler.
3 Aug 2021

Is AutoCAD a GIS software? ›

The 2023 Map 3D toolset is included with AutoCAD. Our model-based GIS mapping software provides access to CAD and GIS data to support planning, design, and management.

Why is open source software important? ›

Today open source has changed the face of technology – it allows customers to know how the code works, facilitating the development of the most innovative software. It allows reuse and recycling of code, making it easier to collaborate and achieve goals, rather than trying to do everything yourself.

What is free source software examples? ›

Some of the best-known examples include the Linux kernel, the BSD and Linux operating systems, the GNU Compiler Collection and C library; the MySQL relational database; the Apache web server; and the Sendmail mail transport agent.

What is open source software give five example? ›

Examples of open source programs

Open office. Firefox browser. VCL media player. Moodle.

What are the 3 main software types? ›

There are different types of software that can run on a computer: system software, utility software, and application software.

Is the most popular open source software? ›

Audacity is still one of the most commonly used and best open-source software two decades after its first release. It is a free audio editor that runs on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. After installing this handy little software, you'll discover everything you need to record, edit, and improve sound files.

How many types of open source are there? ›

There are over 80 variations of open-source licenses, but they generally fall into one of two primary categories: copyleft and permissive. Copyleft license is a license type in which code derived from the original open source code inherits its license terms.

How many types of GIS software are there? ›

There are two basic categories of GIS software: commercial and open-source. Commercial GIS software involves a paid license of some kind, either through subscription or a one-time perpetual license. Open-source GIS software is free for anyone to use.

Which software is used for map? ›

GIS Software. A Geographic Information System (GIS Software) is designed to store, retrieve, manage, display, and analyze all types of geographic and spatial data. GIS software lets you produce maps and other graphic displays of geographic information for analysis and presentation.

Is Grass GIS open-source? ›

GRASS GIS, commonly referred to as GRASS (Geographic Resources Analysis Support System), is a free and open source Geographic Information System (GIS) software suite used for geospatial data management and analysis, image processing, graphics and maps production, spatial modeling, and visualization.

Which is not a free open-source operating system software? ›

Hence, the correct option that is not an open source software is Microsoft Office or MS Office.

What is free and open source software give any two examples? ›

Open source software is different. Its authors make its source code available to others who would like to view that code, copy it, learn from it, alter it, or share it. LibreOffice and the GNU Image Manipulation Program are examples of open source software.

What is an example for the free and open source operating system? ›

Some basic examples of the open-source operating systems are Linux, Open Solaris, Free RTOS, Open BDS, Free BSD, Minix, etc.

Why is GIS better than Google Earth? ›

ArcGIS Earth is best for those who want to visualize, edit KML and data on 3D Globe. Google Earth is best for those who need a map of the world, find particular places in the world, or find geographical information about anywhere in the world.

Is ArcGIS maps for office free? ›

To access all map tools and content in ArcGIS for Office, you must have an ArcGIS user type that includes privileges to create, analyze, and share content in an ArcGIS Online organization or an on-premises ArcGIS Enterprise deployment. You can sign up for a free trial subscription of ArcGIS Online.

Is ArcGIS Explorer free? ›

Download ArcGIS Explorer Desktop, the free GIS viewer that makes it simple to discover, visualize, and share GIS information. It's available in English, simplified Chinese, French, German, Japanese, and Spanish.

Is Google maps still free? ›

Like others have said, Google Maps as a standalone application is a free product, but the Google Maps API is not free how you might expect — you are required to have a credit card on file to use as a subscription, even if you are in the “Free usage” tier of API calls.

Are Gaia maps free? ›

You can use Gaia GPS for free to navigate and explore different areas. With a free download, you can drop waypoints, plan routes, record tracks, and follow your current location.

Is Easy map Maker free? ›

Our service was designed to be free and low cost and incorporate some great features that are excluded from the more expensive paid services. See how easy and freeing mapping can be.

How do I get free OS maps? ›

View OS Maps for free
  1. In the top right hand corner, hover your mouse over the 'Road' button and click on 'Ordnance Survey'
  2. At first the map won't look any different, but one click on the '+' zoom in, the map will change to the more recognisable OS format.

Who uses Open Street maps? ›

OpenStreetMap is used by people all over the world – individuals, volunteers, companies, nonprofits, governments, organizations and more.

What is a GIS software with examples? ›

A Geographic Information System (GIS Software) is designed to store, retrieve, manage, display, and analyze all types of geographic and spatial data. GIS software lets you produce maps and other graphic displays of geographic information for analysis and presentation.

Is Google maps a GIS tool? ›

Google Maps is probably the most widely used of the GIS platforms. Although it is not necessarily the best tool for complex data visualization, it is extremely robust and easy to use on mobile devices, and is better for the demonstration of routes and journey times.

What are 5 examples of GIS? ›

20 Ways GIS Data is Used in Business and Everyday Life
  • 2.1 1. Mapping.
  • 2.2 2. Telecom and Network Services.
  • 2.3 3. Accident Analysis and Hot Spot Analysis.
  • 2.4 4. Urban planning.
  • 2.5 5. Transportation Planning.
  • 2.6 6. Environmental Impact Analysis.
  • 2.7 7. Agricultural Applications.
  • 2.8 8. Disaster Management and Mitigation.

Is Google Earth a GIS? ›

Google Earth is not a Geographic Information System (GIS) with the extensive analytical capabilities of ArcGIS or MapInfo, but is much easier to use than these software packages. It is available for several operating systems, namely: Windows, MacOS, Ubuntu/Fedora, and Linux.

Why is GIS software used? ›

A geographic information system (GIS) is a computer system for capturing, storing, checking, and displaying data related to positions on Earth's surface. By relating seemingly unrelated data, GIS can help individuals and organizations better understand spatial patterns and relationships.

What are three types of GIS? ›

The three types of GIS Data are -spatial, –attribute, & —metadata
  • vector data. ...
  • raster or grid data (matrices of numbers describing e.g., elevation, population, herbicide use, etc.
  • images or pictures such as remote sensing data or scans of maps or other photos.

Why is software important in GIS? ›

GIS software is a combination of functions and tools to input, store, analyze, and manipulate geospatial data. GIS software supports hundreds of tools to process the data. The database management system (DBMS) is a key component of GIS to store and retrieve vast geospatial data.

Is Google Pro Earth free? ›

Google Earth Pro on desktop is free for users with advanced feature needs. Import and export GIS data, and go back in time with historical imagery. Available on PC, Mac, or Linux. By installing, you agree to Google Earth's Privacy Policy.

What type of map is GIS? ›

What Is GIS Mapping? GIS stands for geographic information system and the map is, of course, a visual representation of quantifiable data. Compared to traditional table maps, a GIS map is dynamic and interactive.

Is GPS same as GIS? ›

Global Positioning Systems or GPS are used to find the exact location of things. Geographic Information Systems or GIS are used to record information on to maps.

What are types of GIS? ›

There are two different types of GIS data, vector data and raster data.

What is a GIS in geography? ›

A Geographic Information System (GIS) is a computer system that analyzes and displays geographically referenced information. It uses data that is attached to a unique location. Most of the information we have about our world contains a location reference: Where are USGS streamgages located?

What are the 4 components of GIS? ›

A working GIS integrates five key components: hardware, software, data, people, and methods. Hardware is the computer on which a GIS operates.

Does NASA use GIS? ›

NASA also utilizes Esri's ArcGIS Online —a collaborative web GIS that allows users to use, create, and share data, layers, maps, applications, and analytic products. NASA's publicly available content includes web services, dashboards, notebooks, and StoryMaps.

Is there a better map than Google Earth? ›

Zoom Earth is, by far, the best alternative to Google Earth you will ever find. It shows you satellite weather patterns right from the get-go, which is pretty cool, but you can also zoom in to see up-close images of streets and buildings. You can see where it is snowing, raining, or hot just by looking at the map.

Which is better Google Maps or Earth? ›

Google Earth is for the explorer

Its satellite view is higher resolution and more complex than what you'll find in Maps. Google Earth also includes a full 3D rendering of its satellite data. This way, you'll get an understanding of topography and building sizes in the place you're checking out.


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