Open Source Mapping Software: Best GIS Tools

Nowadays, there is a wide variety of free and open source mapping software platforms (widely known as GEO or GIS tools).

They are not only for map making and drawing but allows you to capture, store, map, share, manage, and analyze large quantities of geographical and spatial data within a single database for free.




Open Source GIS (Geographic Information Systems) softwares, makers, and apps come with a wide variety of features and types such as 3D GIS mapping, mobile or Android GIS, map routing, and etc.

On this page, we collected a list of 10 best open source map making software tools.

1. QGIS

QGIS open source mapping software screenshot

This leading free and open source Geographic Information System has it all to create, edit, visualize and effectively analyze geospatial information on Windows, Mac, and Linux. In addition, Android QGIS is coming soon.

QGIS is a very powerful but easy-to-use mapping tool and a has a massive support base. Its solid support from the global community is legendary.

You can extend its functionalities with python scripting and a variety of community plugins. It is suitable for beginner and advanced users.

Key features and benefits:

  • Continuously growing capabilities provided by functions and plugins.
  • View and overlay vector and raster data in many different formats.
  • Compose maps and interactively explore spatial data.
  • Create, manage and export vector and raster layers in a variety of formats.
  • Perform spatial data analysis on spatial databases or other OGR- supported formats.
  • Publish maps on the Internet.
  • External Python plugins.

Website: www.qgis.org

2. GeoDa

GeoDa Open Source GIS Software Screen Shot

If you are searching for free and open source GIS software that focuses on spatial data analysis and allows you to discover valuable insights by exploring and modeling spatial patterns, GeoDa can be your answer.

Its key functionality is geostatistics. It is a pretty powerful platform with an intuitive interface that allows you to add multiple formats such as shapefile, table format (CSV, XLS), GeoJSON, and etc.

GeoDa is a mapping software of choice for many lab users at universities such as Harvard, Cornell, and MIT.

It runs on Windows, MacOSX, and Linux (Ubuntu).

Key features and benefits:

  • Supports a larger variety of vector data in different formats such as shapefiles, geodatabases, GeoJSON and more.
  • You can load data from CartoDB tables.
  • Exploring the results of statistical models (such as linear regression models) through different types of graphs and maps.
  • You can easily explore statistical patterns across space and time.
  • You are able to add a base map to any map view, including cluster maps.
  • Averages Chart that compares values.
  • A scatter plot matrix that allows you to study multiple bivariate data examples and correlations at once.
  • Maps patterns of several classic non-spatial cluster techniques and many other features.

Website: http://geodacenter.github.io/

3. uDig

uDig open source mapping software screenshot

If you need basic mapping, you can consider uDig. It is a simple open source mapping software (EPL and BSD) and desktop application framework that is built with Eclipse Rich Client (RCP) technology.

uDig provides a Java solution for desktop GIS data access, editing, and viewing. The uDig acronym stands for: User-friendly, Desktop located, Internet-oriented and GIS-ready.

It’s an open source GIS software for basic mapping. This application runs on Windows, Linux, and Mac OS.

Key features and benefits:

  • Can be used as a stand-alone application.
  • Can be extended with RCP “plug-ins”.
  • Provides a familiar graphical environment for GIS users.
  • Internet-oriented – consuming standard (WMS, WFS, WPS) and de facto (GeoRSS, KML, tiles) geospatial web services.
  • User-friendly.
  • Has a catalog of webmap tiles.

Website: http://udig.refractions.net/

4. GRASS GIS

GRASS GIS 3D example

When it comes to best open source mapping software, GRASS GIS is for sure one of the stars here.

GRASS GIS (Geographic Resources Analysis Support System) is a free and open source GIS software tool for geospatial data management and analysis, graphics and maps making, image processing, and spatial modeling.

It also is some kind of open source data visualization software. GRASS GIS offers a great functionality including 3D vector support.

The program runs on Windows, Linux, and Mac OSX.

Key features and benefits:

  • Includes over 350 modules to render maps and images on monitor and paper.
  • Able to manipulate raster, vector data, and vector networks.
  • Works with multispectral image data.
  • Manages and stores spatial data.
  • Intuitive graphical user interface.
  • Interfaces with printers, plotters, databases, and digitizers.
  • Raster analysis and 3D-Raster (voxel) analysis.
  • Point data analysis.
  • Visualization: 3D surfaces with 3D query (NVIZ), Histogram presentation, Map overlay, Raster maps, Vector maps and etc.
  • Geostatistics: Interface to “R”.

Website: https://grass.osgeo.org

5. gvSIG

gvSIG mapping software print screem

gvSIG is known for its huge variety of features. It has also remote sensing capabilities. For example, you can perform supervised classification, image profiles, band algebra, decision tree examples, mosaics, scatter plot and etc.

gvSIG is a desktop, 3D, and mobile GIS. It is a very powerful but user-friendly free and open source mapping software (GIS) used by thousands of users in the World.




gvSIG comes with 3 types: Desktop, Online, and Mobile. gvSIG Mobile is a great solution for data collection on Android devices.

Supported operating systems: Windows, Linux, Mac OSX.

Key features and benefits:

  • A powerful, user-friendly, interoperable GIS.
  • Works easily in a variety of formats, vector and raster files, databases and remote services.
  • gvSIG Desktop is designed to be an easily extensible.
  • gvSIG Online is the integral platform for the SDI.
  • Fast and powerful solutions to manage the spatial data of an organization efficiently.
  • Successfully used in many private businesses and supranational organizations.
  • gvSIG Online allows you to share geographic information in the cloud, easily generate maps and 2D and 3D applications.
  • gvSIG Mobile has a comprehensive set of tools for applications and tasks.

Website: www.gvsig.com

6. OpenJUMP

OpenJUMP open source mapping print screen

OpenJUMP is a relatively popular open source mapping software and GIS tool written in the Java. Group of volunteers around the world, maintain the system.

It is a simple application that can read and write shapefiles simple GML files and several other vector formats via plugins.

OpenJUMP is not a comprehensive program with many features, but if you are looking for a simple and easy-to-use solution, it might be your answer. Its key power is the editing of geometry and attribute data.

Supported operating systems: Windows, Linux, and Mac OSX.

Key features and benefits:

  • Can read and write vector formats via plugins.
  • Can read from different spatial databases and write to postgis.
  • Has a good support for images and for WFS and WMS web-services.
  • Editing of geometry and attribute data.
  • Vector analysis tools for topologic analysis and overlay operations.

Website: www.openjump.org/

7. SAGA GIS

SAGA GIS open source mapping print screen

The software was initially designed for (geo-)scientists and has grown to become one of the best free and open source GIS software for a variety of users worldwide.

SAGA provides a comprehensive and constantly growing suit of geoscientific methods. It is also great for remote sensing because of its rich library grid and terrain processing capabilities.

Runs under Windows and Linux. SAGA is in the object-oriented C++.

Key features and benefits:

  • You can lay out many types of data analysis (with the help of maps, scatter plots, histograms, etc).
  • Excellent range of capabilities for geodata processing and analysis.
  • An easily approachable user interface with many visualization options.
  • Framework independent function development.
  • GUI for intuitive data management.
  • Portable.
  • Vector tools.
  • Image analysis, terrain analysis, and geostatistics.

Website: www.saga-gis.org/

8. MapWindow

MapWindow mapping software print screen

Another best open source mapping software tool. The software lets you perform GIS application the standard functions GIS users want to see – map viewer, identify features, print layout and etc.

MapWindow GIS comes with a pretty good user interface and holds numerous compelling advantages for businesses worldwide. The MapWindow GIS goes with an extensible plugin architecture, a GIS ActiveX control, and C# GIS programmer library called DotSpatial.

Runs under Windows.

Key features and benefits:

  • One of the most user-friendly GIS desktop applications.
  • It is easy to modify.
  • Uses various design patterns and best practices like dependency injection, MVC, MVP, MEF.
  • Multi-threading and multi-tasking.
  • SOLID principles аре applied throughout the code.
  • The plugins are complex and do multiple tasks.

Website: www.mapwindow.org

9. ILWIS

ILWIS mapping software screenshot

ILWIS short from Integrated Land and Water Information System is a GIS and remote sensing open source mapping software.

It integrates image, vector, and thematic data in one simple but powerful package. You will see an extensive range of features such as import/export, editing, analysis and production of quality maps.

ILWIS is known for its functionality, user-friendliness and a highly interactive desktop application.

Runs on  Windows only.

Key features and benefits:

  • Visualization and manipulation of raster, vector and tabular data.
  • 3D analysis of spatial temporal events.
  • Multitask operations.
  • Educational platform for teaching GIS and RS.
  • Python for automation of repetitive procedures.
  • Remote sensing tools.
  • Visualization in 3D and animation.
  • Basic and advanced analysis.
  • Next Generation Roadmap.

Website: https://52north.org

10. OrbisGIS

OrbisGIS open source mapping software screen shot

For those who are searching for a cross-platform open source mapping software created by research and for research, Diva GIS has what to show.

OrbisGIS provides new techniques to model, process, and share spatial data. It is very easy to monitor geographical territories and manages their evolution.




OrbisGIS is developed by a team of researchers and engineers who specialized in geography, geoinformatics, and statistic.

Runs on Linux, Windows and Mac OS.

Key features and benefits:

  • 100% Java
  • Lightweight (less than 40mo).
  • Standalone – no installation or admin rule needed.
  • Data formats: SHP, GeoJson, OSM, KML, and others.
  • GIS techniques to share spatial data.
  • Seamlessly integrated with spatial databases.

Website: http://orbisgis.org/

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.