On this page you’ll find an overview of the GIS software that I regularly use and with what specific purpose.
GIS Software: Open source
QGis is the open source GIS Software tool for me. Widely used, lots of functionality available, sometimes via plugins.
- Lightweight, easy to use, especially for people already used to ArcGIS.
- Handles all open source formats easily (e.g. shp, spatialite, postgis) and even the closed stuff from ArcGIS (gdb, mdb).
- Googlemaps like backgrounds load blazing fast
- Making nice maps is a drag. It is possible, but there are other software packages on the market that are better at this.
Postgis is not really GIS Software but an extension to postgresql. It is a very powerful open source spatial database. I use it for most of my spatial analysis. You can view your data spatially with some additional GIS software (e.g. QGis)
- All the advantages of a database. Fast and clean, it doesn’t choke on big datasets. Making queries directly on geometry has its advantages.
- There is quite a big community online that you can ask questions to, either via gis stackexchange or mailinglist.
- Supports Vector data, Rasterdata and Pointcloud data. I use mostly the vector data option, sometimes pointclouds.
- Does not have a nice user interface
- You have to learn SQL to be able to do anything with it.
- Additional packages (e.g. R) can be a pain to install (under windows)
- Relatively slow on some tools (e.g. intersection and disjoint)
GDAL is like the macgyver tool of GIS. You have to be a bit of a macGyver to actually be able to use it. But once you get used to the inconsistencies in usage, and a bit unclear documentation, you have a powerful tool that outperforms most, if not all, other tools if it comes to raster processing. Installation under windows is best done via OsGeo4W
- Fast raster processing.
- Dem manipulation, raster calculation.
- Can create compressed Geotiffs.
- Documentation you say? There is one, but it is difficult to read and you can struggle a lot while trying to get a command to work. I’ll be writing some blogpost with examples on how to use GDAL in the future.
- No user interface
Geoserver is my favorite tool to generate TMS or WMS layers. It is one of the more easy to install and use software for this purpose. If you manage to get the webcache working you have some really speedy WMS!
- Easy to install and use
- Rest api available, which means you can publish maps in batch.
- Hard to keep track what layers and styles are actually in use.
- Standard install is usually not sufficient, you need to use this extensive guideline.
GIS Software: Proprietary
What can one say about this piece of GIS software? You love it or you hate it. As long as you don’t try anything out of the ordinary it performs well. With big datasets (e.g. millions of records in vector data) it gets buggy and unreliable. I only use it to make maps for printing and for intersecting vector data.
- Makes nice maps in a short time.
- Fast intersect tool
- Costs a lot of money
- Might be user friendly in their newest version ArcGIS Pro. So far I’ve seen everyone that starts with it struggle.
- Can´t handle big raster datasets (even though they claim the opossite)
- Gets sometimes confused with nodata values in big datasets, and gives crappy results instead of an error (pay attention!)
Turns your cheap ArcGIS license into an expensive license for a fraction of the costs.
- Snapping tools
- Clean polylines
- Thiessen/Voronoi polygons
- Best geometry fix tool I’ve seen
- Works only in ArcGIS
pprepair is the best tool for fixing slivers and overlapping polygons within one shapefile. Not only does it actually fix this, it is also blazing fast. For ArcGIS users: this means I’m talking seconds for big datasets, not minutes.Sadly you can only use it under ubuntu.