QGIS – Open Source GIS Software

One of the more popular desktop geographic information system (GIS) software packages available these days happens to be a free open source software, known as QGIS.

QGISEarlier known as Quantum GIS, QGIS is a cross platform open source GIS software package used for creating new and editing existing maps. It can be installed and used with many different operating systems including Windows, UNIX and Linux etc and supports a wide format of data formats such as raster and vector layers.

Quantum GIS started out as public licensed project in 2002 by Gary Sherman, whom wanted to use GIS tools with Linux to view and analyze maps, and also had a keen interest in programming.  The software is written in C++ programming language with various integrated plug-ins are developed using Python and C++. The first fully functional version of the software was released in January 2009 and is continuously being updated from time to time.

QGIS – Open Source GIS Software

Since QGIS is open source, community driven project, the full software code with a bug tracker is maintained from the QGIS website, that is managed and operated by a steering committee that includes people from all around the world. Anyone interested in contributing to the development of the software can get information from the development section in the official website. Getting into the functional specifications of QGIS, the application lets the user to browse and view maps and edit them. Users can also create plug-ins using either Python or C++. Also, the application lets printing maps using print composer.

QGIS & OpenStreetMap free user guidesQGIS is an open source software which means all the code that is used for the development of the application is available free of cost for download. This allows any user to download the code and modify the same based on their interests and needs. You also need not pay for using the application and hence no licensing issues come into picture.

There are certain drawbacks of using open source software. The GUI of such applications sometimes lack user friendly features but QGIS overcomes this drawback by having highly user friendly GUI. Even though there are many other open source GIS applications online, QGIS has evolved to be the number one open source desktop GIS application. The reasons for the same are discussed below along with a short user guide on how to install the application and use it to the maximum benefit.

Features of QGIS and why it is ranked on top of Open Source Application:

There are various features of QGIS which makes it a popular desktop GIS application, available freely online. Some of the important features include seamless viewing of spatial data using advanced symbology. Apart from the desktop application, there is also QGIS browser which lets user access data in a faster time.

The application supports various formats such as vector, database and raster formats. One major advantage of QGIS is that it allows users to import open street map files that are also gaining popularity every day. Apart from viewing and exploring spatial data, the application allows users to edit the data by working between nodes and polygons. Users can also convert one file to another without complexity. QGIS also allow users to download and upload maps using GPS unit.

Apart from using the application for viewing maps, it also helps analyze spatial elements such as polygon centroids and matrix intersections. If you are also experts in creating maps or editing them for your personal needs, you can publish them in the internet.

With OpenStreetMaps (OSM) grabbing the attention of all start ups, essential for any GIS application to provide support for importing and exporting OSM. QGIS considers importing OSM as its core functionality and the entire process is very simple and faster. Users can easily import OSM data from the server and download to local database.

The application also supports integration with various open source packages, thereby extending the functionality. QGIS also provides an easy way of importing tiles from OSM using plug-ins. The major reason for most people opting QGIS is the availability of many easy reference guides available online for novice as well as advanced users.

Installing and using QGIS:

QGIS is a free software application, thus anyone can download and install the application on their desktop computer. They are also free to edit any data present in the application and can use both desktop and browser version for rendering data. Installing the application is very simple on a Windows operating system as you need to download and install only the installer (Mac users need to download a couple of other packages before installing the installer). These can be downloaded from the QGIS site.

Once installed, the full application is available for analyzing spatial data. There are various help tools available online in various forum sites where you can get all possible answers. But if you still find it difficult to find answers, post your questions in the various mailing lists where many experienced users give their answers. It is almost clear that most users downloading QGIS would want to create some sort of maps customized to their business needs. Hence, users will need to keep their thematic data ready which can then be visualized using the application.

This is where OSM comes into picture. Since OSM is open source, all data information can be downloaded for free. This is in contrast with Google maps, Apple maps, or ArcGIS.com since they are not open source and the information cannot legally be used for customization. Hence download OSM data and use it for your own business needs.

So now that we have given you some basic understanding on what QGIS is and how to install it, now is your chance to go try it. Since it is open source, you do not have any restrictions in downloading and using it during your free time. As and when you use the application, you should be able learn some new techniques that can be used for better mapping experience. Happy mapping!


Canada Lands Digital Cadastral Data & Mapping Applications

Download Canada Lands Digital Cadastral Data

Canada Lands digital cadastral data is used to define internal and external boundaries of Canada Lands. Canada Lands are any federal Crown lands belonging to the Crown, that are situated in Yukon, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut or in any National Park or Indian Reserve, as defined by the Indian Act. For more specific info about check out Canada Lands see Surveys, Parcel and Tenure on Canada Lands by Dr. Brian Ballantyne.

Digital cadastral data of Canada Lands depicting the internal and external boundaries is managed by Natural Resources Canada, and is made available for public use in a variety of formats. Several pre-made mapping products related to Canada Lands are available, a Canada Lands Google Earth file, and Canada Lands digital cadastral data in CAD or GIS formats. Pre-made maps are provided in PDF format at National and regional scales.

Links to download Canada Lands digital cadastral datasets:

Canada Lands Mapping Applications

The Canada Lands overlay in Google Earth KMZ format, is a handy file providing information for boundaries and parcels of National Parks, Indian Reserves, National Parks and the territories and links to digital cadastral datasets and survey plans and related maps. The KMZ file is dynamic so only needs to be downloaded once, and automatically updates via the internet.

The Canada Lands Survey System online map browser is another application by Natural Resources Canada created to help locate digital cadastral datasets and survey plans of Canada Lands. The search tools included are great for finding survey plans and related maps related to internal and external boundaries of Canada Lands.

 


Nova Scotia Online Maps & Mapping Resources

Data is a vital role in geomatics related projects and for many years we have been helping people find Canadian data resources. Here you will find a large list of Nova Scotia Mapping Resources …

Prince Edward Island Aerial Photograph Interactive Map Tool

The province of Prince Edward Island continues to do a great job at making their aerial photography available to the public and this interactive map tool is your key to finding aerial photography for anywhere in Prince Edward Island that you can then use with ArcMap, MapInfo, Google Earth or any other GIS based software as well as other non GIS uses.

Open Data Should be for Everyone

Learn QGISLearn QGIS is an open mapping initiative

 Learn QGIS : The information age is powered by data

In Canada, data drives policy decisions, business decisions and community decisions. From national conversations about social issues to local campaigns for more park benches, our decisions are guided by geographic data – and when more people have access to authoritative data, the more informed these important conversations can be.

With the government’s recent commitment to an Open Data Action Plan, there is no doubt that Canadian data publishers will continue to make high priority datasets available online. These data are touted as being accessible to all, and that’s true – but their actual use is limited to those with the technical skills to know what to do with them.

LearnQGIS.com is a new Canadian initiative to change the way open data is used. I’m asking you to check out the website, sign up to get involved, and please – this is important – visit https://www.raiseanaim.org/projects/learn-qgis to endorse the project or support it financially.

In our experience, open data publishers have done a reasonably good job of connecting with local app developers (or ‘civic hackers’), who use the data to write web applications, often in the context of weekend hackathons. These applications generally fail to gain traction – they are quickly written and quickly forgotten. There is a growing (and as of yet un-met) demand from professionals outside of the hackathon groups in a variety of industries to support their use of the data as well.

 “The world is witnessing the growth of a global movement facilitated by technology and social media and fuelled by information – one that contains enormous potential to create more accountable, efficient, responsive and effective governments and businesses, and to spur economic growth. Open data sits at the heart of this global movement.” – G8 Open Data Charter

Learn QGISMany open datasets are in geospatial formats or have a spatial component (a postal code, for example). Therefore, the transmission of GIS knowledge to those outside our industry is critical to the accessibility of open data. Journalists, non-profits, small businesses, citizen groups, researchers, and anyone else working on a professional or pet project ought to be able to download a shapefile and make a basic map. They should be able to combine data from different sources, including their own proprietary information.

“We’ve been seeing over the last couple of years a new layer of interest in Open Data and that interest is coming from people who can’t use or even understand raw data files. There is a clear need to provide ways and means for everyone to leverage raw data.” – Keith McDonald, City of Toronto Open Data Lead

Luckily, we live in the age of free and open source GIS, such as the popular QGIS platform. With a short primer on some geographic fundamentals, even non-technical users can successfully create their very own custom map. The experience, however, can be frustrating and there are many roadblocks to success. The learning curve can be steep, and the existing training options don’t adequately meet the needs of users with non-technical backgrounds. Right now we’re telling people to take a course and hope it answers their questions, or post to a forum and hope for an answer they can use. I suspect we, as a geomatics community, could help generate better outcomes – including increased name recognition for our industry – by building better relationships with geo-rookies.

These “rookies” are people who are actively working on projects that would benefit from a GIS. They’re experts in their own fields, not people looking to enter the geomatics industry themselves. What they really need is an expert guide to hold their hand while they work on a DIY GIS project, offering a little general advice about getting started, answering a couple of specific questions about the project, and helping to bail them out if they run into trouble. I like to equate it to working out with a personal trainer – sure, you could probably figure out what exercises you should be doing and how to do them properly yourself, but you’re much more likely to succeed with someone supporting you and holding you accountable.

“Technical skills are becoming increasingly important for media professionals. GIS is a growing field for journalists, and maps are an increasingly popular and important way of presenting information to readers and analyzing data dumps from governments. The program Ms. Blundell outlines would be an important resource, one that does not currently exist, to bring skills training and guidance to media professionals. There is an established and under served market for technical training and this program would go a long way toward fulfilling those needs.” – William Wolfe-Wiley, Homepage Editor, Canada.com

My vision for LearnQGIS.com is to provide this “personal trainer” experience. It’s a way to connect rookies with a geospatial guide who can advise them and help them succeed. Once an expert is on board as a volunteer guide, they are also invited to apply to be a QGIS instructor. LearnQGIS instructors receive everything they need to run a training seminar wherever they’re located in Canada, including marketing and logistical support, presentation materials, and tutorials with pre-packaged data. Revenue from the workshops is divided between the instructor, the site, and the QGIS Project.

Aside from the opportunity to become an instructor, there are many benefits to volunteering as a guide. In my practice as a GIS consultant, I’ve noticed that training my clients in open source tools has also benefitted me. They’re more willing to expand their use of the technology once they understand it. When they have the power to make simple edits they are more willing to have me do some work in the short term, knowing they won’t need to call for support if they decide to use a different shade of green for a feature. And once they understand what goes into a mapping project, they’re often more willing to pay a real expert to do the more complicated work they can’t do themselves. I’ve been playing the role of ‘guide’ for years, and it’s been a win-win. I’ve also learned that teaching others one-on-one or in a classroom is a wonderful way to expand your knowledge, and helping someone with a project can help you gain experience in a new industry.

This project already has buy-in from data publishers and leaders in the geospatial community. Potential users are enthusiastic to get started. I encourage you to get involved at www.learnqgis.com. Sign up to be a guide; apply to become an instructor. Share the link broadly – we all know someone who really should be using GIS in their work. We know our industry is important; let’s show our friends outside the sector what we can do for them.

“Access to data allows individuals and organizations to develop new insights and innovations that can improve the lives of others and help to improve the flow of information within and between countries…. We are at a tipping point, heralding a new era in which people can use open data to generate insights, ideas and services to create a better world for all.” – G8 Open Data Charter

Ontario’s Renewable Energy Atlas and Maps

Ontario Renewable Energy Atlas

The Renewable Energy Atlas was created to assist citizens be able to better recognize areas of Ontario’s potential renewable energy and provide better information. Unlike some other Provincial Wind Atlas collections, the Ontario Atlas is an interactive web application providing users to ability to create and view custom maps of wind and water energy resources from high level overviews to more detailed information. Various prepared wind & potential renewable energy maps are also available for immediate viewing and download.


Other Wind Maps & Resources


QMap – A field data collection program using QGIS

QMap - A field data collection program using QGIS

QMap – A field data collection program using QGIS

QMap is a field data collection application built using QGIS and python plugins. It is very similar to QGIS but with an interface that makes it easier for most people to use for data collection in the field and was designed to work with windows based tablet devices. Custom forms are built using Qt Designer and follows a convention based approach in order to save configuration. The application also supports QGIS project files (.qgs) so that you can easily use it with  your QGIS  desktop mapping projects.

To download the application or get more info about QMap go to http://nathanw2.github.com/qmap/

New Canadian Geodetic Vertical Datum

Canadian Geodetic Vertical Datum Diagram

New Canadian Geodetic Vertical Datum

Geodetic reference systems stem from the need to have a consistent integrated reference surface for data analysis in applications such as surveying, cartography, navigation, remote sensing and mineral exploration. National Resources Canada (NRCan) maintains the Canadian Spatial Reference System (CSRS), through the use of the North American Datum of 1983 (NAD83CSRS) and has been an adopted standard in Canada.

NRCan has recently made a new Canadian Geodetic Vertical Datum available: CGVD2013, which is now the new reference standard for Canadian reference heights. This new height reference system replaces the Canadian Geodetic Vertical Datum of 1928 (CGVD28), which was adopted officially by an Order in Council in 1935 and has been used by organizations and individuals coast to coast for the past few decades.

“CGVD2013 is defined by the equipotential surface ( W0=62636856,0m2s?2 ), which represents by convention the coastal mean sea level for North America. This definition comes from an agreement between the United States of America and Canada. This new vertical datum is realized by the geoid model CGG2013, which provides the separation between the GRS80 ellipsoid and the above described surface in NAD83(CSRS) reference frame, making it compatible with Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) such as GPS.

The height of the benchmarks is also available in CGVD2013. These heights come from a readjustment of the entire federal first-order levelling network. However, CGVD2013 heights obtained from GNSS and geoid model CGG2013 prevail over the published elevations because NRCan cannot confirm the accuracy of the heights and stability of the benchmarks derived from the aging levelling network.

NRCan is continuing the publication of heights at benchmarks in CGVD28 and hybrid geoid model HTv2.0 to assure a smooth and gradual transition period to the new height reference system.”

CGG2013 is the Canadian gravimetric geoid model of 2013 realizing the Canadian Geodetic Vertical Datum of 2013 (CGVD2013). The model comes with an accuracy model for the geoid heights. CGG2013 can be downloaded through the NRCan Geoid Models page. (User account required, but it is free to signup for one)

[image source: nrcan.gc.ca]


Ortho Imagery for Central Nova Scotia

On September 29th, 2003 Nova Scotia was hit by a category 2 hurricane that
caused extensive damage northwards across the center of the province. Over the next few months the aerial photography was acquired to create digital orthomosaics from to help access the damage created by the hurricane.

Ortho Imagery for Central Nova Scotia

Download Ortho Imagery for Central Nova Scotia

These digital orthos (MrSID image files at a scale of 1:24000) are available to the public for downloading from the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources website. The Hurricane Juan Web Map, an online mapping application is available to help spatialy define the various ortho tiles so that users know what areas each download file represents.

The mapping application contains all the compressed tiles of the ortho images with other basic layers such as roads, water, mapsheet index and damage assessment. A toolbar at the bottom is available to help navigate and locate map sheets. Data is in UTM Zone 20N NAD83 and can be used with ArcGIS.

Download Ortho Images: http://novascotia.ca/natr/forestry/gis/juanimg.asp
Hurricane Juan Web Map with Orthos: http://gis4.natr.gov.ns.ca/website/juan/viewer.htm

Did you know that the Department of Natural Resources Forestry GIS Section provides most of their data for public use, free of charge.

Here are some more resources where you can find data from Nova Scotia to download.If you are looking for certain data, but do can not find it on their site, then try their Special Data Requests page.

Some of the GIS data sets that you can download include:

  • Forest Inventory
  • Wet Areas Mapping
  • Restricted and Limited Use Lands
  • Forest Cover Types
  • Land Capability for Forestry
  • Historic Data (Fernow 1912 Forest Cover)
  • Ecological Land Classification
  • Forestry Netlin (Road Network)

Click here for an extensive list of Canadian geomatics data sets available for public downloading