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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!


GeoNB – the ‘All Things Geographic’ place for New Brunswick data

logo_GeoNB_globe

GeoNB – ‘All Things Geographic’ for New Brunswick data

Last year I featured GeoNB, New Brunswick’s approach to publicly available geographic information for the entire province of New Brunswick [see the previous article here if you missed it]. This valuable resource by Service New Brunswick provides a robust web mapping application, value-added products, various applications and extensive collection of open source data sets. Not to mention an outstanding web GIS application that stands out from others and one that earned them an Esri Canada Award of Excellence award last fall at the Esri User Conference in Fredericton.

GeoNB currently includes a wide variety of data sets for the entire province including digital topographic layers, orthophotos, property maps and much more. On top of having one of the best online mapping applications available they also provide access to download any of these digital data sets in a variety of formats for people to use in their own GIS software packages.

“Created by Service New Brunswick, GeoNB is a spatial data infrastructure (SDI) that uses geographic information system (GIS) technology to provide an efficient, collaborative and open data-sharing environment with key partners and users across the province.” [source: esri.ca]

geonb_portal

Over the past 4 years public usage of New Brunswick spatial data has increased significantly, with the average traffic to the site increasing from 5 thousand to over 13 thousand visitors every week. To meet the growing demand, they recently upgraded their geographic information gateway, building upon existing GeoNB initiatives and ensuring that residents of New Brunswick have easy access to geospatial information, pre-built maps and free online applications .

Basically the new site becomes the “All Things Geographic” place for New Brunswick’s geographic content consolidated and organized into one easy to use location. An initiative that helps encourage the creation of new geospatial products and solutions from geographic data that has been collected, maintained, and distributed using open data accepted standards. The new geographic portal is visually pleasing, well laid out making it easy to navigate and appeals to a wide audience. Everyone can take advantage of this free service from home owners that would like to know more about their property, developers seeking better sites for development, and those more advanced GIS users that want to use their own GIS software.

“Service New Brunswick has done exceptionally well in promoting the use of geographic knowledge for various applications through the province’s SDI,’ says Alex Miller, president, Esri Canada.” In a time when governments face greater financial constraints, they have created a cost-effective system for opening up valuable data and applications to benefit everyone. GeoNB serves as a model of intelligent government service delivery for others to follow.”
“GeoNB has quickly become a popular tool with the public because it’s easy to use and saves users valuable time and money,” notes Bernie Connors, SDI manager at Service New Brunswick. “It also eliminates duplicate efforts and additional costs for our partners through shared data and infrastructure.” [source: esri.ca]

There are some new geospatial applications that were designed to support various ongoing government programs including wetland conservation, flood damage reduction, protected areas management, as well as a coordinate transformation service that converts coordinates between datums and map projections. geonb_applications_smThere are 4 key sections that include the Data Catalogue, Applications, Map Products and the new GIS Developer’s Corner. Each section will continue to grow and develop with new datasets and tools as inferred by the GeoNB Action Plan.

The Data Catalogue contains over 35 different geographic datasets in a wide range of formats that are available to download free. Here they simplified things pretty well making data very easy to find. Using a table format they provide the name of the dataset, link to more info about it, thumb nails for quick view, date the data was created, formats available and links to download data. This will be the section that most GIS people looking for data where go to.

The Applications section provides access to over 10 custom designed applications that combine datasets and value-added functionality. These tools have a broad range of uses but have mainly been tailored to different intended users and include everything from the popular web map viewer (read more details about the map viewer here) and Coordinate Transformation Service to more specialised viewers aimed at those in Oil and Gas or Wetlands Mapping. Certainly worth a look if you are just curious about learning more about New Brunswick.

geonb_applications_flood_information

The Map Products section contains more pre-made value-added off the shelf mapping products such as static maps that have been generated to convey certain information. Again here they offer a broad range of products tailored to different intended users; but unlike most of the other products on the site, these are more traditional finished map products. This section will appeal more to those that need maps but do not have the ability to create their own.

The GIS Developer’s Corner is a place where people can leverage more geomatics technology and intelligence making use of some applications that allow them to go beyond the basic functionality such as using the open data sources as a live map service instead of downloading (this is one of the features that I like and now use when generating maps for area in New Brunswick). GeoNB utilizes ESRI ArcGIS Server and has made data available as ArcGIS Server map services to those that have the ability to take advantage of it.

logo_geonb_folder

So I am sure by now you get the idea. Once again the team at Service New Brunswick have done a great job promoting and increasing the use of geographic data and maps in New Brunswick. From a new easy to use new geographic portal (in both French and English) that provides people with plenty of data and a wide range of robust applications GeoNB continues to stand out among the rest. But again don’t just take my word about it, go over to the new portal your self, make use of some of the data and tools and let the folks at Service New Brunswick know they are doing a great job.

[Sources: http://www.esri.ca/en/content/new-brunswick-data-usage-increases-significantly-through-geonb – http://www.snb.ca/geonb1/e/index-E.asp – http://canadiangis.com/geonb-map-viewer-free-new-brunswick-digital-data-sets.php – and Service New Brunswick staff]


Python Scripting for ArcGIS

Python Scripting for ArcGIS

Python Scripting for ArcGIS, released by Esri Press, is a helpful guide created for experienced Esri users as a way to help them get started using python scripting without the need of any previous programming experience.

Python Scripting for ArcGISPython Scripting for ArcGIS assumes that readers will be familiar with ArcGIS and GIS geoprocessing concepts and concentrates more on the scripting languages side of ArcGIS. Instead it teaches you how to write python code to use with spatial data to create custom tools to automate geoprocessing tasks.

“Key topics in this book include Python language fundamentals, automating geoprocessing tasks, exploring and manipulating spatial data, working with geometries and rasters, map scripting, debugging and error handling, creating functions and classes, and creating and sharing script tools.” Esri Press

The detailed exercises in the book correspond with available online data available from the Esri Press book resource page.

You can check out the exercise chapters that pertain to the chapters in the book before purchasing the book as they provide the exercise chapters that you can download here and the online data can be downloaded here. Amazon also provides a “Look Inside” feature where you can preview random pages of the book before purchasing.

And if you do not have access to ArcGIS then you can get a full free 60 day trial from Esri .

Below are some some pages from Python Scripting for ArcGIS:

Python Scripting for ArcGIS - sample 3 Python Scripting for ArcGIS - sample 1Python Scripting for ArcGIS - sample 2

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.

 


Canadian Geospatial Directory

The Canadian Geospatial Directory contains basic information about the various Geomatics related companies found in and around Canada (with some from abroad) including many key aspects such as the companies basic info, contact info, web site info and geographic location.

We started adding content to the directory using our own database of 1000+ Canadian companies and organizations from coast to coast that work in the geomatics field. However, it is time for the Canadian Geomatics community to help us further fill out the directory by contributing more information to existing listings and adding new listings for companies and services that have yet to be included.

All this is free, so find out how you can help add information about your Canadian company or organization …

E-Book for International Geospatial Job Seekers

The International Employment Guide to Geospatial Careers in Canada is an e-book designed for international geospatial job seekers looking to move to Canada to work in GIS, remote sensing, surveying, geodesy, and geomatics engineering.

This guide brings together a wealth of information and expert advice in one easy-to-read manual.

GIS Software category added to Geo-matching

GIS software

A new category for GIS Software was recently added to Geo-matching’s product categories. Adtollo, a Swedish software developer and supplier was the company to list in the new GIS software category. Topocad, by Adtollo is 3D CAD based software used for surveying, GIS mapping,  and point cloud processing. The software is considered by many to be a complete package for all uses from the field surveys right up to the finished map designs.

Products in the GIS software category will compare general software specifications, as well as details about storage, interoperability and data analysis. Click here for more details, or to add your own GIS Software to the category,

Geo-matching (www.geo-matching.com) is an independent geomatics and hydrographic product comparison website featuring detailed comparisons with user reviews for more than 800 products. The site helps guide users through the maze of product specifications and provides them the opportunity to compare products from different suppliers and read other professionals’ reviews in order to reach a balanced judgment before buying.

Geo-matching brings together the highly valued Hydro International and GIM International product surveys all in one place. Just some of the categories on offer include Digital Aerial Cameras, GNSS Receivers, Mobile GIS Systems – Hardware and Software, Mobile Mappers, Photogrammetric, Imagery Processing Software, Point Cloud Processing Software, Remote Sensing Image Processing Software, Terrestrial Laser Scanners, Total Stations, and UAS for Mapping and 3D Modelling.

Visit www.geo-matching.com to browse through the products, upload a product or leave a review. Feel free to contact sybout.wijma@geomares.nl for more information.

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.

Acadia University – Master of Science in Applied Geomatics

Acadia University Master of Science in Applied Geomatics

Acadia University teamed up with COGS (Centre of Geographic Sciences) in 2005 to provide a unique joint Master of Science in Applied Geomatics program. The Masters program is a full 2 year program of collaborative technical coursework, research and data analysis, where graduate students spend 2 semesters at COGS (or AGRG – Applied Geomatics Research Group), 2 semesters at Acadia University (Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences) and then 2 semesters on their thesis research at either schools. This unique faculty offers students to complete their Thesis / Research Project under joint supervision with a combination of technical and academic emphasizes.

“The fundamental relevance of this program is that its graduates will be fully competent to tackle existing or predicted environmental problems, from solid theoretical and practical foundations, using a variety of skills, and an array of new technologies. Graduates of this program will become society and industry leaders in: mapping, planning, analysis, understanding and stewardship of the natural environment.”

 

The joint collaboration between the two education institutes allows students to further build upon their solid undergraduate foundation that they got from their University degree, adding skills in research, analysis, interpretation and presentations. This method is believed to provide students with an added edge to help them better compete in the Geomatics industry. COGS & AGRG help provide students with the latest Geomatics software and technology while Acadia provides students with scientific tools and accredited resources. For example AGRG is one of the few education institutes in North America that have their own LIDAR survey equipment allowing students to gain more experiences from their research that they may not obtain from other schools.

Contact

Dr. I. Spooner
(902) 585-1312 / ian.spooner@acadiau.ca for further information

See the Acadia Graduate program web page for more details.

[source: acadia.ca / COGS & Acadia Alumni]

 

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

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