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 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!

Dive Into Python

Dive into Python - Free download copy

Dive Into Python 3 – Free Books

Python is a widely used high-level programming language that has grown popularity in the Canadian geomatics industry over the years.

Python programming is designed to emphasize code readability, and its simpler syntax allows users to generate scripts that have usually have fewer lines of code than would be possible in other programming languages such as C++. Python can be used in ArcGIS, PCI Geomatica, QGIS and many other geospatial based software packages, therefore it is good to have some python exposure when working in Canadian geomatics.

Dive Into Python is a free book for more experienced programmers who want to branch out into python scripting. You can read the book online, or download a full copy in a variety of formats and various languages (thanks to Mark Pilgrim –

Unlike some other programming books that spend time building fundamentals and working towards building a complete script, you may find that this book skips all that and jumps right into programming. DIve into Python 3So if you are a bit of a programming novice looking for something a little easier then you may want to consider some other python books.

Just received an email asking to tell our viewers that there is now a new version of the book that has been revised and contains bout 80 percent new material. Download links to both versions are included below.

Download the full Dive Into Python PDF version here

Download the full Dive Into Python v3 PDF version here

Get GIS tutorial for Python Scripting here

The Canadian GIS & Geomatics Geo Books section has started to grow and now contains many other python resources such as Python Scripting for ArcGIS and PCI Geomatica python tutorials.

If you come across other books or resources that you think would be beneficial to our readers then let us know.

[page updated: March 2015]

Centre of Geographic Sciences (COGS)

Centre of Geographic Sciences (COGS) logo

 Centre of Geographic Sciences (COGS)

The Centre of Geographic Sciences (COGS) has been providing Geomatics related education to students dating back to 1948 when it was known as the Nova Scotia Land Survey Institute (NSLSI). Over the years since then the survey school morphed into a well established diversified training institution for geographic sciences including survey, cartography, remote sensing and GIS.

The college has evolved to become one of the largest technical education centers in the field of Geomatics with a reputation of producing some of the Canada’s best grads. The school has changed names and programs over the years but they continues to offer a wide range of Geomatic disciplines to meet the changing need of industry. A complete history of the school was published as the Story of COGS and available to download free.

Centre of Geographic Sciences (COGS) - using Total Station

One of the more popular well known programs at COGS is the Advanced Diploma in Geographic Sciences designed to add a technical hands-on component to an existing University Degree. This GIS program prepares students to join the Geomatics Industry in roles such as GIS Specialists, Technologists or GIS Analysts.

The program is broken into two semesters, the first is a common one shared with other programs such as the Advanced Diploma in Remote Sensing, the second one offers students the opportunity to specialize in a number of GIS based disciplines enabling them to build on their existing education and skill sets.

Theoretical knowledge, spatial analysis and programming is emphasized providing students with knowledge about the history of the technology coupled with the interrelationship that GIS and other sciences and technologies can generate when brought together. Students are also provided with a range of Geomatics skills beyond GIS including basic geodesy concepts, GPS surveying, Programming Fundamentals and spatial thinking / perception.

Centre of Geographic Sciences (COGS) - Flood Simulation Modeling with High Resolution LIDAR

The COGS program boosts that over 90% of their graduates find employment in related areas of their field based on post graduate survey and communication that they maintain with their alumni after the program has ended. They also have a mailing list that is maintained by the school and regularly used to send out related jobs to students and alumni all throughout the year. In the second semester of the program the school organizes a career fair where various companies and organizations such as ESRI come to the school to recruit graduates.

Applied Geomatics Research program is a second diploma meant to complement the Advanced Diploma in Geographic Sciences. This program emphasizes the application of GIS in a research environment where students are paired up with outside organizations where they work on real world projects. The GIS program has been very successful due to the significant federal investment into the infrastructure of the program providing students with the latest software products, GPS equipment and even LIDAR and high-resolution aerial photography.

“Since January 2000, AGRG has conducted applied research on the application of geomatics technologies to research questions in the environmental sciences, natural resource management and health informatics sectors. The AGRG group has a particularly unique expertise in LiDar technology, being one of the few post secondary educational institutions in the world with its own airborne and ground based LiDAR systems.”

COGS also offers a few other variations of GIS programs including a two year Diploma in Geographic Sciences designed for students that do not have a University degree, a GIS for Business program where GIS is utilized for solving business related problems.


902-825-3491 /

50 Elliott Road Lawrencetown, NS B0S 1M0

See the GIS Program page for more details.

 [source: / COGS Alumni]


GeoGeeks Fraser Valley Group

Fraser Valley

The GeoGeeks Fraser Valley Group is for those interested in spatial related things and for those who are interested in sharing that passion with others through spatial technology.

“Perhaps you like to develop custom solutions and understand APIs and programming or you’re just someone who has a use for web mapping. The Fraser Valley is on the outskirts of most of the existing mapping organizations and we want to build our own community.”

There is so much that cab be learned and shared from one another: open data, open street mapping, open source software, new technology and techniques, and more. So if you are in the Fraser Valley  area then you should get together, network  and support one other!

See check out the groups meeting page for a calender of events and to get in contact with people of this group.

[image soure: GeoGeeks FV group]