Gis under Linux

Good GIS-Software is quite rare if you are a linux user like me. Usually you have no option than to fall back on software unsupported by your University and your favorite analysis-tool. As far as i know there are 3 good solutions if you work under linux. First and probably the best is QGIS, which looks a lot like ArcGis in his earlier versions and has many good plugins which i will introduce to you in this post. If you search for a function not available in Qgis (for example LCP-Analysis for habitat patches) you could fall back to SAGA, which has many awesome functions and additionally is much faster in calculations. Another nice solution is OpenJump executable with the openjdk jre.

As for now i usually use Qgis, mostly because of the intuitive handling and the aesthetics (try to produce a good-looking map for publication with SAGA. It is of course possible but no easy deal for beginners).  Under the development-version of Qgis (1.7.3) there are some plugins you absolutely need! You could find the plugins by searching through the additional repositories.

  • ftools = provides all necessary operations and tools for vector analysis. Must have!
  • Select features of visible layers = the name is self explaining and i use this plugin a lot.
  • Random HR = Generates random home ranges from a point layer
  • Openlayers plugin = With this plugin you can easily add OSM or Google Maps.
  • GdalTools = Some basic raster operations

I’m open for any other good plugin suggestions 🙂 Some day i will definitely get my lazy ass up and write my own plugins for Qgis, for all functions i am missing from ArcGis. I would also like to see that some of the mentioned plugins will be included in the Qgis main program.


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About Martin Jung

PhD researcher at the University of Sussex. Interested in nature conservation, ecology and biodiversity as well as statistics, GIS and 'big data'

3 responses to “Gis under Linux”

  1. pvanb says :

    And of course there is the GRASS plugin. It provides QGIS with direct access to the analytical power of GRASS GIS. At the same time, QGIS offers a more user friendly interface to the GRASS functions and more advanced options to make good looking maps (print composer).

    Although QGIS and GRASS are my favorites, there are other great programs, like Udig and svSIG.

  2. Curlew says :

    Yeah, you’re right. I totally forgot GRASS and its about time that i dig a little bit more into the interaction between both.
    But it really depends if you’re more the guy for console scripting or a visual interface. For example there are a lot of good packets for R as well (sp, maptools, etc…), which i really appreciate. You can do nearly everything with R and also produce nice looking maps. Have a look at this blog for examples ( It is possible to analyze your data, produce maps and put out latex-code afterward for your report entirely in R !

    I know Udig, but it was quite unstable and i bumped into a lot of bugs and broken features last time is used it. Never heard about svSIG.

    In the end i really hope that QGIS will become more and more an alternative for users like me who can’t use ArcGIS ’cause of the restriction of being a linux fan 🙂

    • pvanb says :

      The interaction between QGIS and GRASS is very straithforwards, the GRASS toolbox offers easy (GUI) access to many of the GRASS functions. It functions similar to the toolbox in ArcGIS. And it offers a GRASS console too so you have access to those GRASS functions not implemented in the toolbox yet.

      Yes, I like R a lot. Making nice looking maps is possible (I tried it out here:, but not as easy as in QGIS, especially if you want to work with multiple layers.

      If you are using both QGIS and R, you should check out the manageR plugin for QGIS.

      Unfortunately R does still has troubles with very large data sets. The raster package addresses this for raster layers, but is still not as fast as e.g., GRASS in my experience. Of course, R and GRASS interact nicely through the spgrass6 package.

      I have a dual boot, with ArcGIS installed on my Windows. But thanks to the combination of tools available on Linux I haven’t used it for over two years now 🙂

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