3 What is QGIS?

From the QGIS website, “QGIS is a user friendly Open Source Geographic Information System (GIS) licensed under the GNU General Public License. QGIS is an official project of the Open Source Geospatial Foundation (OSGeo). It runs on Linux, Unix, Mac OSX, Windows and Android and supports numerous vector, raster, and database formats and functionalities.”

Let’s unpack some of that.

QGIS is a desktop GIS. That means you get a program that opens up on your computer as a window with buttons you can click, forms you can fill out to do tasks, and it’s generally a visual interactive experience (as opposed to commandline programming in a terminal). Often this kind of interface is called a Graphical User Interface or GUI (often pronounced “gooey”) for short.

QGIS is open source. That means the code is available for you to read or modify, should you choose to, but you don’t have to. What’s the advantage of this? It means anyone can make fixes if something is wrong or anyone can add new features. You don’t have to wait for a paid developer to add something.

QGIS is an official project of the Open Source Geospatial Foundation (OSGeo). “The Open Source Geospatial Foundation (OSGeo) is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to foster global adoption of open geospatial technology by being an inclusive software foundation devoted to an open philosophy and participatory community driven development.” OSGeo supports and assists open source geospatial projects providing infrastructure and organization as well as conferences and means of communication with the broader public and education.