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An overview on current free and open source desktop GIS developments

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Over the past few years the world of free and open source geospatial software has experienced some major changes. For instance, the website FreeGIS.org currently lists 330 GIS-related projects. Besides the advent of new software projects and the growth of established projects, a new organisation known as the OSGeo Foundation has been established to offer a point of contact. This paper will give an overview on existing free and open source desktop GIS projects. To further the understanding of the open source software development, we give a brief explanation of associated terms and introduce the two most established software license types: the General Public License (GPL) and the Lesser General Public License (LGPL). After laying out the organisational structures, we describe the different desktop GIS software projects in terms of their main characteristics. Two main tables summarise information on the projects and functionality of the currently available software versions. Finally, the advantages and disadvantages of open source software, with an emphasis on research and teaching, are discussed.
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Keywords: desktop GIS; free software; open source; software projects

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Geography, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada 2: Ecole Central de Nantes, IRSTV, Nantes Cedex, France

Publication date: 2009-10-01

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