Quantum GIS (QGIS)


Name: QGIS
$: Free
Example: Overcrowding in Cambodian Prisons (featured image by Mathieu Pellerin), Documented Kidnappings in Mexico, Al-Shabaab Attack Kenya
Level: Intermediate to Advanced depending on project complexity
Use For: Visually representing research; Conducting geographic analysis


QGIS can be used to edit and analyze geographic information, as well as generate a wide variety of static maps. QGIS is a free, open source software that supports vector data, raster data, GRASS data, and online spatial data. There are a variety of plugins that expand on the features listed below.


At its most basic level QGIS can be used to layer geographic files on each other to produce a map. The user can choose the symbology that is used, what aspect of the feature is visualized, and whether features are labelled. The user can choose the zoom level of the map. There are various items that can be added to the map, including a scale, title, and legend. Other mapping projects can also be embedded into a map. Screenshots of the map or layer can be saved as georeferenced images.



The user can create and edit shapefiles and GRASS vector layers. These files can be reprojected as needed. The user can also import data from GPS tools or use OpenStreetMap data. QGIS has tools to help the user manage attribute tables and spatial database tables. Edited files can be exported in several formats.


QGIS is able to conduct vector analysis, sampling, geoprocessing, geometry and database management. The GRASS Plugin and the Processing Plugin give the user access to a wider variety of geoprocessing tools. For more information about GRASS GIS click here.




Name: Leaflet
$: Free
Example: The Ellis Act
Level: Advanced
Use For: Visually representing research


Leaflet is a JavaScript library that allows the user to embed maps into websites. Their website has tutorials which explain the code needed to create different kinds of maps and a page which clearly outlines their API. Leaflet can be used on a variety of desktop browsers and mobile devices. Many plugins have been developed to expand the capabilities of Leaflet.


Maps are interactive with popups and zoom. Layers, such as markers and polygons, can be added. Leaflet is compatible with OpenStreetMap, Mapbox, CartoDB, and ArcGIS maps.