13+ (Free) Best GIS Software for Beginners [2020] [UPDATED]

At the start, everyone is a beginner but as time passes by with the experience, one gets expert in some of the other domains. For sure at the start, while we choose to start working with GIS, the first question which comes into our mind is which is the best GIS software for beginners?

The answer for the same is there are no specific criteria for something to be best, it is just at what level or percent the product helps you to carry out the activities and comes out with an output which satisfies your requirement.

best gis software for beginners 

What Is The Best GIS Software For Beginners?

This system is developed to make organizational decisions based on the data analyzed, captured, and visualized by the GIS software.

GIS works on layering in which the data is represented and categorized according to the information stored in these layers.

Anyone working with these sorts of software should be accurate in what they are doing as there is much more significant task linked to the reports and facts made from the GIS software.

Several tasks can be done using this kind of software depending upon how and for what purpose are these been taken into action.

Here are my picks for the best GIS software for beginners to use this year:

1. QGIS

Software Radius qgisQGIS comes with a wide range of database and format handling capabilities. The plugs make it grown in terms of functionality. It is an open-source Geographic Information System that is free to use for all the users. QGIS is the best open source GIS software.

Users can work on and manage different vectors layers in QGIS and perform editing on these vectors. The data hence created or mapped could be exported in various formats. Different sorts of the map can be composed of the same.

The projections could be viewed directly without converting them into some type of internal file. For composing numerous maps it provides a variety of user-friendly features to work with.

Using QGIS we not only can compose the maps but also analyze the geographical/spatial data such as analyzing vectors and managing the databases which consist of the spatial data.

free GIS software for students QGIS

KEY FEATURES:

  • Managing Data: In QGIC the spatial data is stored in one or more databases and can be managed to store and retrieve data as needed.
  • Analysis: The spatial data could be analyzed over this software with the help of a different framework.
  • Adding Functionalities: Users can add additional functionalities using plugins. With the help of these libraries, the task becomes much easier.
  • Projection of Data: The users can view data such as raster and vector in various formats in 2D or 3D.
  • Publishing Maps: QGIS allows us to publish the composed or manipulated maps to be put over inter using Geo-Server

Why Choose QGIS? (PROS)

  • It is free of cost as well as open-source hence, openly available documentation for all.
  • For manipulating data and shape, there are a bunch of plugins available.
  • QGIS can even work with Open Street Map which is itself a beneficial thing.
  • As its opensource, the functionalities as features are growing very fastly.

CONS

  • While printing it is hard to control the placement of data marker.
  • As reported by many users the software has Synchronization problems with the client device.

 

2. Esri ArcGIS Pro

Software Radius ArcGIS-ProArcGIS is the best GIS software for beginners of all. ArcGIS is a very powerful desktop-based Geographic Information System. It comes packed with features that are generally not present in other software’s which are free of cost.

ArcGIS comes in with different sharing options to share the maps and other related works with the people who are of the nontechnical background without any hassle.

Using this software a user can get deep into the datasets of GIS and complicated edits are also possible to be executed. It comes with an intuitive interface as well as User-friendly Interface for a smooth and easy experience while working with the software.

most popular GIS software Esri ArcGIS Pro

KEY FEATURES:

  • All New Contextual Ribbon Interface: For the users, this interface brings the tools in an organized order which shows the relevant tools according to the need and requirement.
  • Project Management: ArcGIS comes with a project-based approach and not a document-based one, which helps the user to get all necessary items at one single place in an organized manner.
  • Drone Data Integration: For capturing Imagery and data now Drones can be linked with ArcGIS using DRONE2MAP for the collection of data.
  • Data Visualization: In the project workflow, multiple composed maps are represented in either 2D or 3D.

Why Choose Esri ArcGIS Pro? (PROS)

  • If compared to any other alternative ArcGIS is at the top for its Geographic Analysis
  • Using StreetMap Premium the Geocoding not only improves but also becomes faster.
  • The user does get a unified and systematic 3 Dimension Integration.

CONS

  • The creation of Addon plugins is difficult as compared to other open-source products.
  • Arc Map has a traditional or old kind of interface and has not been upgraded according to other functionalities.

 

3. MapInfo Pro

Software Radius mapinfoMapInfo Pro is the best GIS software for beginners in the category of Web-based GIS. It is one of the most Power of all in its category and capable of performing complex tasks much faster.

For making decisions based on geographical data people needs to understand it first, but the raw data available does not make any sense for making decisions. MapInfo allows the users to convert and analyze that data into knowledgeable facts and figure in some easy to understand visuals.

It has a community of professionals working together for simulating new and better ideas for the formulation of problems and solving them interactively.

best GIS mapping software mapinfo

KEY FEATURES:

  • Conversion: Data available in various formats can be converted into spatial data using MapInfo Pro.
  • Query Processing: Simple Data file containing simple data selection to processing complex SQL queries, it does it all very easily.
  • Data Visualization: Using Thematic maps creating themes in Different dimensions for visualizing data to pay high impact on the appearance is possible.
  • Analysis: Using spatial analysis MapInfo lets the users analyze components such as markets and combine values.

Why Choose MapInfo Pro? (PROS)

  • The software allows the users to automate and customize the tasks which make it easier and fast to complete the tasks much faster.
  • Comes in with various visualization options to make task flexible.
  • It gives a fast and powerful Raster Spatial Data analysis options.
  • The importing of data is way easier as compared to other systems.

CONS

  • Datamine’s 3D capabilities are not up to the market trend and hard to use.

 

4. Global Mapper

Software Radius GlobalMapperDeveloped by Blue Marble Geographics, Globel Mapper which works on data such as elevation, raster, and vector. It also has a forum or a kind of community for its potential users.

It can work as both standalone or integrated one of a big Geographic Information System. From conversion to editing, it can perform it all in almost all available formats.

It allows the projects and maps to be exported even in Web Formats directly.

Maps that have surface elevation could be view in 3D format for better visualization and working. It comes with a set of different multi-functionality tools for providing various functionalities for the user.

best Geographic Information System software Global Mapper

KEY FEATURES:

  • Coordinate Conversion: Global Mapper comes with Coordinate conversion tools for converting in different supported coordinate systems.
  • GPS Information Gathering: Information can be gathered using the computer device using its GPS which can be consumed at the same time or else could be saved for future purposes.
  • Auto Classification: Global Mapper can read the data which is unclassified and automatically classifies the non-ground points and its data using several calculations.
  • Online Data Access: With Global Mapper the data could be distributed through web services and accessing that data is as easy as clicking a button and it is done.

Why Choose Global Mapper? (PROS)

  • With the help of Real-time GPS, the activities could be mapped according to the movement and create time-based
  • Powerful analysis tools to process the elevation data model.
  • It can assign real-time coordinates using Geo-Coding.

CONS

  • Landforms are a bit unpolished and not up-to-date which could be made more perfect.
  • Symbologies or color ramps on 3D data sets are very less.

 

5. GeoMedia

Software Radius GeoMediaFor producing productive information GeoMedia uses a combination of tabular and Geographical data. It provides very powerful analytical tools as well as symbolization to produce advance maps.

With the use of different kinds of database and its management services, the connection to access spatial data establishes very quickly and effectively.

GeoMedia not only uses the proprietary data but also can access open standards.

It is one of the best GIS software for beginners as it specializes in Cloud-based as well as on-premise Spatial data management platform. 

best gis software for beginners GeoMedia

KEY FEATURES:

  • Integration and Analysis: GeoMedia is capable of Integration on Census data as well as processing the data using spatial analysis.
  • Raster Tools: It comes in with the best in industry remote sensing technology for doing the best in class raster analysis.
  • Visual Representation: Representing data in 3D format gives a much interactive as well as clear picture as compared to a flat visual.
  • Creating Maps: It gives a bunch of tools and symbols to work with for the creation of maps.

Why Choose GeoMedia? (PROS)

  • As it’s loaded with symbols for creating maps, there can be a more precise and accurate representation.
  • As it has 40 years plus history hence provide customer satisfaction being such a trustful name for years.
  • Best in class maintenance of data and fast Query processing.

CONS

  • We can not drag and drop files in GeoMedia.

 

6. Map Viewer

Software Radius mapviewerThe map viewer is developed by Golden Software for doing thematic mapping and Spatial Analysis. It allows users to create a different types of maps. The process of creating maps in Map Viewer becomes easy with its user-friendly interface.

The distribution of Analyzed Spatial data can be visualized in different forms for more emphasis on the details. It gives the user full control over the spatial data and provides the tools to work over it.

With the help of various customizations to be made, it makes the data look clearer and intelligent than before. Deep customization includes stuff such as making visuals more creative and Sharp for a much more specific viewpoint.

best gis software for beginners MapViewer

KEY FEATURES:

  • Thematic Mapping: For laying a base of a map, the thematic view is the most important thing which can be easily done using Map Viewer.
  • Editing Boundaries: Various kinds of editing and retouching could be done on boundaries.
  • Visualization: The data could be represented to clients in various forms.
  • Analysis: It turns the data into meaningful facts and figures for making organizational decisions.

Why Choose Map Viewer? (PROS)

  • Thematic map production is much versatile.
  • The census-based geo-coding could be done.
  • Intuitive and user-friendly interface.

CONS

  • It does not provide a specialty in all domains and is restricted to some core specific areas.
  • It somehow lacks in web-based publishing functionality.

 

7. Maptitude

Software Radius maptitudeMaptitude does the interaction with the spreadsheets and databases which holds the Demographics and Geo-Spatial data. For identifying new opportunities Maptitude allows the management of sales and Day-to-Day activities.

With the outstanding database functionalities and features, it allows the user to connect the data to an existing layer of the map.

Adding up more functionality allows the plugins to do so. It can draw 850 plus functions.

For getting more opportunities, it translates the trends to discover Demographic Patterns.

best Geographic Information System software for beginners Maptitude

KEY FEATURES:

  • Selection of Site: With the help of Facility Location Wizard, it helps to discover prime locations based upon various factors to provide a high amount of output.
  • Imagery: Maptitude provides the visuals in 3D form.
  • Interoperability: Using different available API’s it can operate on a large scale and different can be integrated with technologies.
  • Import/Export Options: It provides a variety of import and export options like Google Earth, Excel, AutoCAD, etc.

Why Choose Maptitude? (PROS)

  • Offering best in class customer support by video-based instructions to solve the issues.
  • It manages and organizes all the files most effectively.
  • It comes in with the additional functionality of Recoding information related to sales, distance, time, cost, etc.

CONS

  • Error messages based on memory while the zoom in and out takes place very fast.

 

8. Grass GIS

Software Radius Grass GISIt is does managing the data, processing of images, production of graphics majorly for Spatial based data. It was developed by the Engineers of the branch of the US Army, for land management and environmental planning.

In current years its use for purposes such as planning and creation visuals for the commercial line. For rendering, storing, managing, and creating maps and images. Grass GIS has up to 350 modules.

It supports raster as well as vector data in 2D and 3D. It works from both the interactive GUI and Shell.

top gis softwares Grass GIS

KEY FEATURES:

  • GeoCoding: It is capable of doing Geocoding of raster and vector maps on point clouds.
  • Visualization: Visualizing Histogram presentation, Map overlay, and much more in the 3D model.
  • Time Series Support: Using temporal framework it manages, processes spatiotemporal data.
  • Rendering: It allows the rendering of maps and images in different formats.

Why Choose Grass GIS? (PROS)

  • It comes with Network analysis and Lidar.
  • It is free as well as open-source which makes its documentation available to the public.
  • Satellite imagery is supported using different kinds of available tools.

CONS

  • Not preferable for cartography and mapping.

 

9. Surfer

Software Radius SurferSurfer is used by professionals such as engineers, educators, and organizations who deal with geo-spatial data and turning it into some facts and figures which are used to care for organizational decisions.

The geospatial data can be collected, analyzed, mapped, and visualized using the given software.

For making the data more clear and showing it to clients in the form of visuals, it gives the functionality to represent it using 2D and 3D models.

It allows the users to share the content created or mapped with people for collaborations and presentations.

most popular gis software Surfer

KEY FEATURES:

  • Data collection: Using surfer the user can collect spatial data from different sources as required.
  • Classified Workflows: With the friendly user interface, it organizes and manages the workflows in a very systematic manner.
  • Range of Map types: It offers various types of maps such as 1D and 2D Grid Vector.
  • Enhanced Models: Surfer allows making complex models into easy and understandable visuals to offer better understanding and clarity.

Why Choose Surfer? (PROS)

  • Data collection makes the process much easier.
  • It is easy to manage projects and files using Workflow Manager.
  • Categorial Map templates and types to work with.
  • It can customize color schemes as well as contour intervals.

CONS

  • Resizing is a bit different and difficult as compared to other systems.
  • Some of the available colors in the palette seems a bit opaque.

 

10. GeoPointe

Software Radius GeopointeGeoPointe is a spatial/ Geo-Mapping software. It allows users to use Geographic data and Visuals to be used in the business. By deployment of GEoPointe, users can convert the data of Salesforce into action for boosting up the business.

It is used for Tracking Data, Routes, and Maps and combines them to make a desirable outcome.

GeoPointe provides a broader image of the data for making the facts and figures more clear and sharp. It comes with various optimization options for smoothing the process.

best gis software Geopointe

KEY FEATURES:

  • Calendar Scheduling: Managing the geographical data and insights on the base of the calendar.
  • Routing: Building directional routes and maps by the mappable data.
  • Managing Business: Functions related could be managed over from the software such as get the data into action.
  • Shape Library: Vast shapes and Symbols for Marking and Measuring territories.

Why Choose GeoPointe? (PROS)

  • The data and location could be limitless with Google Maps integration.
  • Based on data heat mapping could be represented.
  • Filteration could be applied over data for better results and processing.

CONS

  • While it provides a bunch of functionalities, the interface has become somehow messy and complex.

 

11. Auto CAD Map 3D

Software Radius AutoCAD Map 3DThe software gathers the information from CAD and GIS to make analytical models. For a large geographical area, Auto CAD Map 3D can map hundreds of points.

The software comes with so many integrations which makes the functionalities more interesting.

A functional product for data modification and creation of maps with reliable geometric streamlines features.

It comes with enhanced geographical estimations to be made using CAD drawing tools.

best gis software for beginners AutoCAD Map 3D

KEY FEATURES:

  • Data Filtering: It allows data searching and filtering for data precision and sorting.
  • Visualization: Applying themes and Gradients for making the model and data more attractive and easy to classify.
  • Customization of Environment: A workspace created could be made feasible and adjustable according to the ease of the user.
  • Creation Packs: It has a bundle of Templates and symbols to make things much easier to work with.

Why Choose Auto CAD Map 3D? (PROS)

  • It makes it easy to share data across and outside the organization.
  • Different schemas for managing and organizing the data.
  • Functionalities could be extended by using plugins and API.

CONS

  • While conversion takes place, the software crashes without any prior warning by which data loss may take place.

 

12. Feature Manipulation Engine (FME)

Software Radius FMEFME is a data conversion platform. FME allows performing automation analysis on spatial/Geographical data. FME focuses on the cleaning and transformation of data into maps. It is more of conversion and analysis and less of visualization capabilities.

FME has a non-profit program through which this propriety software is given free of cost.

It works with up to 275 non-spatial and spatial formats. It connects and makes a link between various structures for automation of processes and tasks.

best GIS mapping software FME

KEY FEATURES:

  • Migration: Spatial Data migration is possible from multiple sources.
  • Classification: Data organization and classification is possible for consolidation.
  • Conversion: To make data and maps interoperable it offers conversion in a wide range of formats.
  • Labeling: It comes with different text annotations and symbolic options to make territorial regions.

Why Choose FME? (PROS)

  • FME has the best data translator.
  • Personalized for conversion tasks.
  • It offers extraction of data which removes the hindrance of arranging the data for multiple sources individually.

CONS

  • Help is very minimal and becomes a hectic task if stuck somewhere while working the software.

 

13. gvSIG

Software Radius gvSIGIt’s been a decade after the software came into the market. It comes with a bundle of opensource features to work with. It is made of collecting, referencing, analyzing spatial/Geographic data into meaningful data and models.

Using gvSIG and its powerful tools one can solve complex geographical planning issues and create meaningful plans for solving it.

It was mainly developed for the use of Spanish regional authority. Through this, we can access various spatial formats such as raster and vector and work over them.

The data could be added from the local machine or can be outsourced from multi places.

best gis softwares gvSIG

KEY FEATURES:

  • Expansion: New functionalities could be added from different libraries as per the use.
  • Interoperability: It can work with numerous data formats such as raw, PostGIS, etc.
  • Visualization: The data could be shown and represented in 3D to clients.
  • Distribution: The maps and data generated could be published on web platforms.

Why Choose gvSIG? (PROS)

  • Proper and easy documentation for learning and understanding concepts.
  • It comes with powerful CAD functionality and tools.
  • Stable Interactive interface.

CONS

  • Limited community help and support.

 

14. SAGA GIS

Software Radius SAGA GISSAGA (System for Automated Geoscientific Analyses) is a GIS system with geoprocessing capabilities. It is developed in C++ language hence it is object-oriented.

Functionalities are organized in the form of Libraries, APIs, Modules. It has a specialization in high level physical geoscientific applications.

Open Source software Department of Physical Geography, University of Göttingen, Germany.

Professionals can work and implement different Spatial Data Analysis on SAGA GIS. Various kinds of analysis could be performed in SAGA GIS on raster data.

best GIS mapping software SAGA GIS

KEY FEATURES:

  • Developed on OOPS: As it is object-oriented hence supports plugins and modules made in C++.
  • Scripting: Scripting can be done via a shell in R, Python, and Java.
  • Analysis: Using SAGA data and Image analysis and filtering can be done easily.
  • Terrain Analysis: With just a couple of clicks, powerful terrain analysis could be performed.

Why Choose SAGA GIS? (PROS)

  • It is open-source and free software.
  • SAGA is a portable software and could be used without the installation from Memory Sticks.
  • SAGA is robust and user-friendly.

CONS

  • SAGA is not useful in performing cartography.

 

What is GIS Software?

Geographic information systems are made to capture, store, process, analyze, visualize, and represent the spatial or data geographic data.

These use the spatial data to gather the information and process them into useful facts which make it easier to make decisions to solve problems related to geographical aspects.

From mapping data to visualizing it GIS does it all. It is a one-stop solution for all your needs related to Spatial data.

 

Types of GIS Software

(1) Desktop GIS

These are been installed and run over the client machine itself and provides the best in class graphical user interface. All major GIS are made for this category only.

Desktop GIS comes with various interactive interface and plugins to extend the functionality.

The management over here is done through the client machine itself.

(2) Web GIS

These are deployed over web and can be accessed outside the organization.

It can be used from a web-browser for accessing the different functionalities. It also uses the server-client relationship over web.

It does not have a large number of functionalities to work with but can perform all core task of a GIS.

(3) Server GIS

Anyone having an internet connection can access the system. It works upon different sets of Protocols and Webservices.

The Server Based GIS can be either centralized or decentralized. Server Acts as a single point of contact for more than one user. It works on client server relationship.

It can work either over web or using a remote connection using the specific credentials.

The system admin is responsible for maintaining the resources and the system and managing it for the end users.

 

How Easy Is It To Use GIS Software For A Beginner?

Before getting into using any sort of technology, one should focus on the task to be accomplished by using that software/ technology.

In the beginning, everything seems to be as tough as breaking a stone but as we go one getting our hands on over to it things tend to change.

As being a beginner one should start with the documentation of the software on which the work is to be done. Moving further the templated should be used to have an idea of how things work.

Getting timely suggestions and advice would help to make things much easier and once, we are done practicing over some real-life scenarios then it’s the time for some real action.

In the beginning, I would suggest going with either QGIS or ArcGIS as these are the best GIS software for beginners to start with.

 

Who Uses GIS software?

The organizations and professionals who architects, the ones who plan the cities, urban planners, wildlife managers, people who manage natural resources.

These may include the users who may or may not be a direct potential user but are interrelated to it for some of the other purposes.

One does not have to be a specialist in using this kind of software, what he needs is to be a computer-friendly person who knows the geography and the database in which the data is been stored.

 

What Are The Features That Make The Perfect GIS Software?

Data Visualization: Visual representation should be there and data could be presented through different dimensional models.

Data Conversion: For making the data interpretable, it should be available in various exporting and importing options within the software.

Extended Functionality: The software should support multiple plugins/Modules for extending the functionalities if required for some specific project.

Sharing: Publishing Integration should be proper with well-know data platforms for uploading or sharing the content with clients and other team members.

Icon Packs: The software should provide icons and symbols which should emphasize the points over maps.

 

CONCLUSION:

The Best GIS Software for Beginners come up with different specialites in each of them. It totally depends on the end user which one to use depending upon the purchasing power and Experience level for using that software.

One should always study the market before purchasing something or choosing some new technology.

First get your hand on over to the technology for quite a few time and then migrate over to the entirely new system.

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