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Free GIS-Related Software For The Mac



I get emails all the time asking about free GIS software for Mac OS X. Unfortunately, since I don’t have a Mac, I don’t spend a lot of time looking for Mac-compatible software. From what little I’ve seen, there’s far less GIS-related software for OS X than Windows, or even Linux, and that’s unlikely to change soon. But for what it’s worth, here’s a list of free GIS-related software I’ve run across that claims to come in a Mac-compatible version (no GPS-related software). Unless noted, there are Windows version of these as well, and usually Linux, too. As I come across more Mac programs, I’ll put up posts on those additional ones, but will also eventually add them here as well.

ArcExplorer Java Edition – ESRI’s Java-based GIS viewer.

Cartes And Donnees – Bills itself as “Geographical Analysis Software” instead of GIS. Statistical analysis and display of geographical data (choropleths, cartograms, pie charts/histograms superimposed on maps, etc.). Free personal version available for Mac and PC.

CoastWatch - “The CoastWatch Software Library and Utilities is a package of software tools for working with earth data sets distributed by the NOAA/NESDIS CoastWatch program.” Added 4/22/09.

GeoJasper – Converter between GeoTiff and GeoJPEG2000. Added 4/22/09.

Geomajas – “… an open source, web-based GIS framework specialized in editing and complex attribute relations.” Apparently works with Firefox in Mac, but has issues in Safari. Added 4/22/09.

GeoMapApp: “GeoMapApp provides direct access to the Global Multi-Resolution Topography (GMRT) compilation that includes high resolution (~100 m node spacing) topography from multibeam data for ocean areas and Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) data over land.” Added 4/22/09.

GeoVISTA Studio – “GeoVISTA Studio is an open software development environment designed for geospatial data. Studio is a programming-free environment that allows users to quickly build applications for geocomputation and geographic visualization.” Note: Seems to have issues with the most recent versions of Java, at least on my PC. Added 4/22/09.

GISLook and GISMeta - GISLook adds preview capability to GIS data to the finder, supporting:

Vector data
• ESRI Shape (.shp)
• E00 ArcInfo Interchange (.e00)
• ArcInfo Coverage (.adf)

Raster grids, such as digital elevation models or land cover data with a single band
• BIL (.bil), BIP (.bip) and BSQ (.bsq) with .hdr file
• ESRI ASCII Grid (.asc)
• ESRI Binary Grid (.flt with .hdr file)
• PGM (.pgm)
• SRTM (.hgt and .dem)
• Surfer Grid (.grd)
• USGS DEM (.dem)

GISMeta lets you see the size of raster data files in the Finder. Added 4/19/09.

GMT (Generic Mapping Tools) – Set of command-line tools for visualizing geographical data. iGMT GUI available for Mac.

Grid Analysis and Display System (GrADS) – “The Grid Analysis and Display System (GrADS) is an interactive desktop tool that is used for easy access, manipulation, and visualization of earth science data. The format of the data may be either binary, GRIB, NetCDF, or HDF-SDS (Scientific Data Sets).” Added 5/9/09.

GRASS – Very powerful GIS, but extremely steep learning curve.

gvSIG – Java-based GIS viewer/editor. Started based on OpenJump, but a lot of effort and money is going into this project.

HEG – “… a tool developed to allow a user to reformat, re-project and perform stitching/mosaicing and subsetting operations on HDF-EOS objects. The output GeoTIFF file is ingestible into commonly used GIS applications. HEG will also write to HDF-EOS Grid & SWATH formats (i.e for Subsetting purposes) and native (or raw) binary. HEG presently works with MODIS (AQUA and TERRA), ASTER, MISR, AIRS, and AMSR-E HDF-EOS data sets.” Added 4/19/09.

HyperCube – US Army software for aerial/satellite imagery analysis.

JGrass – A Java implementation of GRASS with emphasis on hydrological and geomorphological analysis; uses uDIG as a framework. Added 4/19/09.

KyngChaos - A source of Mac OS X builds of GIS-related software like GDAL/OGR and MapServer. Added 4/19/09.

LandSerf – Full-featured Java-based terrain visualization and analysis program. Been meaning to do some posts on this as soon as version 2.3 comes out.

MacMap – In French, billed as a simple and easy GIS for Mac OS X only. Can’t tell for sure, but there may be a free limited version (maximum of 1500 objects) available for educational purposes.

MARPLOT – “MARPLOT is the mapping application. It allows users to “see” their data (e.g., roads, facilities, schools, response assets), display this information on computer maps, and print the information on area maps. The areas contaminated by potential or actual chemical release scenarios also can be overlaid on the maps to determine potential impacts. The maps are created from the U.S. Bureau of Census TIGER/Line files and can be manipulated quickly to show possible hazard areas.” Added 5/9/2009.

Minerva -”Minerva is an open-source program for viewing geospatial data that works on Windows, Mac, and Linux. It unifies standard GIS capabilities with high-performance, 3D visualization”. Added 4/22/09.

MSphinx - MODIS Satellite Process Handling Images uNder Xwindow. Added 4/22/09.

MultiSpec – Aerial/satellite imagery analysis software from Purdue University.

OpenJump – Java-based GIS. Has installation instructions for Mac OS X.

OSSIM: “OSSIM provides advanced geo-spatial image processing for remote sensing, photogrammetry, and Geographic Information Systems.  Backed by an active open source software development community, OSSIM solutions have been deployed on a number of critical commercial and government systems.” Added 4/19/09.

OrbitGIS Explorer – Free GIS data viewer.

PASSAGE – Spatial statistics and analysis.

Puzzle-GIS – “Puzzle is a Java Geographic Information Systems (GIS) development platform build on top of NetBeans6. The main goal of Puzzle GIS is to create a free, production ready and competitive tool as a valid alternative to commercial software.” Added 5/9/2009.

Quantum GIS (qGIS) – Basic GIS viewer and editor for now; new features added with every release. Also has built-in interface for GRASS

R – An open-source statistical analysis package. See this page for references on using it for geospatial analysis. Added 4/19/09.

SeaDAS - “ The SeaWiFS Data Analysis System (SeaDAS) is a comprehensive image analysis package for the processing, display, analysis, and quality control of ocean color data. Added 4/22/09.

SGeMS – “SGeMS is a software for 3D geostatistical modeling.” Source code only is provided; website says that you should be able to compile it for Mac OS X, but apparently no one has tried it yet, and no Mac binaries are available. Added 4/22/09.

Spatial Commander – A free German GIS program. This link (in German) lists its features. Added 5/9/2009.

Spatial Data Integrator – “Spatial Data Integrator (SDI) is an ETL (Extract Transform Load) tool with geospatial capabilities. Added 5/9/2009.

STARS – “Space-Time Analysis Of Regional Systems (STARS) is an open source package designed for the analysis of areal data measured over time. STARS brings together a number of recently developed methods of space-time analysis into a user-friendly graphical environment offering an array of dynamically linked graphical views.” Added 4/22/09.

StarSpan“StarSpan is designed to bridge the raster and vector worlds of spatial analysis using fast algorithms for pixel level extraction from geometry features (points, lines, polygons). StarSpan generates databases of extracted pixel values (from one or a set of raster images), fused with the database attributes from the vector files.” Added 4/22/09.

STEM – “The Spatiotemporal Epidemiological Modeler (STEM) tool is designed to help scientists and public health officials create and use spatial and temporal models of emerging infectious diseases. These models could aid in understanding, and potentially preventing, the spread such diseases.” Added 5/9/2009.

Thuban – GIS data viewer, raster and vector.

TNTmips (aka TNTlite) – Free full-featured version of TNTmips Pro with limits on the number of geographical objects, size of raster data.

uDIG – Java-based GIS viewer/editor.

VAPOR - Visualization and Analysis Platform for Ocean, Atmosphere, and Solar Researchers. Added 4/22/09.

  • A visual data discovery environment tailored towards the specialized needs of the geosciences CFD community
  • A desktop solution capable of handling terascale size data sets
  • Advanced interactive 3D visualization tightly coupled with quantitative data analysis
  • Support for multi-variate, time-varying data
  • Close coupling with RSI’s powerful interpretive data language, IDL.
  • Support for 3D visualization of WRF-ARW datasets

WorldWatcher - “WorldWatcher, a supportive scientific visualization environment for geospatial data, is available for both Macintosh and Windows. The software provides an accessible and supportive environment for students to explore, interpret, and analyze scientific data in a manner which allows them to emulate the work of actual scientists.” Note: This appears to be a free, but I can’t tell for sure. Added 4/22/09.

If you know of any other free Mac GIS software, drop me a line, and I’ll add it to the list.

Commercial Mac GIS software (i.e. not free)

Avenza - Add-ons like MAPublisher and Geographic Imager for Photoshop and Illustrator

Cartographica – A Macintosh-only GIS editor/viewer.

GAIA - “GAIA (Geographic Access Image and Analysis) Software … capabilities are focused on displaying any earth imagery including full SPOT or LANDSAT images and allowing users to combine spectral classes into meaningful covertypes and analyze a given area for acreage. GAIA also has full rastor/vector integration and can overlay vector maps (from MapGraphix and Microstation) onto the raster imagery to superimpose roads, geopolitical borders, hydrography, etc.”. Note: No download link, original website is down, may no longer be available. Added 4/22/09.

MyWorld GIS – “My World GIS™ is a Geographic Information System (GIS) designed specifically for use in educational settings.  My World allows learners to explore and analyze geographic data about our world.” Added 4/22/09.

Ortelius - Mapmaking software (coming soon).

TNTMips - Full version of the freeware TNTlite.


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8 Responses to “Free GIS-Related Software For The Mac”


  1. 1 Peio

    Another compilation (in French)
    http://www.gueritte.net/fr/geomax.html

  2. 2 Mark

    ImageLinker and ossimPlanet are remote sensing and 3D GIS visualization packages that run under Mac OSX. Available at http://www.ossim.org

  3. 3 markusN

    For the meanwhile flattened GRASS 6.4 learning curve, see the screenshots: http://grass.osgeo.org/screenshots/gui.php#wxpython

  4. 4 Trevor

    Adobe Illustrator with Avenza’s MAPublisher plug-in adds GIS functionality to Illustrator.

  5. 5 Tom Kralidis

    Note that http://www.kyngchaos.com/software:unixport has many popular open source geospatial packages (like MapServer, PostGIS, GRASS and QGIS) ported to Mac as well.

  6. 6 David

    +1 for William’s OpenSource GIS packages at kyngchaos.com

  7. 7 Joel

    I use R quite a bit, especially for manipulating rasters. A learning curve does exist, but it is well worth the effort.

    One more recommendation for kyngchaos.com.

  8. 8 Ajay Saini

    Support for multi-variate, time-varying data

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