10 GIS Applications Every Geographer Should Know About

There are a number of different software applications that are used for the purposes of mapping and spatial analysis. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) allow for the visualization and analysis of any kind of data that has been collected to be displayed on a map, thereby allowing for the visualization of complex relationships between different elements. There are several different GIS software applications that can assist with this process, ranging from highly specialized to highly user-friendly. In this article, you will find an introduction to ten such applications, which we believe every geographer should know about.

 GIS applications

  • ArcGIS

ArcGIS is a popular geographical information system. It is software that allows organizations and individuals to collect, visualize, analyze, and publish geographic data.

ArcGIS’s primary function is to help users design and develop GIS applications and services by offering an integrated suite of tools for spatial analysis, modeling, visualization, publishing, and collaboration.

  • Google Earth

Google Earth is a 3D interactive map that allows users to explore the world in a fly-through, street view or satellite view. It’s one of the most popular mapping applications in the world for both personal use and business purposes.

Google Earth has been around for over 10 years. It started out as an online mapping tool before it was flipped into a 3D platform in 2006. Google Earth provides an immersive experience which you can’t get from traditional maps.

The application has many uses, including finding specific places that are hard to find on traditional maps, exploring remote parts of the world without leaving home, and learning about locations through reading reviews and captions

  • Quantum GIS

Quantum GIS is a platform that uses AI and machine learning to predict where to find potential opportunities or minimize risks. (*puts emphasis on the following sentences*)

Quantum GIS works by analyzing digitally-generated geospatial data from a variety of sources including satellite imagery, social media platforms, and online forum posts. It then uses this data to predict how people will behave in certain situations.

Quantum GIS is a product of a company called Quantum Geographical Services. They created the platform because they wanted to make sure their customers were safe and efficient in their work.

  • Idrisi

Idrisi is a fully open-source and cross-platform GIS application. It supports rendering, geocoding, and querying of geospatial data in FOSS. The app is currently in beta and is still under development.

Idrisi stands for Interactive Distributed Routing Information System for Independent System Integrators (IDRISI) and it is an open-source project that provides a comprehensive solution for routing information retrieval. Idrisi can be used by map developers who want to build their own applications on top of the framework, big players such as private companies, mobile developers, and many more developers who need routing algorithms.

Idrisi GIS app has been designed to give users the ability to collaborate with other users, share data, and work across platforms using a web application.

  • OpenStreetMap

OpenStreetMap is a free and open map of the world. It’s editable by anyone, and it provides basic information such as the number of people living in each town, or how many restaurants are within walking distance of you.

OpenStreetMap is an open-source project created by Steve Coast in 2004. There are now over two million registered users who have contributed to the project so far. The map’s development started when Coast created a website with the help of TomTom to show what was already being discovered about where people were moving in cities across the Earth.

The goal of OpenStreetMap is to build a completely free map that can be used for any purpose whatsoever.

  • GeoServer

GeoServer is a full-featured open source GIS developed by the German company GeoTools GmbH. GeoServer was developed to work with spatial data and visualizations as well as to provide a standard framework for developing applications on top of it.

GeoServer is used in many different fields such as web mapping, visualization, OpenStreetMap, and data processing. It is compatible with various databases such as PostgreSQL, Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle Database, and MySQL.

GeoServer can also be used for desktop applications including on Windows, Linux, and macOS platforms.

  • uDig

uDig is an app that can help you when it comes to enabling geographical information for your projects. The tool has been designed by the team at UDig, who have developed it with geo-location technology based on extracting data from open sources. You can use the uDig GIS app to visualize your project’s location, identify nearby amenities and transport networks, get information on the nearby real estate too.

One of the big benefits of using this tool is that it helps in understanding what areas are most profitable for investing or for starting a business.

  • QGIS

QGIS is a free, open-source Geographic Information System (GIS) that uses vectorial data models with an object-oriented approach. It’s used for managing, modeling, and analyzing geospatial information.

It is easy to use and install in Linux/Windows/Mac OS X. It is mostly used in desktop GIS applications but it also has mobile applications for iOS and Android.

QGIS is a free GIS tool that provides tools for modeling geospatial data with open-source software.


Grass GIS is a free and open-source software application for viewing, editing, analyzing, and managing spatial data. It uses the PostgreSQL database backend for storing spatial data in a tabular format that can be used by other GIS software packages.

GRASS GIS is a cross-platform program that can be run on Linux, Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, Solaris/OpenSolaris, and FreeBSD. It uses the PostgreSQL database backend for storing spatial data in a tabular format that can be used by other GIS software packages.


A common misconception that occurs is that GIS involves plugging data into a database and that then the data is somehow visually presented. This is not at all the case. The reality is that most GIS Applications and software companies do not produce nor syndicate databases at all, instead, they create data visualizations, which are often based on pre-existing databases.

A GIS software company creates a database

When you start working with a GIS database you will find that there are a number of tools to help you out with most of the tasks that a GIS database needs to perform.