Free Tools to Create and Edit Location Data

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Over the past decade, many open source groups have created free alternatives to commercial GIS solutions. In recent years, these tools have reached maturity, become standards, and offer strong competition to their commercial equivalents. This is a welcome opportunity for small, emerging GIS companies who often find it considerably expensive to maintain location data. Location data is typically large and complex, often representing nations and requiring careful modification. Tools to build and update location data must be robust, fast, and preferably low cost. Today, people can edit, store, view, and create location data using free, reliable GIS tools. Quantum GIS and OpenJUMP are applications that enable users to view, create, and edit location data. Developers looking to write custom applications may use programming languages, such as Python and Java, to build tools that efficiently create or update location data using free libraries.

Quantum GIS

Quantum GIS provides a clean and intuitive interface, and data processing tools to project, convert, analyze, and relate data. Quantum GIS offers a plugin system, enabling users to create, share, or download new functionality to facilitate data analysis and editing.




OpenJUMP is a stable, user-friendly environment that offers editing, analysis, and data processing capabilities. In addition to having scripting and customization features, many third-party developers create add-ons to extend OpenJUMP’s functionality.



Fiona and Shapely

For Python and Java developers, the free software possibilities are great, enabling people to create exactly the location data tools they need. For Python, the Fiona library enables developers to easily process geometry and data attributes. Another Python library called Shapely enables developers to compare, analyze, transform, and manipulate geometry. Using Fiona and Shapely together, companies can quickly create software to support a variety of location data needs.

GeoTools and JTS Topology Suite

For Java, the GeoTools and JTS (JTS Topology Suite) libraries enable efficient and reliable geometry and attribute processing to compare, analyze, and transform data. Some tools, such as OpenJUMP, use GeoTools and JTS as the foundation for their projects. Libraries such as Fiona and Shapely leverage GEOS, which is a translation of JTS. GeoTools and JTS are powerful, reliable libraries and important references for larger projects.

Any Others?

Each aforementioned project has evolved and improved its offerings over the years. They continue to make updates, including new features and enhancements. Today, these projects offer free and reliable alternatives to location data tools commercially available. These free tools are an advantage to small companies looking to solve complex location data problems at low cost. What free GIS tools do YOU recommend?