The spatial analysis world is dominated by two software: ArcGIS and QGIS. Both have been available for years and have a strong fanbase. The use of each one of these software generates a duality or polarization of the preferences and opinions about Geographic Information Systems tools (GIS). This article is not about showing the advantages of deficiencies of any of them, but to show the reasons why QGIS is a good option.
If you are an user who likes to explore, spread and learn new tools, we recommend you to read this article so you can decide to use QGIS in all your spatial analysis tasks.
Warning: If you are an ArcGIS user and are comfortable with it, if you have a license or have a pirate one, please, do not read this. If you think that ArcGIS is better and faster than QGIS, save yourself a bad moment and do not read this since it would make no sense to you anyway.
The reasons to use QGIS as your principal GIS software are:
1. Freedom and access
The fact that QGIS is free is not its most important characteristic, in our opinion. The biggest advantage of using QGIS is the access and capability of bringing a potent tool to a big amount of users in any type of computer. In a changing world, decisions based on the analysis of data must be made by groups of people in limited amounts of time. QGIS lets you work with spatial data, share it and receive opinions in a fast an accessible way.
The software is not limited to a single computer, it can be used in any computer. Analysis are not only made in one office, but in the whole Institution.
According to its license, QGIS is not only free in price, but it is also free to distribute it, check its source code or even use parts of QGIS in other software.
2. A world of available options
QGIS gives you a world of options for spatial processing from the beginning and in a free way. There are no limitations in the tools respect to the license you have.
A reason why the author of this post started using QGIS was because he used to teach SIG and Water Resources at a University who had an ArcView license. When he realized that he could not make interpolations or spatial operations, he decided to use QGIS in the course.
3. A clear conscience
You may say that you have an ArcGIS license at work , but do you have one for your house computer? If you have both I would congratulate you for your big investment and, at the same time, I would say that you belong to a small group of formal users. Most ArcGIS users have pirate licenses in at least one of their computers.
Use QGIS and mantain a clear conscience since you are not making anything illegal, you can even say that you are against piracy because you do not use licensed software.
4. QGIS is developed by very nice people
QGIS is supported by a community constituted by people who develop codes and are passionate about it. You can follow their blogs and social accounts, learn about new tools they are developing, which meeting they have attended or even ask them questions.
None of the QGIS developers receives a monetary payment for their time, they all work because they like their job and do it in a really good way. The money that QGIS receives is to improve the software and share it.
5. More speed and performance
QGIS, in comparison to ArcGIS, loads faster and performs processes in a smaller amount of time.
6. QGIS and related components are free
When you find tools that are based on or work with QGIS, they are generally free and open source. When it comes to ArcGIS is the opposite: mobile, web and cloud components have additional licenses that force you to keep on spending money. In this way you are forced to stay in a closed system where for any new thing you want to do you require an additional license.
7. You can learn and be up to date faster with QGIS
This needs to be said: QGIS is developed faster than ArcGIS. The older users have seen lots of new versions of QGIS in the past years and each one of them came with new features. This evolution of QGIS was even faster than we would have liked.
When a new version of QGIS is released, the software shows a pop up window so you can download it, informs you about the new features and you can evaluate them, all on the same day. With ArcGIS you have to wait to buy an update or have a new pirate copy.
8. QGIS has good documentation
QGIS official documentation is really good (http://www.qgis.org/en/docs/index.html). It explains in an easy way how the software works and has examples and screenshots. There are also QGIS tutorials and forums available.
9. QGIS comes in many languages
The latest and previous versions of QGIS come in English and other languages such as Spanish, French or Italian; thanks to their collaborative translating system. This is very practical for new users, users who do not know some spatial analysis terms and users who are not good at speaking English.
10. QGIS has an important amount of complements
Complements are a characteristic of QGIS from its beginnings. These are small programs that run inside QGIS and are used to perform specific tasks.
Complements depend on the use you want to give to QGIS. We will soon have a new post about the 5 best QGIS complements for water resources / environmental analysis
The revolution of free software
When people fought for labor rights, women's suffrage, prohibitions to smoke in public, etc., they had constant and strong attitudes of change where people understood these problems and worked to generate solutions. Many times they were misunderstood, but with time, their solid arguments created conditions to make these changes.
Open Source software has the potential to change the way how we work, process, analyze and visualize data. Free software is not only free but it also has created tools for everyone. With them we can register, evaluate and make decisions for a sustainable future.
We do not consider free software as an alternative, but as an opportunity for change.