For users

Your Ubuntu is ready for daily, professional GIS work. Getting started it's just a matter of minutes. You can easily install on your machine each of the GIS applications listed below (in brackets the package name), through the Synaptic Package Manager or typing sudo apt-get install program-name from the command line, just like any other package.

UbuntuGIS on your desktop

We have an unofficial repository of GIS related packages with up-to-date stable versions. Check it out.

  • GRASS (grass) is a Geographic Information System (GIS) used for geospatial data management and analysis, image processing, graphics/maps production, spatial modeling, and visualization. GRASS is currently used in academic and commercial settings around the world, as well as by many governmental agencies and environmental consulting companies.

  • QuantumGIS (qgis, qgis-plugin-grass) is a user friendly Open Source Geographic Information System (GIS) that supports vector, raster, and database formats. Some of the major features include:

    • Support for spatially enabled PostGIS tables
    • Support for shapefiles, Arc/Info coverages, Mapinfo, and other formats supported by OGR
    • Raster support for a large number of formats
    • Identify features
    • Display attribute tables
    • Select features
    • GRASS Digitizing (through qgis-plugin-grass)

    • Feature labeling
    • Python plugins and python language bindings for the QGIS API
  • SAGA GIS (saga) (System for Automated Geoscientific Analyses) is an open source geographic information system (GIS) used for editing and analysing spatial data. It includes a large number of modules for the analysis of vector (point, line and polygon), table, grid and image data. Among others the package includes modules for geostatistics, image classification, projections, simulation of dynamic processes (hydrology, landscape development) and terrain analysis. The functionality can be accessed through a GUI, the command line or by using the C++ API.

  • Thuban (thuban) can read geographic data in the shapefile format. Main features of Thuban are the layer management and the possibility to navigate on the map, to control the visual appearance of objects, to identify and edit attributes by object selection and to print and export the resulting maps for further processing.

  • GMT (gmt). GMT is a free, public-domain collection of ~60 UNIX tools that allow users to manipulate (x,y) and (x,y,z) data sets (including filtering, trend fitting, gridding, projecting, etc.) and produce Encapsulated PostScript File (EPS) illustrations ranging from simple x-y plots through contour maps to artificially illuminated surfaces and 3-D perspective views in black and white, gray tone, hachure patterns, and 24-bit color.

GPS tools

There are various tools for handlign GPS data and communicating with your GPS device. They have different purposes and you may need one or more of them to get your work done. You might want to try some of them before choosing the one's right for you.

  • GPSBabel (gpsbabel) converts waypoints, tracks, and routes from one format to another, whether that format is a common mapping format like Delorme, Streets and Trips, or even a serial upload or download to a GPS unit such as those from Garmin and Magellan. GPSBabel supports dozens of data formats and will be useful for tasks such as geocaching, mapping, and converting from one GPS unit to another. Among the interesting formats it supports are several GPS devices via a serial link, various PDA-based mapping programs, and various Geocaching data formats.

  • gpx2shp (gpx2shp) converts GPS or GPX file to ESRI/Shape file. Includes the tools gps2shp and gpx2shp. These are very useful when using collected GPS points with existing GIS tools like QGIS and GRASS. Please note that recent versions os QGIS handle nicely GPX files.

  • gpsd (gpsd, gpsd-clients) is a userland daemon acting as a liaison between a GPS or Loran-C receiver and clients. The receiver is expected to generate position information as NMEA-0183 sentences, or Rockwell binary format, although that can be changed. gpsd listens on port 2947 for clients requesting position, time, velocity or altitude information. gpsd can take information from the GPS and translate it into something easier to understand for clients.

  • Gps Drive (gpsdrive) is a car (bike, ship, plane) navigation system. Gps Drive displays your position provided from your NMEA capable GPS receiver on a zoomable map, the map file is autoselected depending of the position and preferred scale. Speech output is supported if the "festival" software is running. The maps are autoselected for best resolution depending of your position. All Garmin GPS reveiver with a serial output should be usable, also other GPS receiver which supports NMEA protocol.

  • GPS Manager (gpsman) is a graphical manager of GPS data that makes possible the preparation, inspection and edition of GPS data in a friendly environment. GPSMan supports communication and real-time logging with both Garmin and Lowrance receivers and accepts real-time logging information in NMEA 0183 from any GPS receiver.

Other tools

  • AVCE00 (avce00) is a C library and group of tools that makes Arcinfo (binary) Vector Coverages appear as E00. It allows you to read and write binary coverages just as if they were E00 files.

  • E00compr (e00compr) is an ANSI C library that reads and writes Arc/Info compressed E00 files. Both "PARTIAL" and "FULL" compression levels are supported. E00 files are the vector import/export format for Arc/Info. It is plain ASCII and is meant as an interchange format. ESRI considers the format to be proprietary, so this package may not read all E00 files as ESRI may change the format. This package is useful for importing E00 files into the GRASS GIS system.


  • Mapserver (cgi-mapserver, mapserver-bin, perl-mapscript, php4-mapscript, php5-mapscript, python-mapscript) is an Open Source development environment for building spatially-enabled internet applications. Mapserver is not a full-featured GIS system, nor does it aspire to be. Instead, Mapserver excels at rendering spatial data (maps, images, and vector data) for the web. The Mapserver system includes Mapscript that allows popular scripting languages such as :

    • PHP provided by php4-mapscript and php5-mapscript
    • Python provided by python-mapscript.
    • Perl provided by perl-mapscript.
    • Java not provided actualy by those packages.


  • PostgreSQL (postgresql-8.1 Warning /!\ DO NOT INSTALL the package postgresql because it provides an old version of the database application) is a powerful, open source relational database system. It has more than 15 years of active development and a proven architecture that has earned it a strong reputation for reliability, data integrity, and correctness. It is fully ACID compliant, has full support for foreign keys, joins, views, triggers, and stored procedures (in multiple languages). It includes most SQL92 and SQL99 data types, including INTEGER, NUMERIC, BOOLEAN, CHAR, VARCHAR, DATE, INTERVAL, and TIMESTAMP. It also supports storage of binary large objects, including pictures, sounds, or video. It has native programming interfaces for C/C++, Java, .Net, Perl, Python, Ruby, Tcl, ODBC, among others, and exceptional documentation. An enterprise class database, PostgreSQL boasts sophisticated features such as Multi-Version Concurrency Control (MVCC), point in time recovery, tablespaces, asynchronous replication, nested transactions (savepoints), online/hot backups, a sophisticated query planner/optimizer, and write ahead logging for fault tolerance. It supports international character sets, multibyte character encodings, Unicode, and it is locale-aware for sorting, case-sensitivity, and formatting. It is highly scalable both in the sheer quantity of data it can manage and and in the number of concurrent users it can accommodate. There are active PostgreSQL systems in production environments that manage in excess of 4 terabytes of data.

  • PostGIS (postgis) adds support for geographic objects to the PostgreSQL object-relational database. In effect, PostGIS "spatially enables" the PostgreSQL server, allowing it to be used as a backend spatial database for geographic information systems (GIS), much like ESRI's SDE or Oracle's Spatial extension. PostGIS follows the OpenGIS "Simple Features Specification for SQL" and has been certified as compliant with the "Types and Functions" profile.

Under the hood : libraries

  • GDAL/OGR (libgdal1c2a, python-gdal) is a translator library for raster geospatial data formats. As a library, it presents a single abstract data model to the calling application for all supported formats. It also comes with a variety of useful commandline utilities for data translation and processing. It is used by most of the applications above

  • GEOS (libgeos2c2a) (Geometry Engine - Open Source) is a C++ port of the Java Topology Suite (JTS). As such, it aims to contain the complete functionality of JTS in C++. This includes all the OpenGIS "Simple Features for SQL" spatial predicate functions and spatial operators, as well as specific JTS topology functions such as Isvalid().

  • PROJ.4 (proj) Cartographic Projections Library, originally written by Gerald Evenden then of the USGS.

  • Terralib (libterralib1c2a) enables quick development of custom-built geographical applications using spatial databases. As a research tool, Terralib is aimed at providing a rich and powerful environment for the development of GIS research, enabling the development of GIS prototypes that include new concepts such as spatio-temporal data models, geographical ontologies and advanced spatial analysis techniques. Terralib defines a geographical data model and provides support for this model over a range of different DBMS (MySQL, PostgreSQL, ORACLE and ACCESS), and is implemented as a library of C++ classes and functions, written in ANSI-C++.

Current software versions


Current version in Ubuntu Edgy

Latest stable version

Desktop GIS and stand-alone tools













GPS and other tools















































  • Q: Is UbuntuGIS another, separate, distribution? Or a subset of packages that I can install as a whole on my machine? Or an external repository?

    • A: Short answer: none of the above. Long answer: this page is meant to give you all the needed information to get your Ubuntu box into a working, professional GIS workstation/server. UbuntuGIS cannot be installed simply because we do not create separate packages. However, in the future there might be an ubuntu-gis metapackage that results in the installation of all the needed software.

  • Q: Do you just repackage the DebianGIS packages?

    • A: GIS related packages reside in the universe repositories, and they are built from the Debian sources from time to time, when there's a sync to the current unstable.

  • Q: When will the packages that are in the DebianGIS repository be available in Ubuntu?

    • A: It depends. See above. Each Ubuntu release includes an update of the universe repositories.

  • Q: Can I install DebianGIS packages on Ubuntu?

    • A: You can try, but it's not recommended. Ubuntu and Debian have source compatibility (e.g. they are built from the same sources), but binary compatibility is not guaranteed to work. Add to this that many packages may have different names due to different compile environments, and you'll see it can be a bit frustrating. However, it might work for you if you manage to tweak the packages to work.

For developers and packagers

Here suggestions and software lists for making Ubuntu a professional first-choice GIS environment should be collected. Don't forget OGC compliance (Open Geospatial Consortium) as it is the most important point for FLOSS in the geospatial field.

GIS software is used in a wide variety of businesses, ranging from waterworks over dispatch centers to archeologists, the target is, to build a nice platform for these people and to make ubuntu attractive to GIS ISVs.

There exists a Debian-GIS project. Most packages shouldn't be hard to build from their sources. Packaging new software or updating existing packages should be coordinated with this project to not duplicate efforts.

In the OSGeo wiki there's a page dedicated to the task of creating binary distributions of Open Source Geospatial Software:

Please add software suggestions here or express your will to participate.

GIS Desktop Specification hosts a specification request for a working, updated GIS workstation under Ubuntu.

Launchpad UbuntuGIS team

If you want to help and contribute, check out the Launchpad UbuntuGIS team page where users can get in touch in a collaborative way, share ideas, make proposals.

HOWTOs on building development versions

Here you find various links to other websites, repositories and wiki pages with details on the package-building or source-compiling for some of the most popular GIS applications. This is mainly of interest for those who want to try development (unstable) versions of software. Try at you risk.

Warning /!\ The following instructions involve building unstable software from sources or installing binary packages from unofficial repositories. Use them at your risk, and don't do it at a production site. Always use a testing machine for testing new versions of software.

Other useful reference

Here are detailed instructions on how to build a complete GIS working environment on a Debian-based GNU/Linux system. Works well on Ubuntu, too.

PostGIS tutorials

GRASS 6.2 Packages

You can find an unofficial repository with updated GRASS 6.2 packages adding to your sources the following line:

deb edgy multiverse

Quantum GIS (QGIS) tutorials and packages

BuildingQuantumGisFromSource · This good and detailed HOWTO deals with compiling QuantumGIS on Ubuntu making the very best use of packages for all dependancies. Works for the SVN version, too!

Trial Ubuntu packages from current SVN version ( Warning /!\ tested only with Dapper):

Packages in the above directory are date marked so just pick the most recent one.


UbuntuGIS (last edited 2010-08-11 14:57:29 by johanvdw)