The Cost of QGIS

Apr 18, 2016 | ArcGIS Desktop, GIS, QGIS

The too long didn’t read version is “It’s mostly Free”.  This post is more targeted to the new user or the curious user because I’m getting a lot of questions these days from those good people.

To be sorta honest I don’t care what software you use. I’ve got ESRI clients and FOSS4G clients. I have some  that are a mix. I really enjoy a mix of FOSS4G and Commercial software just for the flexibility.

To be completely and entirely honest (which you may not be used to with consultants) –  I care. If you walk into the door with nothing I’m going to push you in a FOSS4G direction. We will start with QGIS and work PostGIS into the Mix. If you walk in the door a full ESRI shop I’m going to suggest we mix it up a bit with some FOSS4G. Why – because you need to break out of your shell.

A few of my clients (who appeared on my doorstep over the last bit) went the route of “We are picking QGIS because it’s free”.  I always groan a bit because while it’s free – it’s not free. Just because you have software doesn’t mean you have a Geographic Information System. Software is one component in a long process of spending money on a functional GIS. As I tell people all the time – “It’s the process”. Process trumps software and if you don’t have a plan to get from Point G to Point S it doesn’t much matter what you are using. So yes – Free – but – that’s only one part of the big picture.

I was going to do a top 10 reasons to used QGIS. Everyone loves a list but the more I thought about it the more I drifted into a top 15 and then it dwindled to 12. Then shot up….etc. Finally I just went with 5…..

It I use the QGIS Class I teach as a blueprint (and I’ve been re-writing it for 2.14.1 and adding extra chapters) for why I tell people to USE QGIS it’s the following:

  1. Community. Join the QGIS Users list. I encourage them to post bugs on the website. Once you start participating in the community the value of QGIS goes way up. I will argue it is the most valuable component to QGIS. Paid support is nice because you can call up someone and yell at them – but communal support for your software….that is huge.
  2. It’s Professional Grade Software. You can edit data. You can view data. You can manipulate imagery. You can view Imagery. You an make a map. You can consume standard OGC Services. It has small foot print so you might be able to leverage some lower end hardware. It works and it’s not that hard to use.
  3. Going back to 1 – you have a say so in it’s development. You can vote by filing bugs or you can vote with your currency and donate/hire a developer or you can talk to the community. YOU HAVE A VOICE. That’s a powerful thing anywhere.
  4. It’s Open Source. You can see the code. Which if you are like me looking at pages of software code is about as exciting as watching paint dry on most days….but you can if you wish. You can help document. You can write small articles on a blog for people to follow along.

If you decide at this point you want to use QGIS sit down and get a plan. Use a lot of words like shareholder and stakeholder but look for people who want this to happen and who want their work life to get better and more informative. Don’t start off going “Well the software is free”. You get this foggy discussion of “This is going to be really cheap because of free software”. It’s not going to be as cheap as you think. It helps you aren’t spending a ton of money on desktop software – but that frees you up to leverage that money in another direction – like better data…or GPS Data collection…or a server…

…….and then finally: 5. It’s FREE. Yeah it’s free. It’s an investment…and it just so happens it’s financially free to get this started. When I was an ESRI Certified Trainer I always felt a bit guilty (but it was good business) in seeing someone buy tens of thousands of dollars of software only to call me in for training classes that ran upwards of 500 dollars a day per person. Most times they had no plan or barely a plan so the training “helped” some but not really. The QGIS class is a bit different as I’m running it cheaper and different goals these days. If your budget is tight there’s nothing wrong with going “we’ve got to start out cheap” – just realize there are at least 4 other reasons to pick it that are better (in my opinion) than “It’s FREE”. Just so you know – I went from ArcGIS Enterprise….Desktop…Professional…..whatever it is called to QGIS/PostGIS. I went from Commercial to “Free” for my GIS life and Services. Why? 1 through 4 above.

There are 50 other reasons to use QGIS. I listed 5 and really 2 are repeats and for me because it’s all community oriented. To me it’s also fuI have slightly loftier goals than moneyn…each release brings more functionality (fun is not a good reason to pick software) and more stability. Some might go “It Crashes”. Yes it does. Find me software that doesn’t.

Anyway – if you stumble upon this article while searching for more information. Join the QGIS listserve. Call or email if you want – that seems to happen a lot these days and I like answering questions.

Happy QGIS’ing! Download it and give it a shot. You can Dooooooo it.

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