My Personal GIS Stack

I get asked a ton about what sort of software do I choose to use in my daily workflows. I’m all over the place on stuff, but I figure I’d write it down and see what it looks like. This shouldn’t take long!

For my data storage needs I use WeoGeo Library as my content management system. I like how it keeps all my data organized and available no matter where I am in the world. I use WeoGeo Utility to keep that hosted library organized and to download data I need. Locally I use PostGIS to store and manage the data. I’ll occasionally use Microsoft SQL Server but PostGIS does all I need it to do and since I’m never on Windows anymore I really don’t feel like licensing a Windows instance to run a database.

Working with this data means I need a couple choices to get data in and out of PostGIS. I probably use FME Desktop most of the time because it can do just about everything, but I’ll also use GDAL/OGR because it runs on my MacBook Pro. I’m actually finding myself using GDAL/OGR more these days because I just can’t be bothered to start up a VM with Windows. Dan Dye has me using GDAL almost all the time now so it has become second nature to me. I don’t bother with MapServer or GeoServer because the thought of consuming data out of PostGIS as WxS seems very dirty. You can use either of them but count me out.

I haven’t mentioned Esri yet. I do use ArcGIS for Desktop but again, I’m just not interested in running GIS software in a VM anymore so it doesn’t get spun up much anymore. I do have an older Dell Desktop on my desk but even that seems like such a pain to get working that I just stick to software that runs on my Macintosh. I might checking out ArcGIS Online or whatever it is called these days when Esri gets some licensing costs out there but for now I’m sitting tight with my EDN licensing.


Did I just say I don’t use ArcMap that much anymore?

Now on the desktop I’m rolling QGIS because I’m very familiar with it. I keep trying to get gvSIG into my workflow but it’s resemblance to ArcView 3.x keeps turning me off. That said, having two great Desktop GIS tools means that they are pushing each other to be better. I use Mapnik for my cartography engine with Quantumnik integration into QGIS. Mapnik just makes beautiful maps and I don’t feel like I can get that control anywhere else. I’m also playing around with TileMill but migrating my old Mapnik XML files to Carto has been more work than I hoped. I’ll get there though.

Wrong WeekWrong Week

I picked the wrong week to convert XML to CSS

I’ve also been using AutoCAD on my Mac since Autodesk came out with a native version again. Just goes to show, you can have a great native OS X version of CAD software. Shame Esri can’t do the same or I’d be running ArcGIS Desktop much more than I currently am.

Looking at my workflow, it looks like I don’t like or need a mapserver of any type. I’d rather just talk directly to PostGIS than put more middleware in my way. Tiling engines really have changed how I work. Top to bottom though, I rely on Python to script almost everything (from ArcGIS and FME to GDAL and QGIS). I’m not seeing much uptake in my workflow with File Geodatabases, but maybe when support for them becomes more widespread, we’ll see that happen. Shapefiles just seem to still be the standard and as much as I dislike them, it just won’t be changing soon.

I’m guessing most people have workflows like mine, looking for software that makes their life easier and the work more efficient.


April 23, 2012