10 Free GIS Software Solutions for 2020

September 10, 2020

Free GIS software

How do companies solve problems that span counties, countries, and continents? 

For some businesses, data about the very world we live in is what fuels success. Hundreds of thousands or organizations rely on geographical data points to make decisions that impact the way we live our lives. These professionals need an easy way to collect and analyze hundreds of thousands of these unique data points – and they’re using GIS software to do it. 

What is GIS software?

A geographical information system (GIS) is a computer software that captures, analyzes, and interprets geographic data points. Any data related to positions on Earth's surface can be fed into a GIS system to help people in a variety of industries do their jobs more efficiently.

GIS software is used in a number of different fields, including:

  • Urban planning, management and policy
  • Government agencies
  • Public services (EMTs/firefighters/etc.)
  • Environmental sciences
  • Civil engineering 
  • Real estate
  • Education administration
  • Healthcare

GIS allows professionals in all of these industries to collect and attribute data from maps to their internal reporting systems. This allows employees to analyze real-world problems and support any business decisions with hard data. It provides valuable data on land management, logistics routing, demographic analysis, engineering design, facility management, and much more.

While GIS software provides valuable information, the startup costs for purchasing GIS software can be expensive. For businesses looking to test the waters with GIS software before purchasing something, we’ve compiled a list of the top ten free GIS software solutions that will fit perfectly into your budget.

Best free GIS solutions

The list below contains real user reviews from the best free GIS solutions on the market. These products only represent a portion of the over 200 paid GIS software offerings listed on our platform.

The list below contains real-user reviews from the best GIS software on the market. To be included in this list, not only do you have to offer a free trial period or free version of your product or application, but your product must also:

  • Store, organize, edit, and analyze geographical data
  • Include visualization capabilities to display geographical information
  • Either have GIS capability or utilize a GIS platform in its solution
  • Align and/or manipulate data from maps and sources

*Some reviews may have been edited for clarity. Data pulled on September 9, 2020. Every software listed below offers a free trial period, only. 

1. Surfer®

Surfer® is a full-function 2D and 3D mapping, modeling, and analysis software package for scientists and engineers. Surfer's sophisticated interpolation engine quickly transforms XYZ data into publication-quality maps. Virtually every aspect of the map is customizable.  Surfer is used extensively by geologists, geophysicists, hydrologists, archaeologists, oceanographers, biologists, consultants, engineers, and many others across the globe.

What users like:

“Surfer is a fairly easy-to-use piece of software that creates great looking products. It allows for plenty of customization in terms of contour intervals, color schemes, etc. The software has a wide array of applications within and outside of scientific fields. We use Surfer to create contour maps showing artifact density. It is a great visualization tool that resulted in eye-catching maps that were used in publications. We have not come across another standalone tool that allows us to do this.”

- Surfer® Review, Corey H.

What users dislike:

“Surfer doesn’t have the in-depth analysis capabilities other GIS platforms do. It’s great for making static figures, but would not recommend for advanced geospatial analyses. One of the biggest things I struggled with when first using Surfer was the resizing of maps. In other GIS platforms, I was able to resize a map and the corresponding scale bar would automatically update. This is not the case in Surfer. To ensure your scale bar is correctly sized, you have to go in and type in two spots (cycle spacing and label). This seems like an easy fix.

- Surfer® Review, Mid-Market Environmental Services Consultant 

2. Maptitude

Maptitude GIS and mapping software gives you the tools, maps, and data you need to analyze and understand how geography affects you and your organization. Maptitude is the most capable, least expensive, full-featured mapping software available. With Maptitude you can create maps and map images from spreadsheets and you can see external data on the map from a variety of sources including Google Maps KML/KMZ files. Designed for data visualization and geographic analysis, Maptitude comes with a comprehensive library of maps and GIS data for your country.

What users like:

“Whenever I need to analyse my data and represent it visually I always go to Maptitude. The software allows me to  import, convert, and export Google Earth, OpenStreetMap, Esri Shape, MapInfo, GPS, AutoCAD, Excel, Text etc. I've been using Maptitude for more than 13 years and there is no other GIS software that delivers like this!

I use Maptitude to conduct drive time analysis and calculate the optimal sequence of serving key locations. This has helped to reduce my dead kilometre cost but also has the added benefit of being able to provide drivers with instructions in the form of left and rights and maps.”

- Maptitude Review, Sheldon Neil C.

What users dislike:

“There is a learning curve. One can not expect to go in and get all the data right away. So you need to learn the layers and processes, but the staff is willing to help and there are many YouTube videos out there that can help you learn as well.”

- Maptitude Review, Babir S.

3. MapBusinessOnline

MapBusinessOnline provides the easiest, most affordable business mapping software your large or small enterprise will ever require. Access advanced territory mapping, customer location visualizations, multi-stop optimized routing with time windows, market analysis, large format printing, and a variety of ways to share maps or conduct collaborative editing. Drive accountability into your sales group, lower operational costs, improve communications, conduct sales planning, and inform strategic plans with business intelligence.

What users like:

“Something I love about this application is the ease of connecting the different data that this system gives you with other external databases. The data accuracy is great and the tool is fast and simple. It allows us to have a more detailed analysis of the visualization of all types of commercial data attached to different points from a database that we have created.”

- MapBusinessOnline Review, Ivory J.

What users dislike:

“Data exports are difficult to use and the updated version makes it harder to edit zip codes within territories. This map takes a very long time to load, depending on what you have. When first opening the program from scratch, you have to start a new map - it should give you the option to choose from an existing saved map or create a new map - very frustrating. Not enough levels of pricing. The cost is another factor. We use it for minimal purposes, but pay the same price as someone who uses it on a regular basis.”

- MapBusinessOnline Review, Danielle O.

4. eSpatial

eSpatial is cloud-based mapping software that is engineered for the enterprise and designed for the user. From Fortune 500 companies to non-profit organizations that span nearly every industry, eSpatial has a comprehensive set of features that enables you to visualize, analyze and share your business data currently stored in spreadsheets, CRM or ERP systems.

Are you an eSpatial user? Leave this free GIS software solution a review today!

5. HERE Location Services

HERE Location Services makes it easy for users to solve complex location problems using our solutions for maps, geocoding and search, routing, fleet telematics, indoor mapping, positioning, traffic analytics and much more including commercial vehicle routing.

Are you an HERE Location Services user? Leave this free GIS software solution a review today!

6. Maptive

Maptive is a comprehensive set of mapping tools built with users in mind. Their mapping software provides businesses from small nonprofits to enterprise-level corporations with a wide range of geospatial analysis and data visualization capabilities. Upload location data from spreadsheets or CRMs to Maptive's platform and apply their features to quickly create custom maps, including heat maps, color-coded pin maps, sales territory maps, optimized routes and directions, and demographic maps.

Are you a Maptive user? Leave this free GIS software solution a review today!

7. Easy Trace Pro

Easy Trace Pro is a powerful tool for map creation, from scanned image or imagery up to GIS-ready data. Efficient image preprocessing, automatic, semi automatic and manual tools for line tracing, creation of points and polygons, symbol and text recognition, topology check up and correction, convenient tools for attributing, map navigation and inspection. 

Are you an Easy Trace Pro user? Leave this free GIS software solution a review today!

8. Extensis GeoExpress

The massive, high-definition imagery used throughout the geospatial industry provides invaluable insights, but huge file sizes can make sharing, viewing, and manipulating this data extremely challenging. GeoExpress enables geospatial professionals to compress imagery to their proprietary, industry-standard MrSID format. This format supports lossless and visually lossless compression, enabling users to shrink file sizes without sacrificing image quality.

Are you an Extensis GeoExpress user? Leave this free GIS software solution a review today!

9. CMaps Analytics

CMaps Analytics is a cloud geo-analysis suite which includes a browser-based Designer and JavaScript API. Together, with your cloud map service of choice (Google Maps, MapBox, HERE, ESRI, Carto), CMaps Analytics provides rapid creation of geospatial analysis without any server software or specialized skills required. Create drillable regional views, drive-time analysis, and other visualizations.

Are you an CMaps Analytics user? Leave this free GIS software solution a review today!

10. Fract Territory

Fract Territory is an AI-driven geospatial software that builds territories and analyzes internal and external factors to enhance sales performance. Their platform provides demand forecasting, territory analytics, predictive sales analytics for location and trade area, weather and events analytics, demographics and ICP analytics, and store analytics.

Are you a Fract Territory user? Leave this free GIS software solution a review today!

Free software is a start, but don’t forget...

Most software options offer very limited capabilities for free accounts. If you’re hoping to use one of these GIS solutions long-term, it’s best to explore what each paid offering includes as well. Don’t be afraid to test out a few free accounts across multiple GIS platforms before making a decision.

Once you’ve chosen the right free GIS solution, learn more about how to build the right GIS mapping data layers for your next big project. 

Compare free GIS software

Discover the best free GIS software on the market, reviewed by real users like you.

Compare free GIS software

Discover the best free GIS software on the market, reviewed by real users like you.

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